In his best game since since his first contest of the camp, Jerret Smith almost helped his Nuggets notch their first victory of the competition. The opponent was one Jerret paid special attention to because Mario Chalmers (the player that many consider the #1 point guard in the 05 class) was on the other side. "I've got to play like I think no one is better than me," Jerret said. "I think I'm just as good as anyone out here. I can get to the basket whenever I want to." It was clear that he took that attitude into the contest. In the first few minutes of the game, he scored four points (on a lay-up and a jumper) and had two steals. As he mentioned during our conversation with him, he could get to the hole at will. But as has been the case throughout the tournament, when he didn't pass the ball to an open teammate, he often wasn't able to convert the bucket in close. Despite that, Jerret continued to be assertive. The rest of the team followed suit (somewhat), but they still were getting beaten badly on the boards. At one point Smith pulled his big men to the side and said, "you guys have got to box out...put a body on someone or something!"
Jerret Smith with the drive
Despite their cutomarily poor rebounding effort, the Nuggets lead for most of the game. Late in 4th quarter Jerret finally matched up with Chalmers. The Kansas commit drew a few fouls by taking it right a Jerret and getting by him with his quickness. Rather than back down, Jerret took it right at the top ranked floor leader on the other end. In the waning moments of the game, the Nuggets still had a 3 point lead. That's when another Kansas commit, Micah Downs, hit a huge three to tie it up. With only 10 seconds left Jevohn Shepherd raced down court with the ball, but the Kings trapped the Canadian product as he brought it up and forced him into a turnover. Chalmers, who had leaked down court, caught a pass from one of the trappers and hit a lay-up as time ran out to give the Nuggets their 8th straight loss. On the game Jerret had 8 points, 5 assissts, 4 steals, 2 rebounds, and a block That defeat sent the Nuggets back into their old ways, as they were humbled in blowout fashion in the night-cap against the #1 Lakers.
Jerret with the runner
As we mentioned in our previous report, Jevohn Shepherd has been getting more aggressive as the tournament has gone along. In the game against Chalmers and the Mavericks, Jevohn notched only 6 points, but he too made it a priority to drive to the basket. Too many times, however, he drove into traffic and turned the ball over. The turnover at the end of the game wasn't the only time he dribbled into trouble. To his credit, though, he has been using each game as a stepping stone to the next. Jevohn's play went up a level Tuesday morning and he posted his best effort of the tournament with 16 points in the Nuggets opening playoff game. The 10th seeded (out of 10 teams) Nuggets squared off with the 9th seeded Spurs (whom were 1-8 going into the contest). Jevohn continued to find the mark on his jumper and even hit a three pointer to bring the Nuggets to within two late. Still, they dropped yet another game and are now 0-10.
Jevohn Shepherd launches one
There isn't any question that Shepherd is talented. He has gotten better throughout the week. However, there still has been no evidence of what a great athlete he is. Too many times he ran down court in transition and instead of going hard to the hole, he pulled up near the three point line and took himself out of the play. He's is going to have to gain some consistency in his approach to the game in order to maximize his potential. His high school coach calls it killer instinct. We'll be watching in the coming months to see if it's something he develops more of.
Jevohn to the hole
Ryan Wright didn't do much early in the day on Monday, but he came on strong last night in a 10-point 2-rebound effort versus Greg Oden's Pacers. Everything was a lay-up or a dunk for Ryan in the game (which has been the case for much of the tournamnet). He and Oden never matched up, much to our disappointment. Nonetheless, Ryan's power and athleticism were again on display.
Ryan Wright shoots the rare jumper
Harvey Hale has been quietly impressive thus far. He hasn't scored a ton of points, but when he has gotten the ball, he has shown that he knows what to do with it. Playing on a team with Mario Chalmers, Hale hasn't been called upon to penetrate very much. He has hung out on the wing and flashed a beautiful stroke. He's the conssummate shooting guard. Standing between 6-3 and 6-4 and a strong 195 pounds, it's clear that PG skills as well. He can drive to the hole, handle it, and he can dish. At one point he dribbled through three opponents before dropping off the ball of to a teammate for an easy basket. He isn't one of those high flying leapers, but the kid can score. Watching him reminded of a poor man's Mitch Richmond (in his early days). Hale has Michigan interest and the Maize and Blue could become a factor.
Hale's teammate, Ben McCauley, hasn't scored a lot of points either. He has made his contributions to his team by doing the dirty work down low. That said, he ha shown a few flashes of what he brings to the table. He displayed surprising ball skills for a big man when after grabbing a rebound, he dribbled the length of the court and threw a no look pass to a teammate on the wing for an easy bucket. His also showed a nice touch by knocking down a three pointer. Michigan hasn't been linked with him very much, but he indicated to us that his interest would increase if the Wolverines became more aggressive in his recruitment. Sources tell us that just might happen.
Gerald Green is one of the most athletic players in attendance. At 6-7 195 pounds, the Houston product is a high-flying wing that can occasionally stick one from deep. He loves the elbows in particular, and seems to be more consistent from that area of the court. He has a nice handle for his size and believes that he'll be able to play the two and the three in college. The Insiders.com's Dave Telep mentioned, however, that Gerald isn't using his size as well as he could. "Gerald Green is a terrific offensive player and a fine scorer," Telep wrote. "As good as he is, he’s costing himself cheap points. Guys like Carmelo Anthony and Malik Hairston, kids with size on the wings like Green, get easy buckets via offensive rebounds. If Green is going to play shooting guard or even small forward, he’s got to use his size more for rebounding. He’ll rebound defensively but isn’t a factor on the offensive glass." Gerald mentioned to us that he is interested in Michigan. We'll have more Harvey, Ben, Gerald and many others later.
Gerald Green skies in the vertical test
Finally, we spoke to Denver Colorado center Ray Hall and he mentioned that he isn't really interested in the Wolverines at this point in time. He listed Duke and a few other schools, but Michigan wasn't amongst them.