Another exhibition game, another team with much shorter players,
who play valiantly but ultimately fall in the end. It may just be the sentimental
sap in me that likes to see the various Davids come into Rupp Arena and look
Goliath in the face. I have found both of the coaches of the teams, Jerry
Meyer and Happy Osborne, to be entertaining and enjoyable figures who truly
coach for the love of the game. Like all of you, I am excited for the
season to begin, but I will miss these little rendevous into Quixotian
drama. They soothe the soul and remind you that college sports at their
heart are more about North Dakota St than they are the BCS.
Now as for the actual game, I thought about writing a long column about
some aspect of the game that intrigued me, but ultimately decided that would
be way too much work. Thus I went instead with the strategy (sometimes
known as The John Clay strategy) of writing for the MTV reader, short
segments on lots of topics. It is quicker and much less in depth.
This game may be remembered (if it is remembered at all) as the game where the two most important players for the University of Kentucky this season truly came into their own. While we all know what to expect from Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks (greatness) and our big seven footers (mediocrity), the key to this teams success lies in the laps of Joe Crawford and Rekalin Sims. While Sheray Thomas and Bobby Perry are effective bangers, the only chance this team has at competing for a national championship is to develop two more scorers, who can consistently put up the numbers that Kelenna Azubuike and Chuck Hayes took with them out of Lexington. With Rekalin Sims 24 points and 11 rebounds and Joe Crawfords confidence-building 15 points, the Georgetown game suggests that such development may occur.
There is nothing more consistently entertaining than watching Happy Osborne, the Georgetown coach. I spent my college years watching at Transylvania watching the biennial matchups with Georgetown and appreciating Happy for all his entertainment value. Whether it was pacing the sideline (leading one particular Transylvania fan to chant, Happys OUT OF THE BOX!) or berating the referees, Osborne is the most entertaining coach since Dick Fick. He did not disappoint this evening, pulling a Mike Davis and running nearly into the paint to get the referees attention to call a timeout and jumping up and down like a school girl when his team was succeeding. In addition, Happy showed his heart, spending $1500 on tickets so that every member of the cafeteria staff and grounds crew of Georgetown college could attend the game. The coaching ranks need more Happys, and hopefully other coaches will take notice.
Watching Shagari Alleyne in person is mystifying. No player in NCAA history has ever had more of his points come from dunks than Shagari. On defense, he often uses his Go, Go Gadget arms to block shots that the shooter thinks are heading clearly for the basket. Yet he is often invisible on defense, allowing his man to get absurdly good position on him, and his mastery of the offense leaves much to be desired. Make no mistake, Shagari when playing well, adds more than any of the other seven footers. However his lows are way too low, and that is why he will not start.
The two player scuffles were very telling tonight. I chalk up the Patrick Sparks scuffle to two small town boys just getting tangled up, but the Rajon Rondo-Aubrey White mix-up was much more interesting. Rondo went up for a lob dunk, and while in the air, White fouled him on his arm. As both men came to the ground, White shouted out, You cant jump over me. Rondo looked at him, with a stare that only Anthony Roberson truly knows and in one second, reduced White to irrelevance. After the game, I asked Ramel Bradley about the interaction and he stated simply, if White thinks he can out jump Rajon, he needs to reconsider.
The storyline for most newspapers after the game had to be the play of Rekalin Sims. However what wont be talked about quite as much was the continued improvement of Mr. Smooth Ramel Bradley. Bradley is quietly mastering the art of the Rip Hamilton mid-range jumper. From 12 to 14 feet, his touch is uncanny and his mastery of this rather unpopular shot could be key to the Wildcats success. I asked him about this after the game and he replied, I shoot those because others dont. It is what makes me unique. Ramel is unique and if he consistently hits those shots, he will see more and more playing time during the season.
Tubby Smith was NOT happy about the teams attempts at showmanship during this game. He mentioned several times during his press conference that he was not thrilled with their constant attempts at overplaying on defense to get breakaway steals and their overuse of the lob pass. Both of these strategies are key to the Tubby Smith philosophy, but they can be overused, and Smith seemed to suggest that this happened against Georgetown.
While I may still be holding out disagreement, the accolades for Jared Carter continue to pile up. Tubby Smith said after the game that he was more impressed with Carter than anyone currently in the program. High words of praise for Jared. As soon as he gains a mastery of the playbook (which he is still far away from) and becomes tougher on defense, Carter may become a fixture in the rotation.
Kudos to the kid who sang the national anthem. He actually screwed up the words, but didnt miss a beat, using his new word version of the anthem and selling it well. Remember kids, it is not whether you get something correct, but whether you can make others think it is correct.
The second team started the game, as Tubby Smith was very frustrated with the way the starters have performed in practice, even stripping the starters of their gear in yesterdays meeting. It was the first start for any of the five members of the second team, and they handled it quite well.
Finally, someone should make a tape of the first two of Shagari Alleynes dunks. On both of them, he threw it down with one hand and then used his off-hand to place it behind his head, Michael Jordan style. For a man who jumps about four inches in the air, it was quite a sight to behold. Combined with Shagaris revelation in the media guide that he wants to be a singer, it makes Alleyne a force to be reckoned with in the Matt Jones' favorite player sweepstakes.
Until the Guardians Classic.....