You know how that old rhyme goes. First comes fall, then comes madness, then comes a scrimmage before the season happens.
…Well it goes something like that anyway. No matter; this past Saturday was our first preview of the 2012-2013 men’s basketball squad. Featuring a renovated alumni gym, a slew of new players, and – finally – some basketball!
This being the only time some of the players would get to play in front of the public this season, there was definitely some curiosity for how the performance would be. What would Ledo look like? How are Harris and Carson D? Will Vincent Council live up to expectations? While it’s only an exhibition, I left the campus with some good impressions of this years squad – both playing and non-playing alike. Here’s my Five Factors from the Mal Brown scrimmage:
1. Kadeem Batts Stepped Up
A few weeks ago (if even) I interviewed Kadeem Batts as part of PC’s media day. During that time he spoke about how he’s really worked on his game during the offseason and built off his performances last season. Well, I can tell you right now the lad was not speaking folly. Batts looked fantastic, and has absolutely earned his spot on the floor.
Don’t get me wrong, the first half of the game I think everyone took a big *gulp* for our frontcourt after his performance. In 10 minutes of the 12 minute half Kadeem logged in a single rebound, went 0-3 shooting, and had a turnover. The word “concerning” comes to mine, along with a slew of swear words. Now, I don’t know if it was an off day, he wasn’t focused, or he just couldn’t find his rhythm, but the second half was a whole different world. 5-6 shooting, 3 more rebounds, 2 steals, and 2 assists. How do I put this…
YES KADEEM! YES! He stepped up! He’s building something on his game, and he means it! It wasn’t just what he accomplished in the statline, but how he did it! Putbacks? Second chance? Actual movement in the post? He will not be the live-long single handed answer to the frontcourt, but oh my DAYUM is it promising after what we saw Saturday!
By the way, the dayum meter is replacing the chowdah powah section in my recaps this year. WE GOIN’ HAM!
2. Vincent Council – With Great Power…
First of all, I need to acknowledge that this is in fact a game where options are not going to be the same as in a real game situation – that’s what happens when your opponent is half your team.
That said, Council is a pass-first point guard. He did some of that, he got 4 assists. That’s great, that’s what we need – we need Council to help create the scoring options. But – and maybe it was an off day for him – Council shot the ball way. Too. Much. He shot more than anyone else on the floor, taking 11 shots for the game and only nabbing 4 of them, including a 3 pointer. Not the best shooting night, but why are you taking so many shots when there are still 4 other guys on the floor that can shoot? Josh Fortune (who we’ll get to in a minute) made it rain, kick it to him! It was eerily reminiscent of the Nova game last year where Henton barely touched the ball in the second half, despite being red hot. It was fixed and adjusted, but it’s still a bit concerning. Factor that in with the fact that he’s the lone senior on the squad – you’d expect more leadership and maturity, especially if your shot isn’t falling.
3. Many Guys Seemed to Have an Off Day
Namely Bryce Cotton and LaDontae Henton (Buckets and Ice, as they’re known around these parts). Neither just seemed to be able to find their shot on offense. They played well defensively but neither seemed in character. That’s fine, they showed that they still got it, they just couldn’t get it done that day. But I guess I went in expecting blowout performances, so I learned from this that that a lot of our main pieces were struggling to finish offensively. Unlike with Council’s performance though, I’m comfortable with this – anyone can have an off shooting night. Henton still hustles and crashes the boards/defensive efforts, and Cotton is still able to create a shot and show he’s agile on the court.
4. Someone Call Keno Davis, Tell Him We Found Defense
8 Steals collectively for the PC Black team (the team that consists of everyone eligible this year, sans Kofane who played on the White team), but that doesn’t begin to tell the tale. Lock down, full court pressure. Forcing turnovers. Scoring in transition. We all knew Cooley was a defensive-minded coach, but this was demonstrated in full capacity on Saturday. In addition to 8 steals, the PC Black team also forced 12 turnovers. That’s exactly what we’re going to need out of our guys this year, next year, every year, and we finally saw the first real demonstration of this on Saturday.
5. The New Guys
Of the new guys on the floor, Fortune and Johnson are the only two that will play this year. That said, they both stood out and are extremely promising players. Fortune was billed as a sniper, and that was no lie. He hits threes without hesitation, and does so with a rainbow arch that would bring a tear to Ray Allen’s eye. He shot 3-6 from beyond the line, and also had 3 assists. I was extremely impressed with how well he played, and I know Cooley will end up relying on him for offense this season.
Sidiki Johnson had me doubting his ability up until Saturday. I wasn’t convinced that he was the real deal – I’m man enough to admit this. Sidiki, you’ve officially won me over. He uses his frame to create space, he crashes the boards, he barrels down the court like a giant bull, but most impressively he puts the ball right back up after a rebound. No more of this “rebound. Dribble, dribble. Shoot.” crap that’s plagued our frontcourt. No, Sidiki grabbed a board and shot his body up to drill in a dunk on several occasions. He did so with his body first – like his entire mass was barreling through his arms. This demonstrates a great deal of strength, and will give us a presence needed in the paint come Big East season. He will be an absolute migraine at times for other players.