Following a fresh cut from Georgetown Barbers, I secured my location in the top row of McDonough Gymnasium against the backstop to ward off early paralysis. Here's the recap of the action from Day 3 of Kenner League.
Boss Auto vs. Moses Ayegba and the Hoop Magic squad:
The grand opening of the Moses show! An unquestioned fan favorite last year, Ayegba was able to muster a double-double against the team that was able to push Mikael Hopkins around last weekend. One of his calling cards last year in Kenner was poor hands, but he offered an early glimpse of hope, pulling down a full court baseball pass on a fast break without traveling. He missed the layup, but his team retained possession and, clearly exhilarated by "the catch," went right at Boss Auto's big man and made his best move of the day, little hook shot. Unfortunately, that was the exception on the day rather than the rule. He frequently had a hand on the ball, but too often he couldn't control it. He also seemed particularly susceptible to having the ball knocked away when he did have possession. Once, in traffic, he made a strong move but the ball just slipped from his hands and went five feet in the air for a turnover. Instinctively, seemed a bit slow on help side, but did run the floor fairly well and had a few good rebounds that he quickly tracked down. He made few hard cuts after pick and rolls, but it hurt not having a Hoya guard to work with; he didn't get much attention in the post with the trigger happy Hoop Magic guards. He remains (with the possible exception of Tyler Adams) the best on ball defender in the post, but he often seems out of place and looks to have plenty of work to do to secure more than a menial role. And it should be noted, Boss Auto cruised to a 61-48 victory.
Kenner Day 3 Recap after The Jump:
Clyde's featuring Aaron Bowen (but not Nate "Thundersnow" Lubick) versus A. Walsh:
Aaron Bowen took a step forward this week, mightily helped by playing the point, and he showed some fire on the defensive end. Strangely, Ater Majok was defending Bowen and giving him plenty of space, so it was nowhere near a true test of guard skills. It was also clear he isn't a natural point guard, often releasing on a fast break only to return for the ball, but having control over the ball seemed to encourage Bowen to attack the center of the floor instead of languishing out on the wings. He continued to show an inclination for the JT3's offense – his best move of the day was a give and go cut where he caught the ball in the lane, was turned around in the air by the contact and acrobatically made a bank shot over his shoulder for an and-1. His game still is too centered around a facet that just isn't working at the moment – after draining his first three point shot, Bowen missed his next six from deep.
As the game turned to crunch time, Bowen picked up the pace again – and the timing couldn't have been better. The pre-Tombs crowd was steadily funneling in and, as the sole Hoya on the court, every positive contribution he made was met with raucous applause (as far as raucous applause goes in Kenner League). He stepped up his defense (this has to be the key to his court time), and made a great block on a fade-away jumper. After a nice reverse lay-up to pull the game to near even, there was even a hearty applause for him as the other team called a time out. Down one, the crowd was pulling for Bowen's last minute heroics, but it was his teammate who his a balloon shoot while falling backwards giving the Clyde's a 67-66 win. All you can hope for out of an undercard.
The Main Event: The Tombs vs. Beyond Belief:
The first look at Otto Porter turned out to be one of the best games yet of Kenner League 2011. Beyond Belief featured Jeff Allen, Ater Majok, and most importantly Isaiah Swann, and is among the league's best competition. Swann, formerly of FSU, is not only is willing and able to pull up from anywhere in the gym, but also puts entertainment at a premium. From barking at and working the crowd to holding him breath and puffing his cheeks out in front of a ref after a call he wasn't fond of, he puts on a show. Boss Auto provided a grinding, hard working nemesis for the Tombs last week, but Beyond Belief brought talent on equal footing.
The Tombs let a lead slip away and the typical Hoya faithless were heading for the door, but a Whitt three cut the lead to 3 and then Porter forced a steal in the backcourt off an inbounds and Hopkins flew in for a follow up dunk to cut the lead to 1. Two missed free throws gave Tombs the ball with 10 seconds to go, but Jeff Green pulled a Hollis at Missouri pre-fantastic CWright game-tying shot. Instead of passing up to one of the four other freshman and giving a chance for some pre-season heroics, Green dribbled out of traffic by himself and heaved a 30-footer at the buzzer. Blah.
As for individual performances, Otto and Cool Whit are the same height, but fortunately Porter isn't as skinny; Otto has some definition in his arms, wider shoulders and doesn't feel compelled to rock the undershirt. The first impression of Otto is that he is, plain and simple, a JT3 type of player. He didn't score much (only six points) but he stuffed the stat sheet (7 boards, 4 steals, a couple blocks and numerous deflections) and was vital to controlling the pace of the game. His length let him snatch rebounds out of his area and often negated opponents ability to muscle him out of the lane.
The comparisons of Whittington to Green, regardless of caveat, haven't wrung true in my opinion. Whitt's handle reminds me more of Jason Clark: he maneuvers well, especially on the run, but in close quarters, he doesn't rely on it as much. Otto's seemed confident with the ball both on the move and in the half court – even bringing the ball up a few times when Jabril was on the bench.
From first look, Otto seemed to be an adept passer both on the move and looking inside from the top of the key, but the play of his that made me giddy with delusion was when he cut from the opposite corner to the foul line extended then made a contested fall-away jumper (it seemed like he was at a 45 degree angle by time he finally released it). Otto patrolling the foul line is a move I hope and expect will be exploited against Syracuse (you know, the one time we play them this season).
The defensive end was where he really stood out – he immediately showed his flexibility by readily taking on the task of guarding Swann, one of the best offensive guards in Kenner, and picked him up outside of the three point line in textbook defense position. He didn't shut Swann down, but he often containing him, including when he harassed Swann into throwing a lazy bail out pass to the wing which Trawick picked off and went the other way with (Otto and Jabril are an instant boost to our defense). Another time at the top of the key, he smothered athletic forward and Kenner League iron-man Jeff Allen, batting away a pass and leading to another fast break. Otto is a one man trap with those arms.
Despite heaping on this praise, I must add that on offense he often looked timid – especially deferring to Jeff Green (as opposed to Trawick who will go to Jeff and ask for the ball so he can bring it up the court instead). The one area he really has to improve on is making cuts – he wasn't near as effective moving to open area as you would like. I'm convinced he could be lethal if he consistantly can hit from the outside (a shot he didn't look for in high school), so I was encouraged that he looked to take the shot when he had it and hit a long two with his foot on the line.
That's plenty of rambling about Otto, but it's a disservice to ignore Jabril for this long. Trawick should have a dorm room full of Casual "Chris Wright Heart of a Champion" awards before he closes out his career; he came up gimpy with 15 minutes left into the second half after an aggressive block attempt (people usually don't contest shots near the rim enough to get hurt on the defensive end) and then returned still favoring his right foot five minutes later. THIS IS KENNER LEAGUE FOR GODS SAKE, JABRIL! Whenever someone tweaks something in Kenner, they usually shut it down immediately for the day, but Jabril returns and minutes later is meeting Swann full speed to prevent a cherry-picked lay-up. (As our casualties pointed out, he came out later in crutches and a boot, but as always with JT5ive, check the tweet – it looks like he'll be good to go for the next Tombs game). He scored 16 points in the first half and finished with 22 despite missing 5 minutes in the second half with a twisted ankle. He's relentless in driving to the hoops – he doesn't finish you off with speed, but with determination. So often he'll drive to one side and is cut off, only to turn it to the opposite side and make it to the lane. There's one big difference between this wrecking ball and our wrecking ball point guard of years past. Take a familiar scene from one of today's afternoon games: Chris Wright made a great move slicing through traffic but as he approached the rim he was still well below the hoops and needed to finesse a left handed shot, which missed. Jabril, at 6-5 and possessing elite hops, just doesn't encounter that problem. When he gets in the lane, he has the ability to get to the rim so you have to foul him to prevent a lay-up or dunk. You never know how well it'll carry over to the real season, but his ability to get to the rims counters the stagnant, perimeter oriented offense the Hoyas slip into – when that happened and the lead was slipping away, Trawick demanded the ball and sliced right into the lane and drew a foul. On the final play of the game, Beyond Belief doubled Trawick to insure he wouldn't get the ball.
As for everyone else; Tyler Adams was at the game but didn't play. He's a big boy though noticeably shorter than Otto and Greg, and though handed his jersey before the game is still apparently recovering from
arm injuries – hopefully we'll see him soon. I ducked out for food and fresh air during the non-Hoya game, but I returned just in time to see outlaw Austin Freeman's team lose another close game. Even after those pictures from the Wizards workout, I was surprised how skinny he was – I didn't recognize him at first. Jason Clark looked like Jason Clark on the floor with NBA talent: Ty Lawson, Brandon Jennings and Grevies Vasquez. He made a couple nice drives, but in a game that was an out and out track meet, he didn't do much to stand out.