Kenner League is nothing if not a clean slate for delusion. The NBA has summoned the best players to the next level, it's the first look at the 2012 recruiting class, and it's easier than you might think to extrapolate a defense-less scrimmage into dreams of deep tournament runs. However, since feeding the delusion is what we do best here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON, here's a fan's guide to prepare you for the adventure that is Kenner League action.
Seating: If you're going to hunker down for a full day of hoops, picking your seat is crucial to your Kenner experience -- or at least the state of your back the following day. The best spot is center bleacher, up against back wall. It's the best view of the court, and more importantly, the only place with back support. It's prime real estate so you won't secure a spot without some dedication.
Fan's Guide after The Jump:
Food: The concession stand is something of a time warp. The prices are unnaturally low, and the hot dogs seem like they've been warmed over from last week (don't want to know where they'll manage to scrounge up the week #1 dogs from). Playing it safe and stepping out to Wisey's for a chicken or burger madness isn't a bad tactical move if you end up with a Hoya-less game, and if you're making that trek please feel free to document your Wisey's upside.
The Main Event: The Tombs. The heart and soul of Kenner League is The Tombs squad. It's the first time to see the freshman class and any Casual fan in the greater DC area does themselves a disservice if they don't at least catch a glimpse of the future. The team is loaded with to-be Hoyas that have something to prove, but usually their opponents ratchet up the intensity as well. Especially the local squads -- it's their Super Bowl. The Tombs has the home crowd behind them, and you can tell underdogs up the physicality.
Quirks: No Foul Outs (after you "foul out" the opposing team gets a technical free throw for each subsequent foul -- Mikael Hopkins was a repeat offender last year), Players Playing Multiple Games, Frequent Late Starting Times, Hideous Jerseys, Unauthorized Stealth Documentation, White Chocolate, and many more...
Trademarks: John Thompson Jr. on the far corner titled back in his large wooden chair, Coach Rodney Turner molding men in Kenner League with a whirlwind of energy, emotion and screaming, the Exodus -- you'll be surprised at how full McDonough gets during a Tombs games... but the real magic is how quickly the place empties out. Unfortunately, numerous injuries tend to be part of Kenner lore as well. (PLEASE for Georgetown's sake have Moses's knee injury last year be a one summer fluke)
Hoya Legends of Season's Past: Everybody loves to see the old Hoyas return, and we've had Greg Monroe and Jeff Green in bunches over the last two years. Most of the time they were tooling on lesser competition, gliding through games. But last year the older Hoyas made it their mission to help last year's talented Tombs team grow up. A team of Austin Freeman, Greg, and Jeff met in the Kenner League Finals to produce arguably the greatest single game in recent memeory (reminisce about it here). Greg relentlessly took the ball at Hopkins. Jeff Green stepped up the defense, made Otto Porter work, and showed him some NBA level affection. But the young Hoyas fought on, took it to overtime -- a precursor to heart we saw in China, in Maui, and throughout the season. If this year sees anything close to a replication, it'll be fun summer.
Match-ups: The biggest problem for Kenner is the lack of big men. We never knew if Henry Sims was great, or he was just shooting over a 6'5" power forward from a middling conference. (Note: Sims once put up 30 points and grabbed 20 rebounds in a Kenner League game as a freshman). So it's a treat is when Hoyas on opposing teams match up against each other, especially post players. I'm looking forward to seeing Moses Agyegba take on Bradley Hayes and Hopkins battle with Nate Lubick in the post.
Glimpses and Patterns: You can't take a look at a stat sheet and in any way pretend that's a precursor to the year. But you can pick up some things about the regular season in Kenner League (or try to...). Otto Porter controlled the flow of the game for the Tombs last year, and he did the same during the regular season. Hollis Thompson disappeared in Kenner and was never aggressive enough to be the man, even in a scrimmage, and we saw that often during the regular season. Jabril's aggressiveness and streakiness to lift a team for spurts when he gets hot, Greg Whittington's smooth glide up and down the court. It's a lot of guesswork, but it's not all ridiculous.
What to keep an eye out for this year:
- Just how good is Otto Porter? Will we see an extra spark of aggressiveness or a three point shot that indicate he's ready to massively up his possession usage and carry this team?
- Can D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera be heavy-rotation player? The Hoyas are losing a lot of shooting this year, and DSR is the top prospect, with seemingly the most college-ready body. Will he look like he can run beside Otto all season long?
- Who on earth is going to play center for us? All expectations are that Hayes and Brandon Bolden are projects -- will either show flashes as a defensive specialist who can steal minutes right away? What sort of level will Moses Ayegba, who looked very good at times last summer, and will we have to hold our breath every time he leaves the ground?
It's a damn long time until November, and the next month or so is the best chance you'll have to heightened the anticipation to dizzingly delusional levels -- so make the most of it. The schedule and rosters for the 2012 Kenner League can be found right here, so happy hunting this summer and remember, stay Casual.