Jerret Smith’s play this weekend continued to exhibit the steadiness that I’ve become accustomed to seeing. His penetrate-and-dish game was quite effective, as was his ability to break the press. The Eagles seemed a bit out of sync…probably do to the team’s relative youth and unfamiliarity with one another. It’s clear from watching this group that Smith is going to have to take on a leadership role that expands beyond the point of merely distributing the ball. Much of the Eagles success this year may just depend on how well Jerret can focus the team. Shot selection and defensive intensity look to be the factors that need the most work.
Defenses focused on overplaying Jerret’s left side and forcing him to go right. Often times there was a double-team waiting for him. If the weekend was any indication, that will be one of the blueprints for limiting his dribble drive game this year. The young PG can certainly go both ways with the bounce, but becoming more adept at attacking to his right will neutralize the attack plans of many of his opponents and make the Eagles more deadly (as would a few high screen and rolls).
Jerret takes it up strong
One of the better matchups on Saturday was when Jerret faced off with TaJuan porter and Detroit Renaissance. Observers continue to discount Porter because of his diminutive stature, but the kid can cause all kinds of problems on the court. It was a good test for Jerret to go against a ball-hawking guard like TaJuan, and the Smith did a very good job of handling the full court pressure. On the other end the Eagles didn’t apply much defensive pressure for much of the game. Renaissance center Carson Butler had a field day in the post when he wasn’t running defenders over for offensive charges. (I have yet to see the young man play football, but his fleetness of foot on the hardwood seems like it would be absolutely deadly on the grid-iron).
Jerret drives on TaJuan
After starting out with losses against Ypsilanti and Renaissance Saturday afternoon, the Eagles finished the day strong against with a win Walled Lake Western (which had just defeated Belleville). They continued to step up their play the next day versus Wayne, Detroit Redford, and Belleville (minus Tommy Clark and Leon Freeman). Later in the week Smith will test his mettle at the NBA players camp in Richmond.
Getting back to Freeman,… I watched him again and I continue to assert that he should be mentioned in the same breath as Ramar Smith when speaking of the state’s top wings in the class of 2006. He wasn’t on top of his game this weekend, but his talents are obvious. As has been mentioned before, he has a very nice jumper and is a good leaper. He also plays the game with a fire that coaches like to see in their players. While there are skills that Leon needs to improve on (like ball-handling), what may need even more attention are the mental aspects his game. Good shot selection, court awareness, and court discipline are traits that are sometimes lacking for him during games. He’ll often hoist an ill-advised shot or suffer from defensive lapses. Tightening up his focus will go a long way toward making him a better player.
Leon Freeman goes up for a dunk at open gym
Leon showed up at an Open Gym in Ann Arbor yesterday and was his normally athletic self. Check back for more on that informal hoop session later.