I know, it's only one game. It's only Idaho State, although I thought they had a decent team. But one has to enjoy the ride. And last night we were putting the pedal to the metal a lot of the time.
Sure, we need to convert some more of our easier opportunities. There's no doubt that the perimeter shooting has to improve - we did get a couple of threes wiped off the board by fouls away from the ball. And our defense wasn't always consistent. But not bad for the first regular season test for the guys.
Kudos to Alexander Kaun. I still had some doubts after the first exhibition game. I wanted to see it again - to know it just wasn't a fluke. He convinced me last night that he has a tremendous upside. He's not going to be that dominant every game, but he's going to be a big factor in a lot of them. It's great to have a center that will "flush" the chippie. He also displayed a couple of nice moves. He showed a nice little hook shot moving to the center of the lane. And, he was big on the boards last night, too. He still has to prove himself against a bigger, experienced opponent, but he has come so far.
The lineup with Jeff Hawkins, Mario Chalmers, and Russell Robinson.....oh, my. Wasn't that some fun defense to watch. The opposing guards didn't have a chance there in the first half. Those guys were everywhere. The only bad part about that lineup last night was that it meant that Brandon Rush wasn't on the floor. But he has to rest sometimes I guess. Chalmers showed all kinds of signs of what kind of player he could be. He had some great assists, took the ball to the hole strongly, and played some good defense. He still gambled and lost a couple of times, and he made some passes where the other player was going to get into position to rebound, but those are things that will get better as the team adapts to each other more and more.
Robinson shot the ball a little better. Like Piper said, he just tries to do something that isn't there once in a while. There were a couple of guys that tried to drive the baseline more than once that got stuck there with no place to get rid of the ball. It usually resulted in bad passes. The one great pass that Rush made off the baseline was kind of funny. I KNOW he stepped out-of-bounds. Usually, they will go back and show that, but they didn't even mention it. Hawkins played some really good in-your-face defense during that stretch. He hit one of our perimeter shots, and had one of the ones that was wiped off. All the guys are being a little more selective with those. We didn't take too many guarded ones. That kind of makes it worse that we couldn't knock them down. There will be better nights for that.
Rush is just the total package. He can do a lot of things from that wing position - and he really hasn't showed us his perimeter shot. He goes to the hole really hard, he passes the ball well, he hits the boards, and he can create his own shot. I think he does a decent job defensively, but everyone on the whole team can work on that.
C.J. Giles had kind of an "off night" for what we had been seeing. You kind of had that sense in the early part of the game when his shot just wasn't falling. He had some troubles with fouls in the second half again. Sometimes that kind of ties into the offensive part of the game, too. It just seems that when things go bad that all facets tend to go that way. Not to worry. Everyone struggles off and on. He'll be fine.
Moody was Moody. At least he was able to get a couple of scores inside. And he knocked the ball away and kept it alive a couple of times. But it's pretty obvious that his role on the team as far as court time will be reduced some this year. But we still need him in the rotation, especially with Darnell Jackson out. We just have to accept him for who he is and not expect him to do unrealistic things. He just needs to be a solid contributor and not make a bunch of mistakes when he is out there.
Stephan Vinson and Jeremy Case kind of shot themselves in the foot again. Both had a couple of wide open looks from the perimeter towards the end of the half, and they couldn't convert. And, fair or not, that's going to be their meal ticket to get any time on the court. It's hard to come off the bench cold and knock those down, but that's going to be the role they will have if they have one at all. I was sure hoping they would convert each time. We could use that emotional lift when someone comes in and does something like that. I really wanted to see Micah Downs have a chance to knock down a couple against that zone. He would have gotten some good looks. It would have solidified what he brings to the team. Hopefully, he will be ready to go in Maui. It didn't sound like a really bad ankle sprain, but he was definitely limping.
Once again, Julian Wright will not impress you with gaudy numbers. But he did a lot of good things. He had some nice assists, and he showed great body control on a couple of twisting-type shots around the defense. I thought Coach Dooley made a great point on the pregame show. He said they were going to be moving Julian around. Like us, he said they really couldn't pencil him in to one position. But, that also meant that Julian was having to learn two positions. That's a lot of stuff to take in - especially for a freshman. He said that Julian is only going to get better as he gains that experience.
Optimism runs high right now. Undoubtedly there is a great chance it gets tempered a little on the Island. One never knows. As long as the guys go out there and play hard, then let the chips fall where they may. This team isn't bad right now, and we all know it has a chance to become pretty darn good if they continue to grow together. Sometimes they need to be a little less unselfish with the ball, but I'd rather see it that way right now than see everyone jacking up shots from everywhere. They, without a doubt, have a good team chemistry and seem to enjoy playing ball with each other.
It was a fun game to watch. If there was any doubt that Coach wants the team to move the ball up and down the court, then that should have been erased last night. Also, we don't use the outlet pass quite like before. A lot of times the guy who gets the rebound just takes off up the court - especially Rush. Chalmers, too, gets it up the court in a hurry. But the other guys run the court so well that we have options when we get there. Kaun ran the court amazingly well for a big guy. And, I forgot to mention how he stayed out of foul trouble - that would be huge.
We may fall flat on our faces at times. We are going to have things go badly as a team at times. But there is so much talent and athleticism out there that one has to believe good things are going to happen. Optimism always runs high after a win. I, too, will try to keep it on an even keel as we go through the ups and downs of becoming a better team. But they ARE fun to watch.
Forgot. A tip of the hat to Big Matt Kleinmann who came in and got a couple of minutes. Scored on a nice pass from Wright. He grabbed a rebound, too. Always good to see the guys who help the team in practice so much get a minute or two in front of the crowd.
It's just a GREAT day to be a Jayhawk. Aloha.