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View from the Bleachers: Kenner League

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When celebrating a 21st birthday, what better way to do it than with some free summer league basketball? Kenner League did the trick for me Saturday, as I filled the interlude between back-to-back nights of boozy birthday celebrations by catching up with our old friends, the Georgetown Hoyas. I imagine that I was able to make a sufficient recovery from Friday night to accurately gauge and gather impressions of the Hoyas players who were on the court, but if you happen to question or disagree with my observations below, chalk it up to the celebration and my progressively increasing need for an afternoon map.

I kept only a little bit of a track on stats, as vv1983’s excellent Kenner League updates have all of that covered, but I tried to scout out players and write down some general observations. Anyway my pieces usually center on things other than game stats. I had a prime view from my seat up in the bleachers right at center court, surrounded by families, dedicated alums, and local basketball fans looking to catch a full day of hoops. I had the chance to catch up and talk Hoyas basketball with a handful of blog regulars, other Hoya alumni and fans, and the Voice of the Hoyas himself, Rich Chvotkin, who seemed to be conducting a dress rehearsal of sorts for another season behind the microphone while sitting in the bleachers. It had been a long time since I have watched or listened to any Georgetown basketball games, but for some reason his distinctive, staccato pronouncement of the name of swingman LJ Peak brought me right back. As for lunch documentation, because of the number of free birthday meals I received, I did not have room for one of Kenner’s notorious hot dogs. However, I get the feeling that it would not have helped me in my quest to shed some weight this summer or in my shorter-term quest to prevent my 21st birthday weekend from destroying my innards.

On the court, Hoyas players were scattered across the 10 teams in the league, meaning that I missed out on seeing a handful of Hoyas, including Bradley Hayes, Akoy Agau, Paul White (perhaps out of action due to East Coast bias,) Tre Campbell, and incoming freshman George Muresan. In the first game I had the chance to see, Isaac Copeland racked up the points for his squad, as I counted 26 points. He beat his defenders off the dribble well and scored a few baskets by driving his way to the hoop, although he did not really post up very much. He also led a few fast breaks and looked good in the transition game. His three-point shot was off, however, as he missed all but one of his attempts. Defense was also a bit of a concern, as opposing players often swished shots over him, but in most cases, he still made those shots a bit more difficult with his D. Then again, Kenner is not known as a showcase of defensive prowess. I also caught Copeland in the one game I attended Sunday, where he ended up carrying the offensive load for his side in what ultimately ended up a losing effort. He consistently found his way up close for high-percentage shots and even occasionally posted up. On one play, he missed the layup but put on an impressive spin move out of the block.

Rodney Pryor. Damn! The graduate transfer from Robert Morris put on a show Saturday, clearing the 40-point mark and demonstrating that he may be the most complete player on the 2016-17 Hoyas roster. He showed he could score in a number of ways Saturday, connect on three-pointers, driving the lane for layups, or flying high for dunks. In one particular sequence, Pryor illustrated just how explosive of a player he can be by slamming one home in transition and then finishing an alley-oop from teammate Jagan Mosely. On defense, Pryor seemed at home both on the perimeter down low, even showing a tendency to go for an explosive block. If Pryor does this during the season, it should make for some highlight reel plays, but it may also lead to foul trouble. On Sunday, Pryor continued his stellar performance, keying a couple of runs that held the lead for his team. On Sunday, he seemed to be grabbing more rebounds as well. If Pryor’s Kenner League play translates at least a little bit, he could be not just a starter, but a leader and star for this year’s Hoyas team.

Speaking of the aforementioned Jagan Mosely, I must turn to the great Clyde Frazier, who would likely describe the incoming freshman as “ubiquitous, bounding and astounding” on the court. It did not show as much in the box score Saturday, but Mosely speeds up and down the court with ease, even playing solid defense and forcing a few turnovers. In one particularly telling sequence, Mosely stole the ball, tried to slam home the dunk in transition, but was hit hard by an opposing defender. Despite no foul call and a hard tumble, Mosely got up, zoomed across the court, and grabbed the rebound on the missed shot attempt on the other end a few seconds later. He didn’t shoot much from downtown, but made at least one three. That may become part of his game later on, but I would expect Mosely to contribute solid perimeter defense immediately and occasionally play the role of ball handler. He could even jump Tre Campbell in the rotation, but I do not expect that to happen before at least midseason.

Saturday saw a quiet performance from Marcus Derrickson, but he did a good job grabbing rebounds and connecting from long-range. He stayed around the perimeter offensively, but ended up forcing his man outside after playing strong post defense early. In Sunday’s game, he seemed to be working down low a bit more, including one nice finish where he beat a GW big man off the low block.

Of the players who I saw twice, lastly we have Jonathan Mulmore, who did not show the scoring prowess that helped put him near the top of the national junior college scoring rankings, but to me he looks like the kind of aggressive player who could play the sort of instant offense sixth man role that guys like Aaron Bowen and LJ Peak have played at times in recent years. He forced his way to the free throw line often and loved to drive to the basket. His most impressive play was likely when he drove down the baseline for a scoop layup from under the basket, also drawing and converting the opportunity for a three-point play. Sunday, he did not do as much, but hit one three in the time I was there and also found his teammates on some heads-up passes.

Jessie Govan struggled early when trying to work down low, but did better when matched up against Trey Mourning. On at least two occasions, he dished out assists from the paint to find LJ Peak for the finish. He also finished well on his own, including on a nice running layup from around 10 feet and an impressive Dirk Nowitzki-style fadeaway shot with a leg kick. Trey did not have the greatest day on the court himself, struggling to deal with Govan on both ends. Barring any unforeseen developments, it may be hard for him to accumulate significant minutes in the very crowded Hoya rotation, as he likely sits behind Hayes and Govan for minutes at center and behind Copeland and Derrickson for minutes at the 4.

LJ Peak, meanwhile, played with the high energy level typical of his game during his Georgetown career. His reckless abandon caused him to cough up the ball at least once, but also meant that he continued to slash and dash his way to the basket. He made a few nice cuts to the hoop that allowed him to receive two of the aforementioned feeds from Jessie Govan and even hit a nice 18 footer with a man in his face.

Reggie Cameron made a couple of threes early on and seemed to find a groove when it came to shooting from outside, also making a long 2 early on. He also seemed to be grabbing a fair number of rebounds, not bad considering that Jessie Govan was on the other team. He will need those threes to continue to fall to move up the Hoyas’ hierarchy and see extended runs on the court this season.

All in all, it was a pleasure to see so many friends in DC this weekend and to experience the Kenner League for the first time. Seeing most of the Hoyas play this weekend has just made me all the more excited for what will likely be my final season in the student section. For those of you equally excited, remember that it’s less than three months to Midnight Madness. The season is just around the corner.