As amazing he may be at playing the strategy game, the effect he has on his teammates is even more spectacular. Some people just have the knack of pulling the right strings for the maximum result and when Nardi makes the call, his teammates listen. The results are transforming average players into big time winners.
I witnessed this at the TOC when an undermanned, undersized and less talented New Jersey Celtic team beat a highly favored NC Red Storm team. The term "playing with a purpose" fits like a glove when describing what I saw. The Celtics picked and probed the storm until they identified their weaknesses. Then with seven minutes left to go in the game, you could see Nardi's game go from check to checkmate.
New Jersey was down by six to eight points most of the game. However, once the NC team's moves were exposed and after they gave the Celtics their best shot, Nardi countered by calling a press and switched the gears of the game to a new speed that caught Jeremy Ingram and company by surprise. What looked like a close loss turned into a 15 point rout by the New Jersey team. Dismantled and destroyed. It was a beautiful show of gamesmanship.
If you have not seen Nardi play before, you won't get overly excited when you see him announced as the starting point guard. He is tall enough at 6'2" but his small frame (160 pounds) will not intimidate anybody. Some have compared him to Steve Blake, but his shot is better than that. For me, this maestro is closer to a Bobby Hurley with a Phil Ford court presence. If that is not enough to win you over as a fan, the fact that he has the ability to elevate his teammates play has to be the clincher. That is a trait of a winner point guard and one that wins championships.
As much as I like the "Chess Game" Nardi plays, he does have basketball skills. He has a smooth, soft jumper that has been polished to perfection. It looks the same every time it leaves his hands. He is the type of shooter that when it is launched, you just know it's going in (aka Rodney Monroe). Against the Red Storm, he was 5 for 9 beyond the arc. He had 8 assists, 2 steals and 2 rebounds.
Some may say he needs to add some strength to his body. He did get knocked around a bit when he took in down low as he was 3 for 7 inside the paint. But he countered with a perfect 5 for 5 from the stripe. I for one hopes he does not get a caught up with lifting, pressing and squats. I like him just the way he is and to make him into something he needs not be seems to miss the "point".
Mike Nardi is still young and yet proven on the college level. But the abilities he starts with are so fantastic that it makes his potential something to dream about. Let me fantasize a bit by saying, if he chooses NC State, he may well go down as the best ever point guard to wear the red and white. That may be some big dreaming, but he is that good.
Part 3, Mustaf Shakur will be up Tuesday night.