Ready Able To Run State's Scrimmage Show

Rick Ray wanted to bring in a game-changer for the second season. Wednesday's scrimmage certainly changed when just one new Dog did. "We switched one guy, a little 5-10 freshman point guard, and it changed everything for both teams," said Ray.

That pup point-man, freshman I.J. Ready, was the only difference in how the public scrimmage played out. Having run the Maroon offense at first, and led them to a lopsided lead, Ready exchanged jersies and gave the outmanned White team instant spark. Not enough to win, as the Maroons came out ahead 44-15 for the 20-minute intrasquad contest.

But the trends were entirely obvious. And encouraging for a Bulldog ball club that spent last season without a true point guard. "He's a significant difference as far as toughness and guys competing," said Ray. "And it really shouldn't be that way, as an incoming freshman and a guy that little. But he has that competitive desire and that much natural instinct as a point guard."

The freshman's instincts and abilities were on display as he operated the offense—both of them—while scoring ten of his own points and getting credit for two official assists. More impressive than the numbers was Ready's awareness of action around him and knack for delivering the ball as needed.

"He hasn't done anything today he hasn't been doing the rest of practice, so it's not eye-opening," said Ray. "He's played well throughout all our practice situations."

The reason for switching Ready mid-scrimmage was to give the White team at least some chance of running an offense…and because there wasn't another scholarship quarterback available. Junior Trivante Bloodman came to Humphrey Coliseum with right hand in a cast, which is to be removed Thursday so he can resume work. Redshirt freshman Jacoby Davis is still recovering from a couple of rookie-year knee surgeries but is expected to play this coming season.

Those absences, as well as a decision to sit senior forward Colin Borchert with back spasms, impacted Ray's plans for the whole scrimmage. It was already supposed to be quick, no more than 45 minutes to play the 20. With limited numbers the coach put his healthy veterans in Maroon and let them tear up the backups and walk-ons.

Which they did, bolting to a 22-2 lead that wasn't even that contested.

"The reason I didn't split them up is because we didn't have a second point guard," said Ray. "If Trivante and Colin had been healthy we would have split the teams up." Instead the Maroons had Ready at point, sophs Craig Sword and Fred Thomas on the perimeter, Rocquez Johnson at forward and center Gavin Ware.

"So I wanted to put those guys together so we could start getting ready for basketball season," said Ray. Though if Johnson, who scored 12 points and showed real aggressiveness on offense, can play like that he could give Borchert a real battle for the starting four-spot. Thomas led everyone with 13 points including a couple of treys, but took more shots inside the arc and went hard at the rim. Those two Dogs combined for 16 of the first 22 Maroon points.

Ware had six points, and probably the best matchup on the floor as he squared off with redshirting freshman center Fallou Ndoye. So Ware didn't have easy going inside but did end up with a game-best nine rebounds.

Rebounds were something Ray was happy to talk about afterwards. Such as when the Maroons—Thomas specifically—came up with a missed White shot. A long lead pass to Sword was relayed to forward Tyson Cunningham breaking to the basket…who flipped back to trailer Johnson coming from the other side of the goal for an easy layup. The basketball never touched hardwood, just hands, glass, and net.

It was an exceptional sort of play but hopefully a sign of the offense Ray really wants to run in his second season at State. "That's what you'd like to see. More advance passes, more guys sharing the basketball without so much dribbling. Now obviously you need to dribble to facilitate at times. But much as we can we like freedom of movement by pushing the ball."

He also tossed that example at the beaten White defense, which the coach said had been complaining about not being able to initiate the offense. "Well, they never got a defensive stop!" But Ray relented enough to give the Whites Ready's services for the latter half and make at least a few shots. Sword tried to play some point again for the Maroons much as he did last season. Ray hopes not to need that option this winter.

He more expects to see the Bulldogs evaluate themselves after the scrimmage and apply lessons to the remaining two full practice weeks before their November 3 exhibition game and November 8 season opener. The pace certainly changes now, said Ray.

"You start trying to implement more things. I told our guys I wanted shorter, quicker practices, but the two things we need are effort and listening. I don't want to have to keep going back and teaching, I want to teach something, implement it, we've got it and let's move on."

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