The second game, against the New York Ravens, was particularly frustrating. The officiating was…well, let's just call it uneven. Frequent whistles, frequent stops in play, all combining to stifle the rhythm of the game. The Team Texas bench got a technical in the first half, one of the Ravens players got a technical as he was preparing to shoot a free throw in the second. Basketball isn't always pretty, and this was one of those times when the attempted Impressionist masterpiece turned into a black velvet Elvis.
Jason Horton had trouble finding his shooting touch all day. Against the Ravens he was 2 for 7 from downtown and finished with eight points. But he wasn't alone. The cold shooting was contagious as his teammates couldn't pick up the slack and no one could get into a good shooting rhythm.
Horton's a true point guard in every sense of the term. Running the offense, setting up teammates, getting clarification from the refs, calling the team together; he's the epitome of the point guard as floor general. But he is also still learning. The Ravens trapped a lot in the first half and Horton attacked it well. But as his team got behind, he started to press a little by trying to penetrate when it wasn't there and hitting the lane a little out of control. He also has a tendency to shake and bake when he could just blow by his man. The physical Raven guards, led by fireplug point guard Daon Merritt, came at him in waves and always put a body on him. With his outside shot not falling, Horton's options were limited. Throw in some cold shooting from his teammates and you get a 71 – 47 win for the Ravens. With the day's losses, Team Texas did not advance to Sunday's action.
Team Texas wasn't the only talented team to struggle on Saturday. The Tim Thomas Playaz Gold also chalked up two losses in their only two games. And they can't blame it on the distance they had to travel.
First up for the Playaz Gold was the athletic and much traveled (more on that later) Team Breakdown from Florida. Led, by 6'8" jumping jack Jerron McCiskill, Breakdown ran and ran and ran and finished strong. The Playaz settled for outside jumpers far too often and with 4 seconds left and the score tied they had a breakdown (pun intended) on defense as the Breakdown (see the pun?) took the ball out under their own basket. Breakdown got a wide open layup and the game was over. In the second game, The LAPC Knights pulled off the upset. Overmatched? Sure. But the Knights just continuously made plays while the Playaz settled for the long range bomb.
Sean Banks played very unselfishly in both Playaz games. Too unselfish really. The talented wing has a great handle and beautiful jumpshot, but was not very assertive. He looked for teammates and shot if it was there, but did not force the action like he is capable. And really that's what the Playaz needed – some one to take charge. Darryl Watkins was doubled teamed or hedged in via a zone throughout the day and didn't touch the ball much. Same goes for Will Sheridan. Karron Clarke was effective at times, but didn't play a lot. That left Banks. Sure, there was a pretty drive here, and nice three pointer there, and a lot of passes off to teammates in between. It's difficult to fault a player for being unselfish, but when a player has the skills and talent Banks possesses, it's OK for a little "me" time.
-Team Breakdown traveled 26 hours from Ft. Lauderdale to the Bronx. They left on Thursday and drove all night. Oh yeah, they also won their pool.
-Best leaper at the Rumble? Probably Mike Jones of the Long Island Panthers. Like a pogo stick? More like a mini trampoline.
-Best dunk I saw so far has to go to Chris Taft. Running the break on Friday night, the big man caught an alley-oop off the glass and thundered it home with two hands. Very much worth the primal scream that followed.
-Chris Richard really does resemble Chris Wilcox physically.
-Not that it will shock anyone, but Sebastian Telfair has drawn the biggest crowds.
-I have to mention the program. How could I not? Big thumbs up to the Rumble people for the sturdy plastic binding on the programs this year. Much better than last year's stapled version.