Led by the nose to the familiar scent of the famed Kenner League hot dogs, greeted by the rock hard, freezing cold bleachers, and the sound of constant warnings that photography is prohibited (except when it’s not) Kenner League is back! with two sets of games over the weekend.
And oh what a weekend it was.
Perhaps the most anticipated Kenner League in recent memory, thanks to Coach Ewing’s underrated first full recruiting class featuring two electrifying guards, did not disappoint. As Hoya fans, we are compelled to draw wild, unrealistic conclusions based on glorified pick up games in July. And there were opportunities aplenty for speculation. Did someone say something about guard play? We really, truly may have seen the birth of a new era. The #Mackinjo era. Both James Akinjo and Mac McClung, playing together on The Tombs, absolutely stole the show winning two close games and scoring 70% of the Tombs’ points.
We got a glimpse into the foreseeable future with all Hoyas playing in both games on Saturday and Sunday. The following are IMHO grades and observations based on both games. Reasonable folk can disagree, as can Hoya fans. Extrapolations and conclusions are your own to draw.
James Akinjo - A/A+
- 26.5 PPG, 53.8% FG, 29.4% 3PT, 71.43% FT, 2 RPG, 5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 2 TOPG
You guys, he was very, very good. No reality checks here. Akinjo was the stuff of Kenner League dreams in his first two games. Easily one of two best players on the floor when he was out there (the other is a little further down this page). Doubly impressive is that he outplayed two UMD guards to do it - Anthony Cowan (Starting PG who averaged 16 PPG as a Sophomore) and Darryl Morsell (former top 100 guard from Baltimore who averaged 8 PPG as a freshman). Akinjo outplayed them on both ends of the floor, and it was not particularly close. He showed a skill set Hoya fans have not seen in awhile, and have been clamoring for: real - and I do mean REAL - handles, ability to drive and dish or finish with both hands, in traffic, and a decidedly nifty ability to knock down jumpers. It’s hard to pick out just one thing that stood out about Akinjo. He was tremendous in transition - he definitely has a consistent pull up jumpshot that will make it very difficult on transition defenses. He controlled everything when he was out there - looked to push, but knew when to pull it out. At times, he got a little iso-happy, but it’s hard to complain when it’s a) Kenner and b) he is finishing everything left and right. And finally, there is the defense. All I can say is *swoon*. Just get ready Hoya fans, you’ve been shouting loudly into the Twitters for what seems like years for on-ball defending at the guard position. And it looks like, based on 2 summer league games, your prayers have been answered...But seriously, he played really good defense and seems to take real pride in it and it’s great.
Jahvon Blair - C
- 15 PPG, 72.7% FG, 26.3% 3PT, 16.6% FT, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1 SPG
I remember Juggy Blair playing better than his stat line indicates. But the numbers tell a somewhat bleak story. Decidedly better on saturday, Jahvon didn’t shoot the ball particularly well but still managed to score inside the arc. His free throw percentage would suggest his stroke was just off this weekend. He scored 23 on saturday shooting 83% from the field, but passed it pretty well and managed not to turn the ball over...THROUGH TWO GAMES! This might be wishful thinking, but I thought his handles in transition and in traffic looked better than last year. He still knows how to get his shot, and takes quite a few of them (he attempted 19 threes on the weekend).
Grayson Carter - C-
- 5 PPG, 33.3% FG, 20% 3PT, 4 RPG, .5 SPG, .5 TOPG
I am tempted to give Grayson an incomplete. He played juuuuust enough to peak your interest. Carter was the lone Hoya to not start (which I had thought was a rules violation), and played very little on Saturday. When he did, he looked a bit lost and seemed allergic to the backboard or something as he avoided the paint like he owed it money. Seemed to settle in a bit more on Sunday and played with more purpose and aggressiveness. He battled for some boards, stuck his nose in on defense and had a couple of nice finishes around the basket. He definitely can shoot it, though that wasn’t really on display this weekend (outside of warm ups). Looks the most “Frosh” of the freshman, but his size and skill are tantalizing. Give him some time to develop.
Jessie Govan - B+/A-
- 25 PPG, 55.5% FG, 60% 3PT, 100% FT, 9 RPG, 1 APG, .5 TOPG
Jessie’s playing in his 5th Kenner, and it looks like it. He toggled between dominance and looking a bit bored. And I suppose, who can blame him? When he was engaged, he looked ready. His shot was there, he was finishing everything around the basket and he looked comfortable in the pick-and-roll. He had a couple of really nice passes to cutters as well - Rodney Pryor being one of them, on a throwback Princeton cut (attempts to determine if JT3 was shadow coaching were inconclusive). I don’t think we’ll know much about Jessie’s form until the season starts, but if I were him, I’d be pretty excited about the young-gun-guards that should be able to get him the ball where he likes it. Total speculation, but he looked a bit more serious than last year. He had a little more focus when he was in the gym.
Kaleb Johnson - B+/A-
- 25.5 PPG, 53.1% FG, 40% 3PT, 71.4% FT, 9 RPG, 1 APG, 1 BPG, .5 TOPG
We’ve been here before. Kaleb Johnson looked downright good in Kenner League. He gets the same grade as Jessie, because he had almost the same stat line. And like Jessie, he was dominant at times and looked like he’d see a Kenner or two. He was good in transition, where he scored a lot of his points. He was in control and shot it fairly well. Though he mostly scored around the basket. What is there to say? He seems to thrive in the Kenner environment, and tease Hoya fans with visions of 15 and 5, but remember Einstein’s definition of insanity (or whoever said it) Maybe this year will be different? Maybe this year it will translate? We are all insane.
Josh Leblanc - C
- 8 PPG, 41.6% FG, 60% FT, 4 RPG, 1 APG, 2 SPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.5 TOPG
Other than #Mackinjo, Josh Leblanc was the Hoya I was most excited to see. There are minutes to be had at the 4 for whoever wants them, and reports of Leblanc’s toughness, defensive ability and rebounding sure sound good to me. He was *fine* and definitely looks like he’s still getting his legs under him after a broken foot sidelined him for much of his senior season. He looked a bit lost on Saturday, but settled in well on Sunday. He’s out there to block shots, and get rebounds, and he flew around at times. He made a few athletic finishes in transition - running at full speed catching a pass clean and dunking or laying it up. You could see his defensive instincts, he had 3 blocks on the weekend and missed countless more that just looked like he needs to get his timing back. His offensive game, outside of putbacks, basic post moves and transition finishes looked a bit raw (Maybe someone around the program who excelled in this part of the game could coach him up?), but with James and Mac the score twins (we can workshop this) out and about, he won’t need to be a primary offensive option. Final thought: “how tall is Josh Leblanc, really?” will be a fun game. He’s listed at 6’7, but looked barely taller than 6’4 Jagan Mosley and 6’3 Jahvon Blair when standing next to them. And then when he was next to the 6’10 Govan, he looked minimally shorter. It’s a conundrum. He might be a transformer. His wingspan, however, is NOT in question. His reach is legit and looks strong.
Greg Malinowksi - B-
- 22 PPG, 31.2% FG, 60% 3PT, 87.5% FT, 5.5 RPG, 2 APG, 1 SPG, 3 TOPG
Bit of an enigma this! While he shot it well (for the most part) on Saturday, I didn’t think he looked particularly convincing. That whole game was a sloppy mess though, so he didn’t stand out. He was very solid on Sunday, and the shooting is there. It’s definitely there. He can drain them, but his release is quick enough that you could see him being able to get his shot off in regular season play...maybe. He runs really well off of screens and hit more than a couple threes off those Donte Devincenzoooothankgodhewasdrafted cuts. He impressed me with his ability to get his own shot... at times. He had a few series where he tried to do too much and turned the ball over, but he is not just a catch and shoot guy. He created for himself and his teammates and made a couple of really nice passes on Sunday. There’s some really nice potential here and he does have pretty good size. But there are caveats in here because the question still remains:will it translate against BE-caliber opponents? And it’s a real question. He’s the only, non freshman, that we’ve not see play against consistent high major opposition. So, we’ll see, but a nice day on Sunday for sure.
Mac McClung - A/A+
- 24 PPG, 44.8% FG, 30.7% 3PT, 71.4% FT, 3 RPG, 4 APG, 1.5 SPG, .5 TOPG
Holy jumps Batman! The hype is real, Mac gets UP... in a hurry. But labeling him “just a highlight-reel dunker” is kind of like calling Patrick Ewing just a big-man coach. It sort of just ignores the rest of his skill set, and the work he has clearly put in developing it. Yes, he is fun to watch and he threw down more than a couple of those now-famous slams. But he was way, way more than that. His ability to finish in traffic looked elite, he got to the rim and figured out a way to finish more often than not. He was a little inconsistent shooting on Saturday, but came back on Sunday and seemingly hit all of his jumpers. He had a couple of really nice pull up threes in transition (usually from Akinjo). His stroke looks really clean. Oh and he brought it on defense too. I’d give the nod to James on defense right now, but Mac’s intensity and mentality is refreshing. And as Kevin Durant said, he is an “ATH-LETE.” To end the game on Saturday he lost his man on a screen to give up a game-tying three. After #Mackinjo Mackinjoed to put the Tombs back up, Mac shut Cowan down on the final shot. Even in just two games, you could start to see the way he and James were playing off each other, complementing each other really well. I wouldn’t call it a budding friendship, but they clearly want to help each other be better. He cuts really hard, and had a few finishes that came from just hard cuts and good, simple passes from Akinjo. If you’d told me I had to choose right now, I’d say start them both and play them together a lot. #Mackinjo is real.
Jagan Mosley - D+
- 3.5 PPG, 12.5% FG, 100% 3PT, 50% FT, 2 RPG, 1.5 APG, .5 BPG
He had a disappointing weekend, cut short by a hard fall after trying to take off from what seemed like the three point line. He looked fine, but didn’t play much in the second half on Sunday. He wasn’t terrible on Saturday, but played largely in control and wasn’t looking for his shot really at all. His squad lacked any really rhythm, and they had a lot of bodies shuffling in and out. I am going to write this one off as an outlier because he just didn’t look like himself. Say what you will about his skill set, he usually plays with confidence and effort (even in Kenner), and that just wasn’t there this weekend. Will be looking for some renewed energy from him over the course of the summer.
Trey Mourning - B
- 16 PPG, 65% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 75% FT, 7 RPG, 2 APG, .5 SPG, .5 BPG, 1.5 TOPG
Look, we all love Trey. We all want Trey to be that sneaky good piece next year. And he played well overall. He was really good on Saturday - shot well, scored in close, and had a good feel on the offensive and defensive boards. I am just not sure how sustainable it is over extended minutes against higher-quality opponents. He matched up against the bigger Yurt7 on Sunday and was taken out of the game in stretches. He seems to thrive when he is under-the-radar a bit. He moved well without the ball and got a number of buckets by getting into good positions when the defense was focused elsewhere. And maybe that’s all we need him to be? One other note: Trey plays hard for his teammates. I noticed a couple instances where a Hoya (on the opposing team) and one of his Kenner teammates went down, and Trey rushed to help his Kenner teammate up. Does it mean anything...at all? Nah. But Trey is out there for his teammates when he’s on the floor. Seems like the type of guy you want in the trenches with you.
Jamorko Pickett - C-
- 10.5 PPG, 23.5% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 100% FT, 3 RPG, .5 APG, 3 TOPG
He was not all that more effective through two games than JLeblanc, but his expectations are higher so he gets a lower grade. We’ve seen the instagram stories of him putting up like a billion shots, but that didn’t seem to translate this weekend. He did not shoot it well, and settled far too often for jump shots. I’d almost give him an incomplete as well, he showed up right as the game was starting on Sunday and looked like his head just wasn’t in it. He really only scored in the final two minutes, and actually almost brought his team back against #Mackinjo to tie it. There were one or two stretches where he looked more comfortable with the ball in transition, but then he regressed to either not attacking the basket at all or losing the handle when he did. I’m calling this one an outlier as well, because I just don’t think he’s in form yet. He showed a few nice, hard cuts to the basket that looked promising with Akinjo’s ability to find cutters. I think he’ll really benefit from the elevated guard play, though, won’t we all?
Antwan Walker - C+
- 15 PPG, 70.5% FG, 0% 3PT, 100% FT, 9 RPG, .5 APG, .5 SPG, .5 BPG, 2 TOPG
Tale of two games for Twan. He looked bad on Saturday. Everything was on the perimeter, turned it over a lot, didn’t have his stroke, lacked any kind of rhythm. Then on Sunday, he looked like the easy front runner for the starting 4 spot (he gets my vote for the time being). He played around the rim (he did not attempt a 3 on Sunday) and scored 20 shooting 77% from the field. If the Antwan Walker from Sunday continues to grow, we could have something. He played within himself and was able to showcase his superior athleticism, dominating a number of smaller defenders with quick, powerful moves in the post. For my money, he is the best rebounder on the team, at least right now, and if that’s all he is next season I’d play him a lot. He put himself in good positions on the offensive and defensive boards and has strong hands. More of this please!
Omer Yurtseven - C-
- 10 PPG, 50% FG, 0% 3PT, 100% FT, 8 RPG, 2 APG, 3.5 BPG, 1.5 TOPG
Another tale of two games, but even more extreme than Antwan. He had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad game on Saturday (earning my only F in single game grades). He looked lost, couldn’t hit a shot, couldn’t make a layup, turned it over, really anything you could think of. Then, he came back on Sunday and played a really nice, complete game. He finished very well on Sunday and balanced 4 blocks with 0 turnovers. He runs the floor well, but at times he looked like he doesn’t know he is 7ft. He could rebound better IMO, and could be more physical. I think that just isn’t his game, and it was more glaring on Saturday where he really couldn’t do anything. He showed his high skill on Sunday and you notice the finesse a lot less. Will he play this year? Won’t he play this year? Who knows, but when he does play, watch out for him in pick-and-roll with #Mackinjo!
Special thanks to ‘GMHoya’ for providing the above. You can follow him on twitter HERE.