After spending three weekend afternoons at McDonough watching Kenner league action I think there is a lot to be excited about, and some things to worry about for next season. First, as lame as it sounds, spending a Saturday and Sunday inside in the summer, the games are a lot of fun to watch and very high quality. The gym fills up for the tombs games, but there are a lot of other great players in the other games. It really is a slice of DC basketball elites, both young and old, with JTII sitting in a chair in the corner watching quietly and receiving, like royalty, every player on the way to the locker room, or hallway I think, to dress for the game. It is worth an afternoon to catch a piece of authentic DC basketball.
After watching 10 games over the course of two weekends, and for what it's worth, here are some impressions about both the returning players and incoming freshman.
The most important player I saw at Kenner is Julian Vaughn. In three games, we got the best of him and a reminder of some limitations. Last weekend he dominated the first 3-4 minutes with great low post moves, rebounds and blocked shots. He then seemed to get a little winded, or maybe disinterested, and got schooled for about 20 minutes by a really good player from Bowie State. But in the last three minutes, he led a big comeback and put the game away for Clydes. Over the next two games he was much more consistent, consistently good. On a team that will be rebounding challenged, Julian will need to deliver consistent rebounding, shotblocking, and an inside scoring threat.
Watching his Clydes teammate Vee Sanford was a revelation. First, he's bigger than he seemed last year. Up close, he's about 6'4" or so and can really create his own shot. He hit three's consistently, displayed good moves around the basket including a sweet 8 foot tear drop in the lane and had the best dunk of last weekend over a much taller player. He's going to find playing time this year.
Chris Wright played well in all his games, nothing spectacular...but steady and in control. He seems content to run the offense, set up his teammates, take as much as he can on the break and only take over when the DC Legends fall behind. HIs steadiness is encouraging. He also seemed very embarrassed when his mother reached into her handbag after the game and pulled out a jar of his favorite peanut butter.
Henry Sims showed flashes of great athleticism. His blocked shots light up the building. And he scored a couple times on a nice jump hook in the lane which will be unstoppable if he can consistently make it. He still seems to get lost under the boards getting outrebounded by much smaller, but more aggressive players.
Austin Freeman was the biggest surprise for me. First, he's in great shape and is a much better athlete than I thought. In the free-wheeling summer league offense, he showed an amazing first step, spin moves and the ability to finish around the basket that Georgetown hasn't seen for awhile. Two other things stood out. As mentioned before, he made a pretty strong statement about his leadership role in Saturday's near fight defending Markell Starks. What I loved even more was Sunday's game. The Tombs was a good 10 points behind midway through the second half. Markel was struggling a little at the point and Austin decided that school was in. At the foul line waiting for a free throw, he called his freshman together and told them he was taking over the point. He directed them into a simple double stack on the low posts and ran the offense from the top of the key. I don't remember the final score, but the Tombs won going away. For ten minutes they only took high quality shots and barely missed any. I think he made his point.
Jerrelle was Jerrelle. Big effort, lots of rebounds and a big smile the whole time. Hollis showed flashes of his talent but is still too deferential to the older guys and reluctant to create his own shot. Austin looked at him at one point and said...".Hollis just shoot the ball". I hope he was listening.
Now the freshman. Early reports on Starks are true; he's a good player who will replace Chris after next year at the point. He seems to have good court sense, but struggled in a couple of stretches making the right pass and keeping the offense moving.
Hard to see Starks making a big impact this year with Chris eating up most of the minutes. Aaron Bowen on the other had just might. Over three games he was deadly from behind the line and showed some creativity around the basket. He seems very quiet, never changes expression, in fact you don't really notice him. The perfect makeup of a long range assassin. He could have a big impact.
Nate Lubick is big and strong and seems to like to bang around the basket. He didn't shoot much but did make a few good backdoor passes which is a good sign given the offensive scheme. Whether he can rebound and bang with big east upper classmen will be the question.
Moses is raw, very raw. He makes a couple of spectacular blocks, but struggled offensively and on the boards. He does seem like a great kid who looks ready to learn.
Overall a lot to be excited about. We'll be able to score and defend with this team. Rebounding will be the question.