Rashad McCants -- 14 pt, 5-17 (1-6) FG, 3/4 FT, 8(3) rb, 3 st, 7 assists, 1 TO, 3 fouls
(Note: I wrote this in between studying for finals, so please pardon semantic errors. Also, before any basketball purists come after me with sawed-off shotguns, I want to say that I have no experience coaching or studying basketball; I'm just another fan.)
New Hampton, the loaded prep school with seven D1 prospects, traveled to Cambridge to play Harvard's junior varsity squad. New Hampton had a noticeable size and depth advantage, starting four players over 6-2 (their center is about 6-10) and playing a roughly ten-man rotation, while Harvard started no one over 6-7. New Hampton played an up-tempo game, looking to push the ball up the court after misses, while Harvard generally ran half-court offenses. Both teams ran man-to-man and 2-3 zone defenses, though New Hampton ran a full-court press on occasion.
New Hampton began the game sloppily, and Harvard kept the game close in the first half thanks to poor execution and shooting by New Hampton. New Hampton led by 10 at halftime due to superior rebounding. In the second half, however, New Hampton's talent advantage became obvious, and tight physical defense stifled the Crimson guards. New Hampton looked to push the ball at every opportunity and score on the fast break. When the starters were pulled for good at the 2:56 mark, New Hampton was up by 29.
While Rashad is famous for his intensity right off the tip, his mind didn't seem to be there today. His jumper wasn't falling during warm-ups, and he carried it over into the game. He shot threes, long jumpers, turnarounds, stick backs, and lay-ups, and for the most part, missed them all, including a few air balls for good measure. He finished the first half shooting 2 for 10, 0 for 3 from behind the arc.
Rashad found the flow of the game in the second half, playing more down low than floating outside. Though Harvard double-teamed him in the post, he had a strong move to draw the foul and then a nice assist out of the double team on consecutive possessions. On defense, he forced a jump ball against Harvard's point guard, Nii Ofosu-Amaah, and then caused a turnover by stepping into the passing lane.
While Rashad did use his strength to post up smaller guards on occasion, he didn't seem to have the spring today that I've heard about in the past. He even got blocked from the weak side after posting up and trying to lay the ball in. His shot wasn't falling today, but several of his threes barely rimmed out, and he got his feet set nicely before the release. He never dribble-penetrated, instead catching the ball in a desired location before posting up or shooting. On defense, he used his long arms to frustrate his opponents, though he was beaten off the dribble a few times. I personally feel that he looked to steal the ball too much instead of playing in front of his man. While Rashad was often guilty of breaking down the court before the rebound could be secured, he still managed seven rebounds in the first half, three offensive, and finished with nine for the game. He pushed the ball up the court himself on a number of occasions and had a few nice passes, including a crosscourt bounce pass to a breaking teammate for the lay-up. Rashad's free throw form looked crisp, with three of the four hitting nothing but net.
Rashad was definitely the vocal leader of the team. He frequently exhorted his teammates, directed defenses, and questioned just about every call the officials made. However, I did not see any of the trash talking for which he is (in)famous, even after a second-half dunk. He was obviously upset with his play in the first half, wearing all sorts of grimaces and anguished expressions, and even pitched his headband during a timeout. (He never put it back on.) However, he seemed subdued on the bench, not even cheering for his teammates when he was out.
Those of you who think Rashad is a shooting guard probably saw him on a better day. I remain convinced he is an undersized 3. His handle was shaky at times and his shot seemed streaky. He started off playing mostly wing on offense and forward in the 2-3 zone, although I thought he was more effective when he posted up his man or crashed the boards. His ability to manage double teams and his strength and rebounding make me think that he will play the 3 in college.
* Care to guess how important the Harvard JV basketball team is to the athletics department? A quick phone call revealed that they didn't even know there was a game today.
* Of the 60-odd spectators in the stands, about half were cheering for New Hampton. The other half were early to the varsity game.