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Kenner League Weekend Three Player Grades: The (JunkYard) Dog Days of Kenner

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We have truly ventured into the dog days of Kenner. The unbridled elation of #Mackinjo has see-sawed back into the Kenner League reality of Hoyas sitting out for vague aches and pains, travel, and well, just ‘cuz. But Kenner marches on. And, mercifully, we were graced by a new and awesome phenomenon.

The JunkYard Dog Days of Kenner.

McDonough was once again filled with the wonderful barking (literally) of former Hoya Jerome Williams, playing with James Akinjo and the Tombs. And he was delightful, at least for the fleeting time we had him. Oh also, Kenner had its first true NBA cameo in awhile as Malcolm Brogdon of the Milwaukee Bucks and former Virginia Cavalier showed. “Why was Brogdon in DC?” you ask. Why was he - a kid from Atlanta, having played in Charlottesville for UVA - playing in Kenner, and why was the first person he talked to Big John who he greeted as if he wished he played for him? (us too, Malcolm, us too) No idea, but it was cool though, huh?

Is the Kenner buzz growing? Might we see other former pro and college celebrity players making cameos? Maybe…

Other things happened at Kenner League this weekend too, like basketball games featuring non-fictional Hoyas players. Here’s how those guys did. A reminder that these are simply observations based on what I saw, as well as stats averaged from the excellent daily Kenner recaps on this very site, which I’d encourage you to read studiously.

Jerome Williams (Visiting Professor) - A+

  • WOOOOOF WOOOOOF WOOOOF WOOOOF WOOOOOF WOOOOOOOOOOF

Star of the show. He was fantastic. Truly the most disappointing and upsetting thing I saw this weekend was Williams going down hard with a shoulder injury and limping off the floor, through the doors, never to return. I really hope he is OK, but I would not expect him to be playing in any more games. I checked: he is 45 years old. 45! A lot of the guys on the floor are 19 or 20, and he is out there running around them...then slowly walking behind them up the floor…but then when he eventually catches up he is running absolute circles around them again. Barking the whole time. You could pretty clearly hear almost everything he was saying, and he talks A LOT. Mostly directing his teammates, but now and again chiming in with something to an opponent dumb enough to try and talk. “Not too tired to do that,” after a nice finish off a PnR over a defender who I think asked him if he was tired because he was lagging behind the play. He carried himself like a guy who had played nuts and bolts basketball at the highest level, knew what he was doing, and was just having fun. And every time he made a play, even just knocking down a free throw, he would bark and wait for someone in the bleachers to bark back. I sure hope some of his knowledge and attitude rubbed off on Mac or James, or any of the guys. He looked right at home in McDonough, and here is one vote for keeping it that way.

James Akinjo - B+

  • 5 GP: 23 PPG, 47.9% FG, 24.3% 3PT, 69.2% FT, 2.6 RPG, 7.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 4 TOPG

James Akinjo is good. If you don’t know this by now, I am not sure how to help you. He played well again this weekend, though Sunday was very much his worst showing so far in Kenner. He showed up wearing a shoulder brace that he removed halfway through the game revealing additional shoulder tape. You’d think that if it were anything critical he would not be playing so I don’t think it is serious, but his shot was definitely off. He missed a lot of the shots he has been hitting consistently. And then the trap came. Without McClung, and without the JunkYard Dog out there directing traffic, Clyde’s trapped Akinjo everytime down the floor in the second half. There wasn’t a whole lot he could do. They were just trying to get the ball out of Akinjo’s hands, and it worked. None of Akinjo’s teammates were able to do much, and if the ball found it’s way back to Akinjo, they’d just trap him again. He turned the ball over almost as much as a typical Hoya backcourt from the past 5 years, but a lot of his turnovers on Sunday came from him just trying to make a play with the ball against multiple defenders. Plays that I don’t see him needing to make with other competent offensive players on the floor to hurt the defense when they overcommit. I don’t think there’s much to be drawn from this. Except, he was frustrated. Clearly frustrated by the tactic, and with how active and aggressive Leblanc was Akinjo talked to him late in the game and then came up shoving after a sideline trap ended in an Akinjo timeout. Leblanc laughed it off (good for him). It also looked like Leblanc’s Mom introduced herself to Akinjo after the game, and everything seemed perfectly cheery. I don’t think you need to read anything into it, and I’d advise that you don’t. BUT, if you’re like me and you definitely want to...I don’t think it’s great for teammates to be shoving each other. Yeah, it’s just passion and competitiveness, but find another way of dealing with that. I expect he will, but things are not always gonna be Kenner-League-Lobs and that can’t be the way he responds to adversity. And, again, I don’t think it will be. Don’t forget, Akinjo is the youngest player on the team, and likely will be asked to lead it. I think he’ll be up to the challenge, but he’ll need support from his Coach (in Patrick we trust) and from his teammates (more to come on this in future posts).

Jahvon Blair - NO GRADE (DNP)

  • 4 GP: 16 PPG, 70.8% FG, 29.7% 3PT, 16.6% FT, 3.2 RPG, 2.5 APG, 1 SPG. .75 TOPG

Sunday began with the promise of a feature matchup of four Hoyas who will figure prominently in this team’s future. Alas, Kenner giveth and Kenner taketh away, and we were left with Akinjo vs Leblanc, not the #Mackinjo vs Juggy + Leblanc that we’d been promised. I still don’t think we are going to know much about Blair until the season starts. His Kenner League has been up and down. He’s not shot it particularly well from three (11-37). He’s shown flashes here and there, but where he really fits in this backcourt, and how much he’s improved will be unanswered questions for me until the fall when we see him in a system and in a consistent, off-ball role.

Grayson Carter - B

  • 4 GP: 12.2 PPG, 59% FG, 21% 3PT, 5.5 RPG, .5 SPG, .5 BPG, .75 TOPG

I downright liked Carter’s game on Sunday (he did not play Saturday or if he did, we don’t have reports). He is more Reggie Cameron than Marcus Derrickson right now, and is very clearly the farthest from contributing in the incoming class, but he has impressed after a fairly unremarkable first weekend. He does not have the post game of Doc, and may never, but his movement is similar (if not slightly more athletic) and he has a pretty shot. Problem is, for how pretty his release is it hasn’t quite translated into the ol’ made buckets yet. He is shooting terribly from 3 right now (7-32), but I think...I am pretty sure...it’s in there. After a fairly inactive first weekend, what most impressed me was Carter’s movement and rebounding. He was not at all lost on the floor. In fact, he puts himself in good positions both offensively and defensively. He’s an outside-in guy, but he was cutting well, and crashed hard on the offensive boards. Defensively, there is plenty to work with, raw as he may be. He’s averaging just over 5 rebounds a game this summer, pulling down 7 on Sunday. If you told me that after weekend one, I would have said you’ve been eating too many Kenner Hot Dogs and need to take a damn nap. Relatedly, very pleased to see student excitement for Kenner, in the form of The Voice Sports live-tweeting the action, but holy batman, hotdog! I mean, holy hotdog, Batman, this Tweet makes me sad.

Perhaps we need a How-to-Kenner snappychat story? JK, I’m not that old, I know the kids are all using the Gram!!!!

Jessie Govan - NO GRADE (DNP)

  • 2 GP: 25 PPG, 55.5% FG, 60% 3PT, 100% FT, 9 RPG, 1 APG, .5 TOPG

Jessie has not played since weekend one, which is just as well because it was pretty clear he wasn’t getting a ton out of it. He did pop up at one point to watch the second half of the Akinjo/Leblanc game, so I guess he gets a P for attendance. Will have to check and see if he signed in on the attendance sheet or had one of his friends sign in for him.

Kaleb Johnson - NO GRADE (DNP)

  • 3 GP: 26.3 PPG, 58.4% FG, 41.6% 3PT, 68.1% FT, 8 RPG, 1.6 APG, .6 BPG, .6 TOPG

Kaleb was another Hoya who took the weekend off. This is probably for the best, because I think our collective Hoya Fan heads are going to explode from the speculation about Kaleb. He’s a conundrum, wrapped inside an enigma, wrapped inside a to-this-point-disappointing basketball player who has been spectacular, really, in Kenner League. I have no idea what to expect from KJ, no idea where he is going to fit in, no clue if he’ll be playing the 27 minutes per game of last season, or the 11 minutes per game of his first 2 years. And if you do, I think you are kidding yourself unless your name is Patrick Ewing, in which case I hope you do have a clue and also why are you reading this silly post...also, great hustle out on the trail so far! Last season, Kaleb averaged 8 points and 4 rebounds per game. So far in Kenner he’s averaging 26 and 8. We know that he tends to look better against weaker competition (hence, Kenner), but if he could somehow recreate some of his summer play during the season, we might really have something.

Josh Leblanc - B+

  • 6 GP: 17.1 PPG, 52% FG, 57% 3PT, 71.4% FT, 7.3 RPG, 2 APG, 1.8 SPG, 2.6 BPG, 1.1 TOPG

Josh Leblanc is about to be your favorite Hoya. OK, maybe not you specifically, but he is absolutely going to win a place in the hearts of the Hoya faithful...quick. Just like Akinjo and McClung are the type of guards we too-attentive fans have been clamoring for, JLeblanc is the big you’ve been searching for. He is Brill Trawick but bigger and more athletic. He plays a defensive game that we’ve just not seen in awhile though ironically enough, the more they play, the more similarities I’ve noticed between Leblanc and Walker. Leblanc has also emerged after a relatively slow first weekend, and while he has averaged 17 ppg (25 and 14 on Sat. and Sun.) his offense is not what sticks out. He is very, very good defensively, and you saw on Sunday just how valuable of a system defender he is going to be. In the second half against a McClungless Tombs, Leblanc’s team was trapping Akinjo as soon as he stepped over half court, with Leblanc applying the trap. He was relentlessly active, infinitely long and showed an ability to fly around while remaining in control that will make team defense aficionados drool. He frustrated Akinjo. A lot. He’s shown some nice offensive upside, though I urge you not to get your hopes up looking at his 4-7 from 3 numbers. His most translatable offensive value has come on transition scoring - he is very smooth and powerful finishing in transition - and putbacks off offensive rebounds. Complete speculation based off body language (though I am not a dentist, so hardly an expert), I think Leblanc is going to be a leader of this team and program under Ewing. I was really impressed by his reaction to a frustrated Akinjo. He was calm in talking to him, and laughed off Akinjo coming at him after a late game trap. Can’t wait to see him grow into his role here.

Greg Malinowksi - C+/B-

  • 5 GP: 16 PPG, 40% FG, 36% 3PT, 90.9% FT, 3.75 RPG, 1.75 APG, .6 SPG, 2 TOPG

Color me intrigued. While Greg was definitely better over weekend one, he has clearly shown enough to lift the eyebrows of Kenner League watchers. His grade is a bit of a hopeful one, because he really shot it badly over the past few games, particularly from 3 where he went 3-15 over two games this weekend. A testament to his pleasantly surprising well-rounded game that he was able to contribute without having his shot. Though, if he doesn’t have it for stretches during the season, I don’t expect him to play much. His quick release and ability to knock down shots is still what this team needs and the value he brings. Malinowski defended well in spots and was a good passer on Sunday. He’s playing a different role in Kenner than I think he’s likely to play during the season, bringing the ball up at times. He had a few nice sequences in the PnR with Yurt7, some of which ended in made baskets. The most interesting Mailnowksi news from the weekend, came in the release of the 2018-19 Men’s Basketball Roster, listing Greg as a Senior (who knew?!). He’s also listed at 6’5 and 215, which I definitely buy. He looks bigger and stronger than you’d think. He could prove to be immensely valuable in spacing the floor and stretching the defense...IF he gets back to knocking down shots.

Mac McClung - NO GRADE (DNP)

  • 3 GP: 26.3 PPG, 51.1% FG, 30% 3PT, 78.9% FT, 2.6 RPG, 3.6 APG, 1 SPG, .1 TOPG

The bleachers were full. They were ready for the #MackinShow (Heh? Heh? What do we think??). But Mac did not play. There were rumors of a slight hamstring tweak, but who really knows. We’ll have to wait until next week for the Mac hype to grow, but if this Tombs team makes a run in the Kenner League playoffs, I expect #Mackinjo to be out in full force, and the bleachers to be packed. There is, most definitely, a buzz.

Jagan Mosely - INC

  • 4.5 GP(ish): 5.8 PPG, 26.3% FG, 50% 3PT, 50% FT, 2.5 RPG, 2 APG, .16 SPG, .33 BPG, .33 TOPG

Jagan has not looked right. He played sparingly on Saturday and sat out Sunday. He’s had a rough Kenner...literally. He’s been beaten up a bit, and after taking more knocks, let’s hope he’s just going to rest. When he has played, he hasn’t looked good. He has made some nice plays here and there, but hasn’t really filled up the stat sheet, and has not done anything with consistency except get banged up. Look, he’s going to play less than last year. With the upgraded backcourt, Jagan is going to need to find his role on this team. I don’t know what it will be, but I do know he makes winning plays, brings an aggressiveness and confidence that is valuable, and is an emotional leader for this team. It will be awhile before we get answers on what Jagan is going to bring this year, so in the meantime just enjoy this:

No, I don’t know what it is either, but we must encourage all outward signs of personality from this program! Also, Drake!

Trey Mourning - NO GRADE (DNP)

  • 4 GP: 15.7 PPG, 58.5% FG, 37.5% 3PT, 60% FT, 7.75 RPG, 2 APG, .25 SPG, .5 BPG, 2 TOPG

Trey didn’t play this weekend. I don’t know where he was. His team has played all 7 of their Kenner regular season games, so maybe we’ll see him in the playoffs? We all still really like Trey and want him to succeed.

Jamorko Pickett - C

  • 7 GP: 15.2 PPG, 50.0% FG, 29.6% 3PT, 91.67% FT, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, .4 SPGM, .14 BPG, 2.5 TOPG

I do not think Jamorko has looked that good through Kenner, and he wasn’t anything special this past weekend. He was matched up at times with Malcolm Brogdon on Sunday. Yes, the 2017 NBA Rookie of the Year, and Milwaukee Buck, Malcolm Brogdon. You’d think that this matchup would bring out the best in what has otherwise been a disinterested Kenner campaign from Pickett. You’d be wrong. There were a few good sequences - Pickett dropped a long three over Brogdon - but overall we saw more of the same. A lot on the perimeter, not driving with a ton of confidence and strength, and turnovers. It’s pretty clear that Pickett is skilled, and the Kenner competition is just below his level, but he doesn’t seem to respond to that by dominating it. He’s been fairly inconsistent, and was again this past weekend. In fact, the only thing he’s really done with consistency is turn the ball over on that play... You know, that one where he looks to turn the corner and attack to his right off the elbow or top of the key and either loses the dribble or gets his pocket picked. That play that we saw a lot of last year that we (or, I) were really hoping not to see as much of anymore. Pickett has averaged 2.5 turnovers through 7 games and has only had 2 games with 1 turnover or less. Don’t go and sell your Jamorko stock. This doesn’t mean he is going in the wrong direction or we’re in huge trouble. If anything, to me it means that Kenner is not a particularly good evaluator of where Jamorko is as a player. I will be VERY interested to see how Coach Ewing utilizes him in the offense this year. I have a sneaky sense that he stands to benefit the most from Akinjo’s ball handling and vision and Mac’s ability to stretch the defense. If he plays within himself, watch out. “Akinjo to Pickett for three” is a Chvot-call you could be hearing a lot (Pro-Tip: turn the TV sound off and the radio on, unless it is Gus Johnson)

Antwan Walker - B+

  • 6 GP: 16.5 PPG, 71.7% FG, 18.1% 3PT, 91.6% FT, 10.1 RPG, .83 APG, 1 SPG, 1 BPG, 1.5 TOPG

“At Power Forward the 6’9 Sophomore from Washington D.C., anTUUHWANNNNNN WALKerrrrrr.” Get used to hearing this in the Caprizon (what is it now?) Center...maybe. For my money, Twan is the starting 4 on this team. He has probably been the most consistent Hoya throughout Kenner. Yes, JLeblanc is going to play. Yes, he may end up being the starter before long. But right now, give me all of those Twan rebounds. I want them all. He had another solid weekend, though it’s become pretty clear that he is WAY more effective when he plays inside the arc. He drifted out to the perimeter a bit more on Sunday, and he’s just not been as good there. He’s 4-22 from 3. Yikes. Last year in Kenner, he was putting up a lot of points from high volume shooting - it was flashy, but not translatable. This year, Walker has been really good when he plays in the paint. He’s shooting 71% from the floor through 6 games. He looked strong in the post again, having his way with smaller defenders and positioning himself well offensively and defensively. He goes through stretches where he completely dominates a game, and then he drifts out of it and seems to work on his ball handling or shooting and it fades. I think it is just that - working on his game. After all, Kenner is the time to do that right? But it’s pretty clear that when he plays within himself and uses his athleticism and quickness down low, he is impressive. I said it before, and I’ll probably say it again - Antwan Walker is the best rebounder on a team that will desperately need rebounds. I LOVE watching Antwan rebound, even against smaller guys in Kenner, he puts himself in good body position, finds his man well, puts a damn body on him...would somebody put a body on someone for the love of g… (sorry, force of habit) and elevates quickly and powerfully. Leblanc may end up being a better rebounder (though not if Twan continues to improve himself), but for right now, gimme Twan. Don’t look now, but we’ve got quite the athletic 1-2 punch brewing at the PF spot. If either of them decide to take a big step offensively, watch out. I think Antwan is closer to that than Leblanc right now, but I don’t envy having to run the floor against those two.

Omer Yurtseven - C

  • 5 GP: 11.2 PPG, 45.6% FG, 0% 3PT, 78.7% FT, 9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 2 BPG, 1.2 TOPG

I don’t know, you guys. It could absolutely be the case that Kenner is just not the right venue for Yurt7, and he will thrive in a system that puts him in positions to really dominate. But, if we are going off Kenner alone, it’s been a whole lot of... meh. Yes, he scored more this weekend, but it was pretty inefficient. He gets a lot of really easy looks, and if he was just slightly off balance, or taken off balance by a defender he had trouble finishing. He shot 43% from the field this weekend. Which is fine, but most of those 30 shots are coming within a few feet from the basket. You’d sure like him to finish those, if not expect him to. Right? He has shown flashes with some really nice left handed finishes, and he rebounded fairly well this weekend, but I’ll tell you (don’t freak out), everytime I’ve seen him, the recent Hoya he most reminds me of is Bradley Hayes. He has a better offensive skill set, no doubt, but the way he moves looks a bit like Hayes and you’d like to see him dominate physically in a way that just hasn’t come yet. A year with Patrick and Louis Orr might be exactly what he needs. Let’s hope it is.