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Casual Kenner League Preview: Top Five Questions

As a disclaimer, my Kenner League insights are not based on OldHoya-esque accumulated wisdom; rather, they are drawn from a measly one summer as a hopelessly underpaid intern. But that was plenty of time to learn the allure of Kenner League: the "insider" first look summer hoops league on Georgetown's campus that starts the season months earlier, alters your expectations for the team, and most importantly gives THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON some much needed content.  It also makes a summer of blissful ignorance impossible.  While sitting for hours in lovely McDonough gym, you start to mentally justify last year's heartbreak by placing weightier and weightier expectations in the season ahead. This, of course, allows delusion to get up to full speed so you can later achieve the optimal heartbreak.

As I gear up for a second year as part of the Kenner League faithful, I compiled the top five questions about our returning players that I have heading in. I'm excited to report back with highly speculative answers in the coming month.

Top 5 Questions After The Jump:

Moses Ayegba, student of the game?

One of my favorite moments of last year's Kenner League was an amazed crowd getting behind then-Moses Abraham as the lumbering Nigerian product drained 5 straight mid-range jumps shops – the crowd "ooh-ing" at each make. But that was during warmups. A more typical Moses offensive moment was in another game, on secondary look during a fast break, he caught the ball 5 feet from the basket with a man separating him from the goal. He faced up, smacked into his opponent and was called for a charge. There may have been a left handed dribble involved, but it was nothing resembling a basketball move as he bowled over the defender.           

So when the Loyala-MD game came around and Moses was running the pick and roll with the eagerness of a kid who just received a new toy, it was clear Moses learned a new move. He executed it flawlessly multiple times against an admittedly over-matched Greyhound benchwarmers, but could this be a sign a Moses is a picking up the offense?  As the biggest body on the team, if he can learn to compose himself within the offense, it'd be a huge boon to our team. I expect him to be paired up with a guard (hopefully Jason Clark who should be looking to work on his point guard skills) in hopes of getting a two-man game together (a la Chris-Henry or Julian-Vee last year).

One final note of caution about any optimism about Moses stemming from McDonough - keep in mind what can only be called the "Henry Sims Law of Kenner League." It's foolhardy to take any scrimmage too seriously, but it's near impossible to make any claims about bigmen. There is usually plenty of quality guards, but there is hardly ever a matchup of post players that resembles anything the Hoyas will see in the regular season.

Is Hollis ready to take over?

It's time for Hollis to become an alpha male. He thinks he is a half-step or less away from the NBA, so it's past time for him to show some command on the court.

Last Kenner, Hollis shared the floor with Austin Freeman and the incoming freshman class and he was lost in the shuffle. In the first game of the season, Hollis came off the bench as Jeff Green showed up and dominated the game. Hollis played, well, played the exact the role he did for most of '10-'11. He grabbed some boards, made some spot up jumpers, but never demanded the ball.  The one exception was when Austin went out to Vegas for a camp of some sort, Hollis was thrust into the number #1 option and he responded with over twenty points. This gives me hope.

There's one thing, though, I noticed in KL last year that worries me about his ceiling: he seems too mechanical. His moves often look like someone going through a drill – as if before he catches the ball, he's already selected a pre-prepared move. Especially on the floor next to Austin, he never seemed to have the same feel for how to manipulate the defense.

Hollis could be on The Tombs squad with the freshmen in hopes that he asserts his role at the head of the offense. I could also see JT3 will put Hollis alone on a team, like Jason Clark last year, in hopes that he develops an aggressive, killer instinct.

 Is Markel Starks ready to run the Georgetown offense?

If Casual is taking bets on KL rosters, Starks on The Tombs has to be where the smart money is. According to last season's end of year banquet,  Starks is a "heck of a recruiter," so he has a good relationship with the freshmen, and he's the type of vocal leader you want around younger players. Starks took a commanding role on The Tombs last year even though Hollis and Austin were on the team – he set the tone with high intensity D and attempted to run the offense like it was a real game, not a scrimmage.

Last year in McDonough, he would at times over-penetrate and make youthful point guard mistakes, but he always played with great confidence. That's why I was surprised to see him so hesitant  in JT3's offense – something that has given a lot of casualites in the comments pause about anointing him the point guard of the future. I hate to say it, the player who I gushed over last summer, looked like a casualty of the Prince-town offense in his rookie season.

In year two, he will have to take ownership for others and have confidence to regularly break down and pressure the defense within JT3's scheme. I nicknamed him the "Stark Plug" last season (which was resoundingly degraded on this site, mostly for being inferior to "Starktopus"), but instead of a timely jolt, the Hoyas are going to need Markel to be a constant contributor. Hopefully, KL will give a sense of how well Markel is making that transition. Also, it'd be nice if that beautifully simple jump shot of his starts to fall with frequency.

Can Aaron Bowen fight his way into the rotation?

The returning player we know the least about was one of the most exciting players to watch in all of KL last year. His ability to get out on the fast-break was elite and his range easily stretched out to three point land. The strange thing was that he was wildly inconsistent from deep. His shot is a pretty, end-over-end rotation, and twice when I saw him he hit multiple three pointers, including a clutch game winner in one of the most contested games of the session. But on two other afternoons, he had multiple airballs from deep and looked completely out of sync. It was especially perplexing because the good and bad days alternated. I had wondered if the brace on his shooting shoulder was part of the problem and his surgery later in the season seems to have confirmed that theory. Will his shot come back? Does he have the handle to be a 2-guard? Is he a defensive stopper? Can he fight off Twitter sensation Jabril Trawick?

 Can the offense run through Nate Lubick?

JT3 often indicated that he was looking for more offense from Nate. With flashes of good vision, ball handling, footwork, and a surprising range despite being the Jim Fuyrk of jump shooters, you could surmise where JT3 was coming from. This Kenner League, I could see Lubick as a nice fit with Henry Sims. It would let them to work on their interior passing, but also free up Nate to practice his perimeter game and patrol the foul extended area. If Nate proves he can consistently hit the open three, he could fill the critical "point-forward" role and open up the offense for a lot of other players.

And, though it probably doesn’t even need to be said, will Randy "White Chocolate" Gill of MTV super-stardom make another appearance this year!? 

Kenner League games begin this Saturday at McDonough Gymnasium.  As soon as the schedule is released you can find it right here on America's most-read blog.

Stay Casual, my friends.

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