"I want to make sure we are getting great quality games," Williams said. I want to have great competition for the current guys as well as the guys who have already turned pro."
The inaugural night at the Tucson Jewish Community Center went very well. The staff on hand did their best to make it seem like a big time event. Unlike a normal pick-up games, this league features refs, a scoreboard and a PA announcer. They even had a young lady come out and sing the national anthem.
For the most part the big names were missing, but there were still plenty of familiar faces on the court. Current Wildcats Hassan Adams and Matt Brase came out, while former fan favorites Miles Simon, Kelvin Eafon, Gene Edgerson and Jason Stewart reminded fans of the past. It was even a chance to get a first glimpse of new Wildcats Daniel Dillon and Matt Babcock.
The style of play was not the highest. It was basically organized pick-up. With the bulk of the rosters made up of local high school and city league players, the Wildcats were rarely tested. There were plenty of good plays and all of the players could ball, but it wasn't the truly competitive league that Williams thinks it will eventually become, especially when more of the professional Wildcats show up to play.
The first game of the night was actually surprisingly close, considering the Contractors Employment squad was missing two players. Joseph Blair was in the building but did not suit up, while Mohamed Tangara was unable to play due to a back strain. That left Eafon and walk-on Babcock to pace their team.
Eafon was aggressive, attacking the hoop whenever he had the chance. His 14 points were not enough to overcome a team with Simon, Edgerson and Dillon. Their La Salsa Restaurant team had just too much firepower in a 62-44 win.
Dillon showed flashes of why the Wildcats are so high on him. He did not try to do too much and really seems to let the flow of the game come to him. He is very quick and has a nice outside shot. He can create his own shot and his strength makes him tough in the lane. He buried two long twos (they were using the NBA three-point line), but did most of his damage on the inside, using his strength to body up on smaller opponents.
The real key for La Salsa was Simon. The 1997 Final Four MVP played well early, but took over down the stretch and allowed his team to pull away. He made his last three buckets on his way to 21 points. Simon, who is noticeably stronger than when he played for the Wildcats, used his strength to attack the inside. Simon kept defenders honest with the outside shot, but chose to attack the rim whenever he had the chance.
Edgerson was typical Gene. He did some damage on offense but it was his defense and play on the boards that made him so valuable.
Edgerson recently earned his masters degree and just purchased a home on the south side. He couldn't comment about his status in returning to the Harlem Globetrotters, but he is believed to be rejoining the team next October.
Edgerson was responsible for one of the funniest plays of the night when after a rebound he attempted a long baseball pass to Simon, but hit the ceiling.
Babcock did not make the instant impact that we saw from Beau Muhlbach did last year, but he did show a nice feel for the game. He routinely found the open man and actually provided a fairly stiff defensive test for Dillon. He struggled from the field making just 2-of-8 shots, but has nice instincts and should be a very nice practice player for the team next season.
The second game was more competitive, but only because Hassan Adams chose to reel himself in. The junior guard scored 33 points and ripped down 10 rebounds. He could have scored even more as he was clearly the best player on the court.
Adams was all over the court. He threw down some of his patented highlight reel dunks and was even the recipient of some very nice alley-oops. Adams' midrange game was also on display, as was the shot blocking ability he showcased last season.
When he was on the court his Steak Out Restaurant team was hard to beat. When he rested, the Greenberg Financial club hung tough. Jason Stewart was the player coach for Greenberg and cut the lead to four with 3:30 to play, but never got any closer and fell 67-59. Stewart made a big coaching decision by not playing himself earlier. The former Wildcat walk-on didn't insert himself until the second half where he proceeded to score 11 quick points, including two long threes.
One neat aspect of the game was that two of the Wildcat women players competed. Dee-Dee Wheeler was a factor in the contest, scoring 10 points in the game for the Greenburg squad. She was able to get her shot off, but was off her game making just 3-13 from the field.
Her Wildcat teammate Anna Chappell went up against her, but was not much of a factor. Chappell took just two shots, missing both, while making a single free throw for her only points.
In addition to Adams, former Amphi standout Anthony Oates was a key for Steak Out. The big man was just too strong and physical for his smaller opposition. He only scored seven points, but was a force on the glass and made players think twice about coming inside.
In addition to several hundred Wildcat fans, a number of other familiar faces were in the crowd. Current Wildcats Channing Frye and Christ Rodgers were on hand, as were former Cats Justin Wessel, Blair and of course Williams were on in the building. Williams was listed as the player coach for the Steak Out club, but he never entered the game, staying on the bench instead.