Links to all previous open gym reports can be found on the left NAV bar in the Scout Database section under Open Gyms 2004
Last night we got our first glimpse of the entire team (minus Graham Brown) and my-o- my, was it impressive! Watching the first five open gyms without those players in attendance, it was easy to forget just how athletic this team is in the post. Consider my memory jogged! We got a resounding reminder of the fantastic pieces this team can place on the floor. However, before we get to recapping the actual oncourt play, there was another facet of this team that was really visible yesterday and deserves mention.
Over the last few years we’ve watched this staff mold their paltry inheritance into the program that we see today. The previous two seasons are evidence of that metamorphosis. While the success in the won/loss column is an obvious reflection of success, one other subtle sign of a healthy program is how the players represent it…not just to the public, but to prospective players as well. Those that have followed recruiting for any period of time understand that when big time players hit town, they get “the treatment.” What “the treatment” actually consists of varies from campus to campus (as we’ve all seen on various ESPN reports). What is similar in most cases, however, is how contrived the pitches sometimes seems. The difference I notice with this group of guys is while they really put forth the effort to make visitors feel like they’re part of the group, it doesn’t appear to disingenuous. Daequan Cook arrived in Ann Arbor about 4pm yesterday and the players related to him like he had been there all summer. There is definitely an atmosphere that permeates through the entire program and all of its members. It may seem like a little thing for such occurrences to take place, but I contend that it’s very significant and indicative of where the program is at this point. Pride is the best word I can come up with. The kids take pride in wearing that uniform. One of the coaches told me last year that recruiting perpetuates itself when you have a "program." It looks like that statement is certainly ringing true.
Now on to the hoop action! Last night was all about match-ups. We saw some pretty good ones, so we’ll just break them down one by one.
Daequan Cook vs. Ronnie Coleman
These two players went at it most of the night, which each guy having his moments. This marks the third venue and about the 10th time we’ve seen Cook play, and we like him more and more every time. If he were in the state of Michigan, there isn’t any question that he would be the #1 player in the 2006. (As it stands, he is locked in a battle with David Lighty for that honor in Ohio.) Nonetheless, Daequan made his mark from the perimeter last night. He got himself started with two quick baskets in the first game; one coming on a steal and length of the court drive for two…and the other on a put-back of a Dion Harris miss. Ronnie isn’t one to stand by and let his man outplay him so he responded aggressively. He came right back down the court, drove from the right elbow with his left hand into the lane, and then nailed a beautiful turnaround jumper right over Cook. The back and forth wasn’t over though. Daequan promptly answered with a three-pointer from the left elbow on the other end. The two went at each other very hard all night and it was fun to watch. It should come as no surprise that most of Daequan's success the rest of the night came when someone other than Ronnie was guarding him. His prettiest move of the evening came after he grabbed a board and took the ball upcourt in transition. Once he got to the three-point line he froze the defense with a hesitation, rocked the dribble behind his back, then pulled up and drained the jumper. His next shot was a three from the top of the key. We’ll have more on Daequan later.
As we’ve mentioned in previous reports, Ronnie continues to look more and more comfortable off of the bounce. He didn’t hesitate to take the ball upcourt in transition if he grabbed the rebound. Again, he probably won’t be asked to do anything like that during the season, but that he’s feeling more comfortable with it is a very good sign. As for the staple of his game (which is his jumper),…it was as pretty as ever last night. We had him down for four 3’s on the evening. This kid is going to be better than a lot of folks give him credit for. Mark it down!
Ronnie Coleman goes up on J.C. Mathis
Courtney Sims vs. Brent Petway
It was nice to see these two back on the court in Ann Arbor again. When they are around the whole feel of the games is different. Both guys have a presence about them and it’s evident on both ends of the floor. On the boards they each shone above all the rest and defensively they blocked so many of one another’s shots that it was hard to keep track of how many rejections each had. Lets just say that they both had a lot. Still, If Courtney got position down low, he was generally able to make a move and get his shot off. In terms of low post scoring he really had no equal, as he used everything from the drop step, to the turn, face, and step through, to the 15-footer. Brent was at his best facing the basket and receiving passes when the guards (mainly Daniel Horton) penetrated into the lane. He finished around the basket in spectacular fashion a number of times on the evening. If he has room to take a step around the tin, count the bucket because his explosiveness can’t be matched.
Courtney Sims goes underneath Petway's block attempt
Brent Petway throws one down
Lester Abram vs. Dion Harris
These two match up every time they’re on opposite teams. EVERY TIME! It’s always the most intense battle on the court. On this particular evening they pretty much cancelled each other out. Dion’s best move came on a drive that Lester actually defended pretty well. He stopped Dion’s progress at the free-throw line, but the former Mr. Basketball reacted by dipping his shoulder and then hitting Lester with the fade. It was a thing of beauty. (If he can get consistent with that shot, lookout!) Dion had to work for everything he got against Lester because the defense he put forth was pretty stifling. Dion did a pretty good job of mirroring Lester’s defensive performance on the other end…and Abram was pretty cold early. However, he started to warm up as the evening went on. He sunk his first three half way through the evening on the south basket over Dion’s outstretched arm. We had him down for three others on the night.
Lester Abram guards Dion Harris
Lester muscles one up on Dion
Daniel Horton picked up right where he left off the other day and had another very strong performance. We watched him nail six threes, so stroke was money on the night. The part of his game that impressed us more, though, was how effective he was going to the basket. He finished a few drives with a few beautiful up and under moves that had the young camping spectators buzzing. Furthermore, he did a very good job of finding the open man when the defense collapsed on him. Brent was the recipient of a few very nice set ups as a result. On whole, he was more impressive than he was on Tuesday (even more he scored more on the previous day).
Daniel Horton knifes between defenders to the bucket
It seemed like Chris Hunter spent more time in the paint last night than he did at all of the open gyms put together last year! He took very few jumpers and had a pretty efficient scoring effort as result. He had a nice move in transition where after a few dribbles he put on a perfect spin move to get past his defender before laying it in. He really looks to have settled into his role on the team.
Tommy Herzog had a tough go of it last night with Courtney and Brent back in town. They were just too strong for him for him to deal with at this point in his development. That said, every time he makes it down to face those guys it should be looked upon as a plus. Facing them (and guys like them) will only make him better.
J.C. Mathis and Amadou (who both put forth yeomen efforts) were both in attendance, as were Ashtyn Bell, John Andrews, and former walk-on Herb Gibson.
We'll have many more pictures and other exciting content from these and other open gyms in the coming days.