Welp, we did it. After waiting for what felt like an eternity, going through the ups of downs of a very atypical offseason, we’re finally able to watch the Friars take court again. To say I was excited for this night to come is an understatement, just ask my office:
Now here I sit at one in the morning, reflecting on the night, soaking in the first PC game I’ve seen since March, and I have to say these are not my usual Friars. From coach to attitude a lot’s changed, such as…
D-Fence! *clap clap*
Do you remember those high school kids who tried out about 40 different personalities because they weren’t sure of who they were?
Yeah, minus the silly makeup our defense went from nonexistent to schizophrenic. That’s not a bad thing – we tried everything from zone, to man, to press, to traps – because this is the only way we’ll find our defensive identity. We’re not a team that can run one set defense and be an expert at it against any team, so we’re going to get good at every defensive scheme possible it seems. Personally I like this approach, at least during exhibition games where ultimately the outcome won’t matter since it won’t go in the books. Teach our players to have a defensive mindset but never let them get settled in one or two schemes. I was personally a fan of the full court press, but that will be a hard defense to run against teams that push the ball hard and fast. The most important thing to take away from this? We no longer lack a defense!
Cooley Will Keep His Boys in Check
It was early in the second half, not even a minute in, when it happened – an easy, uncontested layup by Assumption. It’s okay, nothing we haven’t seen thousands of times before in any game, sometimes the defense gets careless and…
NOPE! Cooley called a timeout, yanked everyone except for Cotton (who’s now number 11 if you’re keeping track of that sort of thing) out of the game and put in the walk-ons and Goldsbourgh. And he kept them in there for five minutes, letting them hustle on defense so hard that they were able to force the Greyhounds into a shot clock violation. Only then did Cooley let the other players come back in.
Remember when Cooley said if his players don’t play defense they won’t play? Yeah, he wasn’t kidding. And for those of you concerned about morale problems from this the team was still on the bench cheering and celebrating each play the beta squad made.
Offense Will Be Hard to Swallow…
It’s good to see a slower, more focused tempo. The offense seemed more controlled and organized, as opposed to the “fire away!” style we’ve been playing. Less possessions, but each one mattered as if it was the final possession of the game. Cooley’s team will make the most of the shot clock, look, and create opportunities. This is a good thing.
The bad thing? We don’t have good enough finishers. Might have been first game jitters, might have been the excitement, but the offense struggled once it came time to put the ball in the peach basket. If the shots don’t improve though expect this Friars team to be low in scoring. Thankfully our defense-minded coach seems to realize that while you can’t control every shot, you can control the defense so hopefully our defense will fall into place come mid-November so when we do have offensive droughts the defense will pick up the slack.
…But Bright Spots Do Exist
First of all, Cotton had a hell of a game with 16 points and going 5-9 on shooting including a solid 3-6 effort from behind the arc. Stats are nice to see and they bring a calmness to a sports fan, kind of like a guarantee on a box.
The best part about Cotton’s game isn’t his statline, it’s watching his ability to find an open man or create for himself. He sniffs out high percentage shots, takes good looks, and makes high basketball IQ choices. A year ago he played a limited role on a team that had an offense designed around a few key players, but not it appears that Cotton is really going to be able to flourish under Cooley’s system.
Two other players who deserve their props are Bilal Dixon and LaDontae Henton. Bilal put up numbers that made most Friar fans who’ve been following the program for more than ten minutes to breathe a sigh of relief, 5-7 shooting and 3-6 from the line, 8 rebounds, and 5 blocks. Yes it was against a DII team but it’s the statline catch again – he looked focused, confident, and tougher out there and if he keeps it up we could be looking at a special year for Bilal. All getting props is LaDontae Henton, who could easily be my favorite player on the team this year. 5-8 shooting, 1-3 3pt, 3-4 from the charity stripe, and 5 steals brings about a pretty complete night for LaDontae. This is the mold of player we can expect Cooley to want – someone who plays 100% every second on the floor, doesn’t stop pushing, and doesn’t back down. I hear he has a real nose for rebounds but unfortunately he didn’t show it tonight, only polishing the glass twice. Oh well, for his first game as a Friar I couldn’t be happier.
Is it a rut? A funk? Is he just nervous, or not ready for the big time? A sophomore slump perhaps? Or was he just plain bad? Whatever you want to chalk it up to Coleman had a tough night going 1-5 on shooting and logging in 4 turnovers. That’s tough for anyone, but it’s sad to see from Coleman – he’s a stand up guy who really loves wearing the black and white with pride, and has been cited as a team leader with a ton of maturity. He’s a great kid from Boston (who’s also a Lakers fan, wtf Gerard?!) who always supports his Friars and his PC community – the type of kid you want to see succeed and have a successful career both in college and at the next level. For now I’m going to chalk this up to the fact that it was the first game and he might just have a harder time adjusting to this offense. It’s too early to write off someone with his potential and, quite frankly, he could be on the verge of tapping into all that talent with a little extra push. Coach is the guy to do it right?
No more turnovers like that though, that’s just unforgivable.
It Was an Exhibition Game
Look, there were flaws out there tonight and there were times where you could be frustrated, but at the end of the day this game will never go on our NCAA record, it will not affect anything in the long run…it was, essentially, a glorified practice against a DII opponent. They didn’t take it lightly and they shouldn’t, but the Friars looked more like they were working on different aspects of their game rather than having one set game plan (see my point on the defense). If this happened against FDU during opening night I’d probably be crying in a corner, knees pressed against my chest, asking “why?” over and over, but I’m not – I’m tired and I’ve been writing for 45 minutes. I’m excited for this season because this teams showed shimmers of what we wanted – a team that was going to improve and never quit. People might want to treat 2012 like it’s the time to get excited but we should be excited now, because this truly is the start of something special. Word is born.