Saturday (5/19) Hoops Practice Notes

One of the focal points of the Stanford spring practices is who will seize this season in the off-season to step up their game the most. Part of that equation is about being healthy, but part is about hard work and determination. Tony Giovacchini is now healthy for the summer and is stepping it up. One word summed up his Saturday: domination.

One striking fact of Saturday’s practice was the scarcity of bodies. With four seniors departed, and the three incoming freshmen not yet in the mix, only 8 bodies made it through practice. Curtis and Tyler were off to the side, as they continue to rehabilitate, and Kyle was on the bike for the majority of the practice. Tunde (student manager) provided an extra and able body with the guards, while Coach Reveno stepped in as an extra big man. Booties should be sufficiently concerned about Stanford’s frontline depth this coming season if Jason doesn’t turn around and pull his name from the draft. There is every reason to want Teyo to play the small forward position, where he can best match up on defense. But Teyo is in dire need up front right now, with only Justin and Joe healthy. Curtis continues to improve, but given his injury history as well as that for Stanford big men in general over the last several years, you have to expect times when the injury bug will strike the bigs. And unless Rob Little surprises beyond being a work-in-progress, Teyo will likely be called upon to play and practice at the "4."

Justin and Papa Davis after practiceJoe continues to go to his little jump hook against Justin, with some but not consistent success. Justin is working hard on post-up fundamentals with Rev, and also stayed after practice to shoot free throws and long jumpers. It’s good to see him focusing on the stripe, but I’m concerned that he isn’t maximizing the utility of that practice. I don’t see him working on a fixed routine at the line, where he can start to make free throws a mechanical process rather than a repeated effort. Where’s Coach Mendy? Teyo is holding his own with these two guys, and continues to use his quickness to get around and beat taller defenders. And you can’t help but grin when you watch this tireless perfectionist at work – he absolutely can’t stand to miss a play or make any mistake. Not even once.

Lotty gets inside on Jake, then kisses it off the glassBut most of my focus Saturday was on the guards and wings. They worked on one-on-one offense and defense in a drill where the offensive player gets the ball just outside the three-point line. He has to beat the defender – either from the perimeter or inside – to get the ball in the hoop. Whoever wins that battle stays on the floor, while a new guard/wing comes out as the defender. If a player is hot on offense, he can stay out on the floor indefinitely. The competition was very heated, and included Julius, Tony, Casey, Matt, Nick and Tunde. Lotty and Jake are very visibly competitive, and fought like hell against each other. Each played the other very tight, and was prone to foul rather than let the other get by him. The fouls weren’t called that tight, and that set Casey off a couple of times. For Booties who think CJ gets too vocal in complaints to the zebras in the game, you should check out practice sometime. Both players shot some from the perimeter, but they primarily put it on the floor to challenge the defender. Matt held his own on defense, which was a glaring deficiency this season, and looked very good taking it to the hole. I would offer up that Matt will be a better penetrator than Casey, with a little more practice and experience. Interesting that both guys took it to the glass more than taking a pull-up midrange jumper.

Nick Robinson is a quiet guy out there, but he is picking up confidence and comfort. He had some real rust to shake off this past season, but is one who will benefit from these practices and this Australia trip as much as anyone. I saw him take the ball at the defender more often than shooting a perimeter jumper, and he looks very fluid. Given his long frame, a fair comparison can be made with Duke’s Mike Dunleavy. His pull-up midrange jumper looked good (he can create that shot), but I didn’t see much from deep. Julius continues to show that he wants to extend his shooting range, as he took several from behind the arc and from 10-12 feet. He gets up quick and gets up high, and will only be limited by his own accuracy. There are few if any defenders in the country who will keep him from getting off those shots.

The surprise of the practice, though, was far and away Tony Giovacchini. There was no player who came even close to his success on offense, and he spent an awful lot of time out on that floor. He flat-out dominated in every aspect of the game on offense. He was the purest and hottest shooter from outside, he pulled up for midrange jumpers, and he took it to the hole off the glass with surprising success. Booties have this opinion of Tony as a “slow white guy,” but I would honestly say that he dominated this day. He was able to get past defenders, but also shoot over them when they committed to his fakes. On defense, the biggest compliment is that I watched him do a pretty good job of staying in front of JB. I talked to one of the guys on the team after practice about Tony’s play, and he said that Gio is working really hard and should be far better than what we saw last season. The mysterious back/hip injury that crippled Tony last summer and into the early fall had a material impact on his season, but we may see what he is really capable of in his senior year. This is something to watch.

Russell & Tyler watch C-Bo’s push-upsAfter practice, Kyle came off the bike to fire up a bunch of treys. He’s intent on getting that shot down pat. Russell Turner “& Hooch” had Curtis and Tyler doing push-ups, where Tyler bested C-Bo. Monty cracked to Curtis that if he spread his arms out any wider, there wouldn’t be any room for him to actually move his body up and down. Russell hit the floor for some push-ups of his own, as the Seattle boys walked away. Monty jabbed that Russell could stop, since no one was watching to be impressed.

Next practice is this Monday (5/21) night at 7pm.

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