2018 Kenner League Weekend Four and Quarterfinal Player Grades: Is It November Yet?
The Kenner League regular season wrapped up with a slate of games on Friday and Saturday, followed by the Quarterfinal round on Sunday. Kenner gave us the birth of #Mackinjo but alas, it also taketh away as the #1 seeded Tombs were upset by a different team (the names are hard, ok). The #Mackinjo prologue is over, and we are now left in anticipation of the next chapter - actual games (buckle up people it’s going to be a while).
The playoffs did bring a pleasantly surprising level of intensity. Defense was even spotted at times. The on-court product at Kenner this season has been markedly improved over past years, and not just as a result of the recent NBA cameos. On top of Milwaukee Buck, Malcolm Brogdon last week, Markieff Morris of the Washington Wizards showed up for the second half of the last game on Sunday.
As various Hoyas were eliminated from Kenner League play we are left to wonder, can we fast forward to November?
Here’s a roundup of how your Hoyas looked this weekend, and their compiled available stats (check the daily recaps for individual stat lines and game recaps).
James Akinjo - B
- Stats from 7 of 8 GP: 22 PPG, 47.4% FG, 25.9% 3PT, 68% FT, 2.7 RPG, 6.8 APG, 1 SPG, 4 TOPG
This was his worst weekend for me. And even so, he was very good, and apparently was even better on Friday (I was not in attendance and we don’t have full stats). He and Mac were just ultimately outmanned on Sunday, and while I’d love to see as much #Mackinjo as possible, I think it might be good for James to get a bit of rest. His outside shot has looked off, since he’s been wearing shoulder tape, and he is being forced to play a style of game that I don’t think we’re likely to see during the season. The ball is in his hands A LOT, at times too much. Some of that is James’ one-on-one ability, which is phenomenal, and him over-dribbling. But some is just that outside of Mac, he didn’t have a ton of offensive help. Whatever the reason, he had 12 assists on Saturday and Sunday, but also had 8 turnovers. The majority of those turnovers are coming from Akinjo trying to do too much, without a real system, and he is an ambitious passer. He does so much for you, I think it’s going to be hard for Coach Ewing to take him off the floor. He clearly wants the ball - with the game on the line, after blanking from three point range all day on Sunday, he stepped up and hit a clutch three to tie the game up late. It ultimately wasn’t enough, but it was a gutsy shot that he absolutely nailed. Side note: despite his inconsistent outside shooting over the past two weeks, he HAS been consistent in knocking down pull up jumpers from the free throw line and elbow. I mean, really consistent. He’s almost automatic:
We’ll need a name for the Akinjo, mid-range, free-throw-line, pull-up, jumper. Have at it Hoya fans…
And now his Kenner has ended
James Akinjo has never missed a pull up from the free throw line in his life. You could tell me he was born making those and I’d believe it.— Gideon Hertz (@GMHertz) July 28, 2018
Jahvon Blair - B
- Stats from 6 of 6 GP: 17.8 PPG, 71.8% FG, 32.7% 3PT, 61.5% FT, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG, .6 SPG, .66 TOPG
Jahvon Blair was back! And jacking it up from three again. And, at least on Saturday, he was draining them. He absolutely went off on Saturday, going 7 for 14 from three and 5 for 6 from the field. He went decidedly less off on Sunday. He was fine, just saw much less of the ball. I still don’t think we’re learning much about who the 2018-19 Juggy Blair is going to be. He just has the type of game that will look good in Kenner. Though he was very good on Saturday. Has anyone looked into freezing technology so we can wake up in November? I would very much like to see Blair play with Akinjo.
Grayson Carter - B-
- Stats from 6 of 8 GP: 13 PPG, 52% FG, 24% 3PT, 100% FT, 6 RPG, .5 APG, .33 SPG, .66 BPG, .5 TOPG
Here’s my pitch to you: give Grayson Carter a chance. He’s most likely not going to play a lot this year, and he has a ways to go. He could get the Antwan Walker minutes from last year. And I’m telling you, your initial instinct may be to write him off. Fight that instinct. Grayson is not just a shooter. Which, at the moment, is a good thing because he once again didn’t shoot very well from deep. That will improve as he gains confidence and gets more reps, because his shot is solid. But what really impressed me was Grayson’s defense, movement and rebounding - none of which I would have guessed after his initial Kenner offerings. He can (and hopefully will) improve in all of those areas, but he has shown real dedication to rebounding - he put himself in a number of good positions and boxed out well this weekend. He’s more fluid and athletic than he looks, and finished a couple of nice layups, with both hands. A theme is developing with this incoming class, Grayson included. That is, Hoya fans are going to (naturally) want to compare the incoming players to recent guys, and I am not totally sure that there are great, direct comparisons. Certainly you can probably identify the comparable player if you go back far enough or create some composite Hoya, but Akinjo and McClung each bring a skill set we’ve not seen in quite awhile, see below for JLeblanc, and Grayson Carter doesn’t quite fit a clear mold either. Based off what we’ve seen so far in Kenner, Carter’s skill set and ceiling is probably closest to Marcus Derrickson. But he plays like Doc only in that he his a fairly big body, that looks less athletic, and has a pretty shot and likes to shoot it from deep. In reality, Carter is more athletic than Derrickson, at least Georgetown Derrickson. He is quicker and can elevate if he wants to. His post game isn’t there yet, but he has a good feel for his own game, and continues to play within himself - looking to make plays within the flow of the game. Give him some time, and I think we could be pleasantly surprised by his trajectory. But for now…
His Kenner has ended.
Jessie Govan - A+
- Stats from 2 of 2 GP: 25 PPG, 55.5% FG, 60% 3PT, 100% FT, 9 RPG, 1 APG, .5 TOPG
No, Jessie didn’t play this weekend (he hasn’t since the first weekend). And he did seem to have a wrap on his knee (though he was moving fine). But Jessie gets an A+ because as he was sitting watching Kenner in a Keegan Rosenberry, Philadelphia Union jersey, Jessie was approached by a very young fan totally in awe to be that close to Jessie Govan! JG chatted with him, wrote him a note and signed his team guide. It was a really nice moment. I bet that kid will remember that for a long time, even more so if Jessie goes on to have a dominant year en route to being drafted in the first round. I think we’d all like that….for that young fan, right? RIGHT !?!?!
And now his Kenner has ended...officially, because it seems like it’s been over for awhile.
Kaleb Johnson - NO GRADE (DNP)
- Stats from 3 of 3 GP: 26.3 PPG, 58.4% FG, 41.6% 3PT, 68.1% FT, 8 RPG, 1.6 APG, .6 BPG, .6 TOPG
Does anyone know where Kaleb is?? In any case, he’s not been around for a few weeks and hasn’t played in awhile. His team has really struggled without him.
And now his Kenner has ended.
Josh Leblanc - A+
- Stats from 8 of 8 GP: 16.6 PPG, 55% FG, 55% 3PT, 66.6% FT, 7.6 RPG, 2 APG, 2.1 SPG, 3.1 BPG, 1 TOPG
The hype machine that is #Mackinjo may be out of Kenner, but you should absolutely still go next weekend for the semis. Why? Because Josh Leblanc thats why. Seriously, do yourself a favor and go watch JLeblanc next weekend and sit as close as possible. Unless you somehow have courtside seats to games (in which case, we should talk…), you will not get a better chance to see Josh’s game up close. And I can’t recommend it enough. He had an interesting matchup on Saturday against Yurt7 who has at least three inches and 30 pounds on him. And Yurt7 definitely took advantage of that, but not nearly as much as you’d think. Leblanc is definitely undersized, and will likely face bigger competition frequently, but his size plays up because of his strength (which is only going to improve), quickness, and his positioning. The majority of Yurt7’s points against Leblanc came when he got early, deep position. If he didn’t get that position, Leblanc defended him remarkably well for the size differential, and came away with at least 2 straight up blocks on Yurt7. He had 6 on the day. Who was the last Hoya to win Big East Defensive Player of the Year, because in four years the answer to that will be Josh Leblanc. I did a double-take when I read he only had 2 points on Saturday, because I remember him being all over that game. And he was, just defensively and in transition. And then he came back on Sunday with another massive defensive performance - 4 steals, 3 blocks, and like a billion deflections and disruptions - and added 28 points on top of that. He is a mesmerizing basketball player, he was nearly always in the right spot, usually getting there before his opponent, making the right play. He finished plays at speed in transition with a remarkable amount of ease. He looked like he was just gliding at times. And I noticed something... his team tends to win. Not all the time, but when it counted (as much as a Kenner League playoff game can count), he was there with 28 and 9, with dominant defense. The more I see him, the more I think that is probably not a coincidence. Go watch him next weekend, this kid’s future is bright.
Greg Malinowski - C
- Stats from 7 of 8 GP: 16 PPG, 55.2% FG, 34% 3PT, 95% FT, 3.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, .57 SPG, .14 BPG, 1.1 TOPG
I didn’t notice Greg as much this weekend. Looking back at his stat lines, he had a fairly productive weekend, but I mostly remember missed shots. He did hit a few late in the game on Sunday to bury #Mackinjo, but he missed a lot of open ones. And he wasn’t doing as much of the other things he’d been doing earlier in the summer. I think we all expect Greg can shoot it, and there is in fact evidence to believe that he can Through three seasons at William and Mary he shot 39% from three, going 116 for 297. It just hasn’t really been there yet this summer. He’s shot 34% from three on 17 for 50. He went 5 for 17 over the weekend, right around that 30% line. That’s not bad. But on a team that could really struggle for consistency from the outside (don’t sound the alarm bells yet, but I am starting to worry), Greg needs to be consistent to play. He has shown us that he’s not just a long-range sniper, but that will be his biggest value added to this team, and he missed a fair number of catch and shoot chances over the weekend. And taking stock of his full Kenner campaign to this point, he has been better when he is creating his own shot. A position I’m not sure he’ll find himself in as much during the season. Now part of this is a feature of the guard play in Kenner, which will be less of an issue during the season (WOW does that feel weird to say).
Mac McClung - B
- Stats from 5 of 6 GP: 25.4 PPG, 54.1% FG, 26% 3PT, 78.5% FT, 2.2 RPG, 3.2 APG, .6 SPG, .4 BPG, 1.4 TOPG
Mac was good. He did not have the sensational performances that have previously filled the Kenner bleachers, but he was solid. After a pretty poor shooting day on Saturday (seemingly all of his points came from layups or dunks), he showed a better outside stroke on Sunday. He hit a couple mid and long range jumpers and would have shot it better than 3 for 8 from three had he not thrown up a couple of late game prayers trying to bring his team back in the final minutes. Ultimately, #Mackinjo just ran out of gas, and it is really hard to blame them. They were outmanned on Sunday, and while neither James or Mac really dominated the way they have in earlier games, they just had no help. It’s a real shame because it is fun to watch Mac adapt on the fly. You just get a sense in watching him that you are seeing the start of something. His feel for the game needs to develop more but is underrated, he has a good sense of where to be and when to make a play. Time and work will determine how far he will go, but it sure is hard to watch him and think he’s going to fail. The next step in his development (in addition to shooting the ball with more consistency) will be adding a bit more of a change of pace and slowing down just a tick...just a skosh..a millisecond. He is mostly one speed right now, and that’s FAST. He can sometimes get ahead of himself, either losing the dribble or attacking a second too early before a lane is there. A deep breath and change of pace and he’ll be deadly. Or...deadlier.
And now his Kenner has ended
Jagan Mosely - B
- Stats from 5 of 7 GP: 5.8 PPG, 26.3% FG, 50% 3PT, 50% FT, 2.5 RPG, 2 APG, .16 SPG, .33 BPG, .33 TOPG
*Sigh of relief* Jagan looked more like Jagan. I still don’t have a sense of what his role will be, but he was back to his aggressive, engaged self on Sunday. While we don’t have complete stats, he had 10+ points (maybe even more), and had a couple of really nice three point plays. More importantly, he was into the game. He was trying to draw charges (the premier sign of Jagan being Jagan), he was active and moving well. A thought: how good would Jagan be if he just dribbled lower? It’s not a new facet of his game, but I think seeing him in comparison to a ball-handler like Akinjo, even Mac, really points out how high his dribble is. You can almost see defenders’ eyes light up when he is coming at them up floor. I wonder just how many turnovers that one tweak would prevent. Maybe none, but also, maybe a lot?
Trey Mourning - NO GRADE (DNP)
- Stats from 4 of 4 GP: 15.7 PPG, 58.5% FG, 37.5% 3PT, 60% FT, 7.75 RPG, 2 APG, .25 SPG, .5 BPG, 2 TOPG
Presumably, Trey was still in Spain and that’s why he didn’t play on Sunday. But two hours after his game ended, Trey walked into McDonough. With gifts! I didn’t see who the presents were for, but he had a little souvenir bag. So Trey is back! Alas, his team was eliminated. They could have used him too (See Antwan Walker).
But now his Kenner has ended...
Jamorko Pickett - NO GRADE (DNP)
- Stats from 7 of 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
Pickett did not play in his Quarterfinal on Sunday. It’s the first game he’s missed so far this summer. There were internet rumors that he was spotted in McDonough on crutches. I sure didn’t see that. It’s certainly possible I just missed it, but fair warning to verify that before you write off the whole season.
Antwan Walker - B+
- Stats from 7 of 8 GP: 15.8 PPG, 73.3% FG, 16.6% 3PT, 84.6% FT, 10.5 RPG, .7 APG, 1 SPG, .8 BPG, 1.4 TOPG
Walker has been solid all summer, and he had another solid game on Sunday. That first Quarterfinal of the day really set the tone for what were ultimately competitive, intense and entertaining basketball games.There was even some defense being played here and there. Walker reflected this, looking very focused out of the gate. He had, for me, the best half of basketball he’s played so far. Twan was an absolute monster on the glass in the first half. He finished the game with 13 boards (5 offensive), and honestly, I think 9 and 4 of those came in the first half, maybe even the first ten minutes. He could have easily finished with 20+ rebounds, but seemed to relax a bit in the second. If he plays the way he did in that first half on Sunday, he will see A LOT of playing time, and this team will be a force. Most of his 12 points came off nice finishes in transition (he runs the floor very well), putbacks off offensive rebounds, and one or two nice post moves. He only took 2 threes, one was totally out of the flow of the offense, one wasn’t and he just missed it. That’s it. And it was a thing of beauty. If he does that with any consistency during the season (and he’s probably been the most consistent Hoya through Kenner…), this team has a chance to turn one of their major questions entering the season - the PF spot - into a real strength.
Omer Yurtseven - C+
- Stats from 7 of 8 GP: 13.1 PPG, 51.3% FG, 0% 3PT, 68.4% FT, 11 RPG, 2.7 APG, 1.5 BPG, 1.1 TOPG
If I am being fair (and I suppose I should be), Yurt7 had a better weekend. Possibly his best so far. He got a lot of “being big” points, and he pulled down just a boatload of rebounds. He’s a big reason why his team was able to pull off the UMBC-style first round upset of the Tombs. They had absolutely no answer for his size, and he eventually just wore them down. Still, he underwhelms for a guy of his size and skill set. The internet tells me that he can shoot - mid range and from distance - but that has not really been on display so far this summer...like, not at all. He has not taken a ton of threes (only 7), but he has tried a few jumpers out of the post that have not fallen. When he has scored, it’s been because he is bigger than everyone. Though he’s shown nice skill at times. I thought Leblanc brought out Yurt7’s best game of the summer on Saturday. Leblanc was VERY physical with Yurt7, who initially looked frustrated then responded by going straight at him, or more accurately, straight through and eventually over him. It was nice to see that he had that in him, though he ultimately looked uncomfortable and out of his game trying to bowl over Leblanc. He is a high-skill, finesse player right now who, unfortunately, has not show nearly enough of that high-skill yet. Will he be that when he eventually takes the floor of Coach Ewing? I doubt it, but that is more because of my faith in Ewing than Yurt7 at the moment.