Day 5 at Kenner saw the Tombs cast out into the deep without the aid of Jeff Green, but Day 6 presents a conflict that is certainly not casual. The 2:45 pm Women's World Cup start time promises to overlap with at least half of The Tombs' 3:40 game. But regardless of what we're covering, you can rely on the Casual Twitter Feed to guide you through the afternoon.
Moses Ayegba's Hoop Magic versus Startin 5
Moses kicked off the day with a fairly uneventful first game - he spent half the game in the locker room getting an apparent cut treated. He came back with a nice gauzy bandage over his left eye and a new jersey, so blood must've been shed. What you expect in the average Kenner League scrimmage. Moses, while sometimes stiff in his movements, has continued to rumble with pretty good success down the court on fast breaks, including a nifty assist on the tail end of a broken play. Whenever someone goes directly into his body, he usually seems to get best of it - even when he was called for a block after someone euro-hopped into his chest, the guard was bounced back while he stood his ground. He also made a nice post move against an overmatched defender, but overall, in his short time on the court he seemed hindered by his inability to catch the ball (rebound/pass) in traffic.
Greg Monroe is all you can hope from for a veteran player in KL. Whereas Jeff Green has a tendency to act as if he's in a game of horse with himself, Greg has a more sagacious attitude of looking to pick his spots while mostly trying to set up his younger teammates. One of the first plays of the game was Greg making a beautiful pass to a cutting Lubick down the lane for an easy bucket. Overall, Nate again started off flawlessly – he is passing with incredible precision from the post. From kick outs to a beautiful drop off bounce to a cutter, he was on his game. He even executed a high difficulty lob pass to Bowen on a fast break (making amends for a lob pass Bowen threw to him earlier that sailed five or six feet over his head). Nate also showed some more bounce going after rebounds today – grabbing them above the rim far more than last week. He also returned to form in making sure that he lays out at least one every game – last year at Kenner Nate was continually on the floor from some hustle play – when he flew past a defender on an attempted block and super-manned eight feet beyond the basket. He showed the heads up, gritty play he's know for too by knocked balls out of bounds off his opponents on consequential defensive opportunities. And most shockingly, the improved jump shot is not a fluke. He is picking his spots with the deep ball, but when he lines it up he's shooting with more confidence than any other Hoya and he's been absolutely pure. Considering that he'll be shooting a smaller number of threes than most of our shooters, it's a real possibility that Lubick ends the year with one of the top 3FG percentages on the team.
Aaron hit a couple of threes and continued to make an assortment of easy dunks and layups, but he didn't shine despite an improved shooting performance. The consistency still isn't there, on his misses he is completely altering his release point and changing the trajectory of his shots. And, just as problematic, while he's attempting to move towards the hoop more, he just isn't having great success with the handle when he's not on a fast break opportunity.
The Tombs ft. Tyler Adams versus Higher Level
While this was the first look at big Tyler Adams, what stuck out more was that it was the first scrimmage played without the often helpful and supremely skilled hand of Jeff Green guiding the freshman along. Taking a team consisting of George Mason players and similarly talented (if undersized) guards, the Tombs struggled to a 26-20 half-time lead and looked the most out of sync we've seen them. They regained form in the second half, surging to a 59-45 victory, but the lack of experience was apparent.
Let's start with Adams – he's a wiiide body and he knows how to use it. He can carve out space on the post unlike any other player on our team. Once there, there's still work to be done, however. He showed a nice touch in warm-ups, but wasn't able to put it on display much in the game (remember he's still very rusty coming off injuries). A couple of times, his feet got the better of him and he walked on a layup and a near the foul line. The low point was when on a break he got the ball standing at the left block, all alone and went up for a two handed jam... and was promptly rejected by the rim, which spun the ball out. For a big fellah, even taking into consideration that he's out of training, he just doesn't have great hops and that prevents him from turning that great size into easy conversion around the hoop (hopefully we'll get a better idea of just what he can do as he works himself back into shape). Despite offensive limitation, I wasn't disappointed for the sole reason that he showed some fire and ability on defense. He was having a testy back and forth in the post with a George Mason forward and while the more springy Mason player tried to shake Adams with a spin move and short fadeaway, Adams showed surprising lateral quickness and blocked the ball out of bounds. He also got T'd up right after for letting out a celebratory whoops in the Mason player's face – but you have to love that kind of heart to get worked up on defense in KL. He doesn't have the length and shot blocking ability of Sims and probably a lower ceiling than Moses, but there definitely should be immediate minutes on the roster for a wide body who doesn't give ground in the post.
The highlight of the game was a two minutes stretch that saw Otto hit back to back three pointers and made KL commentary on Twitter swoon. He hit two contested, arcing shots and both splashed nothing but net, prompting an outpouring of admiration and expectations from the full Tombs crowd. He gave a little back, forcing two mid-range jumpers right after the sequence that missed (one badly) but the spark of potential was recognized by all. Despite that excitement, Otto again looked his very best on the move, making a few incredible plays in the fast break. He poked away an inbounds pass around midcourt, somehow stayed inside the lines while he gained possession and sped down court for an uncontested dunk. On the second, he had an inside step on a defender when a teammate through a very risky lead pass well up court, and Otto held of his charging defender, beat an opposing guard to the ball and smoothly glided in for an easy lay-up.
In the half court, my main complaint is that Otto was never a triple threat. He made a few great interior passes that will serve him well in a point forward position he'll assume sooner or later and also started to look more aggressively for his own jumper, but he didn't show an appetite for using the dribble to attack that mid-range area where he was lethal in high school. Either through cuts or increased use of his handle, I'd like to see him in the middle of the paint more. I was also watching today for his lateral movement and it's not elite, but it's hard to be disappointed. He's guarding the 1-4 positions, he's hedging screens with sound fundamentals and when someone does turn a corner on him, he can slide down and cut off passing lanes with his length to decrease the pressure on the help defense. A good stat to keep on Otto is deflections, he seems to get his hands on everything, but sometimes he's not in a position to actually make the steal after his tip.
As for Jabril, it first should be noted that the ankle seemed completely fine, and he displayed his usually assortment of dazzling hanging dunks in warm-ups (I don't know if there's a name for this, but I want to call them "snake-bites" – he seems to wait for the last possible second and then rapidly dunks it). But he wasn't as sharp in the first half as we've seen – most of the slow start would've been wiped away if three or so lay-ups of his had fallen. Even then, he was the leading scorer at the half with 8 and showed his now expected tenacity. Some of his most impressive plays are when he misses the lay-up, but still has the spring to get back up and get the board in traffic and put it up again. In the second half, the shots near the rim started to drop again and as his point totally steadily (though not selfishly) moved towards the twenty point plateau, the Tombs secured control of the game with their superior talent. Jabril again showed an ability to make opponents pay when they give him space after he punishes them by attacking the hoop. While he has struggled as a spot up shooter or on the move, he has hit his last three pull-up three pointers when given space. His game is definitely to attack the rim ferociously, but he if he can knock down that three point jumper when given a respectful step for his driving ability, defenders are going to be put in a bind.
Around the rest of the team: Greg Whittington looked sharp again despite not having great success with his jumper. He picked his spots and impressed with a few tight spin moves in traffic. He doesn't have the defensive mindset of Otto or Jabril, but he seems to come up with a nice block or two every game. One of the most interesting questions in the coming year is whether Whitt can find a way to make it onto the floor with his refined skill set but still lacking strength. Mikael Hopkins again flashed some impressive blocks down low (he matched up well against most power forwards) and had a few explosive dunks near the hoop – he has to be pleased to end up on the same team as Otto and Jabril who are both specifically looking for him inside. And Caprio! He ran some point and had a nice running lefty lay-up that made me question whether it was his dominant hand (when he took a FT later, confirmed that it was not).
Team Turner Ft. Hollis Thompson versus
Town Tavern American University and Friends.
The first Casual look at Hollis was a promising one: him strolling onto the floor with a sleeveless underarmor shirt, with clearly added muscle, and then, jersey secured in place, he lit up warm ups, stretching together a number of improbably threes that had him smiling to himself. The ease wasn't to last.
Kenner League for the most part can be broken down into two categories: those who have something to prove and those who do not. Those who have something to prove are the likes of Hoya freshman, mid-major players, townies, seniors like Hank or post-graduate Chris Wright going all out. On the other side, there's NBA players, or seniors like Austin last year who are clearly the best player on the court and looking to get others involved. Hollis seemed to have the mindset of the latter on Saturday – his defense, despite being in Rodney's halfcourt trap, wasn't urgent and he didn't seem particularly aggressive. One of the main problem's being that Hollis is on one of the most talented teams in the league and didn't show any pride in being lost in the shuffle of Greivis, Maryland's Adrian Bowie, Mamadi Diane and even Jared Cunningham who played for Cleveland State. The super talented team as a whole played without much urgency, allowing the scrappy American U heavy team to claw into the lead with a few minutes left before Team Turner broke it open again.
After the draft saga that signaled the future is now for Hollis, the expectations have taken a serious bump and, at least for one day, the questions remained in my mind as to whether he can be a go-to player. His three wasn't there expect on one spot up, but he did show a pull-up move with a lean back to create space a la Austin Freeman. Whether he can assimilate a pull up over an on ball defender will be an interesting (crucial?) part of his development. Unlike Jabril who's using the three to keep defenders honest, Hollis seems to need the three first to allow him to fully utilize his driving ability. Going to the rim is clearly his focus this KL; when he attacked the rim and drew a foul at the basket after two missed jumpers, Rodney yelled, "It's about time – go to the basket!" Overall, he did so with mixed results. His long strides let him get into the lane, but once there, he often had a toss-up between a high difficulty lay-up or a foul call. He was able to make progress, but often failed to shake a defender for an easy look. He also had some trouble finding the space for a shorter range pull-ups, getting a few shots rejected. Despite wondering how on earth we had him playing the four, that time should come in handy -- I impressed by his rebounding. He seemed to utilize his athleticism best when he soared for a couple of boards. I think there's still a learning curve for Hollis to figure out how he can be an effective wing player on a high level, so it left me disappointed that he acted if he had little to prove while the rest of the Hoyas played with so much more fire in their games.
Jabril Trawick 20 PTS 4-9 2PT 2-2 3PT 6-6 FT 3 RBD 2 AST 4 TO
Otto Porter 13 PTS 3-6 2PT 2-2 3PT 1-2 FT 4 RBD 2 STL
Mikael Hopkins 7 PTS 3-7 2PT 6 RBD 2 STL 4 BLK
Tyler Adams 9 PTS 3-7 2PT 3-6 FT 5 RBD 2 AST 2 BLK
Greg Whittington 6 PTS 3-7 2PT 0-2 3PT 1 RBD 3 STL
John Caprio 5 PTS 2-2 2PT 1-2 FT
Aaron Bowen 19 PTS 4-6 2PT 3-5 3PT 2-4 FT 1 BLK
Nate Lubick 15 PTS 4-7 2PT 1-1 3PT 4-5 FT 8 RBD 3 AST
Hollis Thompson 15 PTS 5-11 2PT 0-2 3PT 5-6 FT 5 RBD 2 AST 3 STIL