Ah, opening day at Kenner League! The early afternoon non-Georgetown highlights from McDonough Arena included former Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku sucking wind and in general, and former UConn bust and 2011 draft pick Ater Majok trying, and for the most part failing, to post up an American University player/ aspiring boy-band member with frosted tips. Karma dutifully complied and Majok rolled his ankle and was out for the game. But that’s more than enough time spent on UConn and Cuse.
Let's start with one of the best aspects of Kenner League: the former Hoya greats that show up. Today it was Jeff Green, that top 5 draft pick with his all-world smile (if he’s hurting for cash this lockout, his agent better be getting Crest or Orbit on the line), giving handshakes and saying a few words to each of the freshmen before suiting up for The Tombs squad himself. It has to help keep the tradition alive, give the younger players something to aspire to, and it can’t hurt with recruiting.
More after The Jump:On to the action: The Tombs versus "Startin 5" was a blowout from the start. The Tombs, featuring Jeff Green, Jabril Trawick, Greg Whittington and Mikael Hopkins, were up 40-17 at half and cruised to a thirty point lead.
Jabril is one of the clear winner of the KL roster alignments -- he’s given sole responsibility of the point guard position with a talented core around him. On the first offensive position, he did display his biggest weakness. It was a nice two man game between Jabril and Hopkins, who was on the block. Hopkins drew in Jabril’s defender. But as Jabril slid to the corner to catch the ball, a fairly routine kick out play, he never got himself steadied and missed an off-balance three. That would have to be the knock on Jabril coming out of Kenner day 1 – he couldn’t hit from outside. He ran the point guard position fairly smoothly and when he was moving toward the basket, everything was coming easily to him. He showed no fear and repeatedly took it to the hoop and finished with great confidence. On one broken play, he picked the pocked of a Startin 5 player and then put down an aggressive two handed jam even as the picked-pocketee came in for a hard foul.
Jabril, a guard who wants to attack inside the arc, paired up nicely with Hopkins, a big who wanted to play inside; they ran a pick and roll with success set multiple times. Hopkins took a few threes and made one, but for the most part, he was planted on the block. He made some nice offensive spin moves down low and finished a couple reverse layups. His main contribution was on the defensive end – the competition wasn’t a scoring machine regardless, but Hopkins was constantly rejecting or altering shots at the rim. I had read concerns about his toughness, so I was pleased that he also showed some fire. When he caught in-bounds pass under hoop with two guys draped on him, the ball was knocked away with no call. He retrieved it and went aggressively right back at them. After an effective spin move, he was just a little strong on a lefty layup.
While Hopkins' defense was expected, but the bigger surprise was Jabril mixing it up, grabbing boards in and rejecting shots in the paint. More than once I saw a Tombs player go up for a block and assumed it was Hopkins, #3 , before I realized that it was actually Trawick, #5. Trawick gives up 3-4 inches, but you can't always tell.
Whittington was more of a mixed bag – most impressive plays he made were in transition. Early on, he saved a ball from going out by throwing it behind his back. He then ran out of bounds, around a ref, and sprinted downcourt to receive the ball for a transition layup. Another time he took it the length of the court himself and made a layup in traffic. For most of the game, though, he only touched the ball on fast breaks or when a rebound came directly to him. In the half court, he didn’t often make himself available. He struggled to get his hands on a few passes, but he did make a smooth three pointer. He missed a handful, but his jumper was sound. Perhaps Whittington’s shining moment was when he broke out the AI pullback crossover. He missed the shot, but tipped his hand that he’s a Casual Hoya reader because he obviously saw the post about Iverson’s crossover video.
The alarm bells went off for Whittington’s chances of making an impact this year, though, when he got the ball ten feet from the basket while being defending by a 5-8 guard hailing Gulf South Conference powerhouse West Florida. Whittington tried twice to back him down. Twice he failed and was forced to pass it away.
Jabril seemed to be around the ball all game and the one play which must have made JT3’s heart sing was when he made a hard cut to the lane, received the ball and redirected it with a touch pass to a teammate on the block. The play that got the crowd off its feet was when he caught the ball in transition around the three point line, was fouled just outside the lane and powered on to throw down a one-handed jam. He’s the first player in a Hoya uniform since PE Jr. who doesn’t look timid around the rim.
And it must be noted about Jeff Green – it looked like he hadn’t shot a basketball since the Celtics were bounced from the playoffs. He heaved up an assortment of bricks and airballs before finally getting something to drop in the second half, which received a loud mock-cheer.
The other Georgetown game squared Aaron Bowen off against Jason Clark and Chris Wright. If I told you that Bowen made a nice lefty finish after a driving cut down the middle to close the score to 84-81, you might think it was an exciting game. If you heard on the next possession, with under 30 seconds left, Jason Clark went to the line to shoot 1 and 1, you probably would think it was a heart-racing conclusion. You would be wrong on both counts. In a game that heaped together a bunch of guards and small forwards (there were three other guys on Bowen’s team within an inch or two of his height), hardly anyone could make an outside shot. In a scrimmage without big men where most of the scoring comes around the paint, it’s hard to take stock in anything. It was not without reason that there was a mass exodus at halftime.
Clark didn’t do anything to shock or disappoint; he made two threes back to back in the second half and made a couple of nice passes that none of his teammates could convert into assists. As for Bowen, the basketball gods did not shine on him in the first half, and by basketball gods, for the most part I mean Randy "White Chocolate" Gill refused to pass it his way. Bowen didn’t make any jump shots, but he did get out nicely in transition. He had plenty of layups and had more of a chance to display his athleticism in the second half: in the span of a minute or two, he had a thundering put-back dunk off a missed shot and then soon after he went up for another dunk, was met in the air by a defender but still extended enough to drop it in. He made a few nice plays on defense, but it seems like the level of disruption he causes on defense is underwhelming compared to his athleticism. Hard to tell from today’s game, but something to keep an eye. Maybe the return of THUNDERSNOW next week will prompt him to take it up a notch.
The highlight of the day, though, was Jeff Green questioning a few casualties, "Y’all blogging?" I’m not sure if it was the laptop or the double stuffed oreos that gave us away.
Boxscores (via HoyaSinceBirth)
Jabril 7-9 2PT 0-3 3PT 4-7 FT 18 PTS 6 RBD 3 AST 1 TO 6 Fouls
Hopkins 4-9 2PT 1-2 3PT 2-3 FT 13 PTS 4 RBDS 5 BLKS
Whittington 6-9 2PT 1-3 3PT 1-2 FT 16 PTS 5 RBDS 3 AST
Aaron 8-10 2PT 0-5 3PT 3-4 FT 19 PTS 4 RBS
Jason 6-10 2PT 3-6 3PT 1-2 FT 22 PTS 3 4 AST 3 TO
We'll be back tomorrow for Day 2, and as always you can follow us live on the CASUAL TWITTER FEED all day long. For now, however, I'm going to get a nice beer.