New Twist For Mal Brown Scrimmage

About 1000 fans filed into Alumni Hall on a dreary Saturday to catch their first glimpse of the 2008-09 edition of the Friars. This Mal Brown scrimmage had a different look, though.

In the past, Mal Brown scrimmages usually consisted of two ten or fifteen minute halves, played as a normal game. This year, new coach Keno Davis added a twist: an hour and a half of situational basketball.

The scrimmage consisted of nine distinct sessions; two four minute periods, two three minute periods, two two minute periods, one one minute period and two thirty second periods, in that order. The scrimmage emphasized end of game situations, with the clock set at 4:00, 3:00, 2:00, 1:00 or :30 and counting down to zero for each session. The scores beginning each session varied… at times, the session began with the score tied, other times the home team was up by one, two or three points, and the home team always had the ball to start each session.

The home team, coached by offensive guru Rodell Davis, consisted of Alex Kellogg, Bilal Dixon, Marshon Brooks, Chris Baudinet, Jamine Peterson, and two new walk-ons, Brian Beloin, a 6'5 senior from Avon, Connecticut and Connor Heine, a 6'4 senior from Fairfield, Connecticut. The black team featured most of the prime-time players, with Geoff McDermott, Weyinmi Efejuku, Brian McKenzie, Randall Hanke, and Jeff Xavier, and was coached by defensive guru Chris Davis, although Keno Davis and Pat Skerry spent their time on this bench. Keno, in particular, spent a lot of time during time-outs teaching and instructing.

The Black team seemed a preview of the starting lineup, with McDermott, Efejuku, Xavier, Hanke and McKenzie, and they began each session tied or behind and defending the ball, to simulate added end game pressure. The Black team was able to come back and win four of the first five sessions, and after that, McKenzie, Xavier and Brooks were swapped between teams.

Of course, the Mal Brown scrimmage wouldn't be complete without some nagging injury news. Sharaud Curry was dressed and looked ready to go in warm-ups, but was held out and did not play at all; and Jonathan Kale kept his sweats on as his left hand/wrist and thumb were heavily bandaged.

If this scrimmage was any indication of how PC will play this season, the Friars might lead the nation in three point field goal attempts. Almost every possession early on resulted in a long distance attempt, and the team hit a high percentage of its tries. In particular, Brooks did a lot of early damage as he carried the White team on his shoulders in the first couple of sessions.

Brooks looks greatly improved. He's still slim, but his confidence is far higher and his outside shot looks sharp. He played quite a bit at the point and drove to the basket, popped from outside and nailed runners and midrange shots. He could be one of the breakout players on the team this season.

Brian McKenzie also did quite a bit of ballhandling, and McKenzie looks chiseled and ready to explode. His outside shot was falling and his strength on defense created problems.

This was a scrimmage dominated by the guards. In addition to sterling performances by Brooks and McKenzie, Jeff Xavier looked solid and limited his three point shooting, although he was very effective at getting to the free throw line and creating havoc on defense. Weyinmi Efejuku didn't force the action, distributed the ball well, and his shooting looks as if it continues to improve.

Like last year, though, the frontcourt needs work. Whether that part of the offense hasn't been installed yet, or PC just isn't going to be that kind of team, there were very few low post touches. In fact, in the first two four minute sessions, there were no passes into the low post, and the only time that Randall Hanke touched the ball was on a blocked shot and a run out.

That's not to say that this was a ‘pass it around the perimeter and throw up the first open three' offense. Far from it. The Friars ran an assortment of picks and screens, executed excellent cuts and movement off the ball, penetrated and kicked out for open shots, throughout the scrimmage. But the low post aspect was missing.

Frontcourt-wise, Hanke scored mostly on run outs, second chance rebounds and hustle. He didn't get his first touch on a low post entry pass until the fourth session. Bilal Dixon looked good, and more importantly, looked ready to contribute immediately. He rebounded, hit a three, showed good movement and position around the basket, and is big enough to hold his own in the post. Greedy Peterson played sparingly. More of an athlete than a polished basketball player, Peterson spent most of the time on the bench, as he seemed out of position and slow to react in the offense. Alex Kellogg, on the other hand, played solidly, rebounding, being in position, and defending well.

On defense, PC showed a lot of man but also some 3-2 zone among a plethora of looks. The Friars applied full court pressure, trapped along the sidelines, and at times attempted to create havoc with the press. In addition, PC ran about seven or eight different out of bounds plays, and on the sideline, team managers charted everything – deflections, tips, steals, etc. – on a large white board throughout.

All in all, a good time and an encouraging first look. A lot of teaching, a lot of situational basketball, and a whole lot of threes. With a week to go until the first exhibition game, the team seems to be meshing well, and is only missing the low post component. Hopefully, we see more evidence of that a week from now.

WHITE TEAM: Kellogg 2 2-2 6, Dixon 3 1-3 8, Baudinet 1 0-0 3, Peterson 0 1-2 1, Heine 0 0-0 0. BLACK TEAM: Efejuku 4 5-6 14, McDermott 2 0-0 4, Hanke 4 0-1 8. SWITCHED TEAMS: McKenzie 6 8-10 25, Xavier 4 14-16 24, Brooks 8 2-3 21. THREE POINTERS MADE: Efejuku 1, McKenzie 4, Xavier 3, Brooks 3, Dixon 1, Baudinet 1.

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