We can try whatever stupid marketing videos we want to, and Aaron Bright can smile and spin the ball on his finger all he wants, but we will always have sucky, whiny season ticket holders for men's basketball. Always have had them, always will have them. There just aren't enough of us. Even if we bleed Cardinal when our wrists are slit (and we all do) during a self-indulgent suicide attempt fueled by angst over which quarterback should start on our 7-2 football team, we wouldn't want to bleed all over our season ticket seats at Maples too early in the season. Oh, that's right. My bad. 8:30 tip off on Monday is too late for kids because it is a school night or I am so old that I have trouble staying awake after 9:30 p.m. and I don't want to snore too loudly in front of everyone.
Anyway, I digress again. We have guards on the team this year. For the most part they were guards on the team last year too. They are good too. Here is some analysis of them from the first two games.
Aaron Bright is, and will be until he hangs up his cute little sneakers, one mercurial son of a beach. Last season he was more dinged up than we all knew, in fact he was actually hurt most of the conference season, and he just gutted it out. He looks healthy now. From an individual match-up perspective, he really has played quality competition so far in USF's Doolin and Fullerton's Kwame Vaughn. He has been in attack mode, with 11 assists so far and 23 points. What I have liked the most though is that he has been more efficient with the ball, getting it up the court a bit quicker against pressure, with less "massaging". He had a spotty defensive effort against Doolin, but was better against Fullerton. Against Fullerton he provided a remarkable lift for the team coming out of the 15:45 media timeout in the second half. He just exploded, and so did our squad, going from down 39-43 to up 67-54 when Chasson subbed in for him at the nine-minute mark.
Which leads me to Chasson Randle, who is the other point guard, shooting guard, lightning bolt in the back court. Chasson was our best player last season as a freshman and the first two games are pretty good indicators that not much is going to change, except he is going to be even better. Chasson is going to be on the floor more than anyone this season as he scores so efficiently. His next progression will be doing what we saw some in the Fullerton game, capably leading the squad with Bright on the bench. He had a pedestrian 8 and 3 against the Dons, missing a couple of bunnies that he normally makes. But he was solid and he didn't press the issue, deferring to the forwards who were dominating the game for us. Against Fullerton, against quality guard competition, he simply owned their butts. He simply had a Todd Lichti sophomore year game, a sneaky 24 mostly on lay-ins that were tougher than they looked, with contact, and 6-of-8 from the line. And he never got hot. In fact, he missed a couple bunnies again. And his fouls were charges. I'll take those types of turnovers from a guy who should relentlessly go to the hole.
And now for something interesting, during our giant run from down four in the second half to up 79-55 with five minutes left, the third guard in the back court, the kid who played off of his veteran cohort so seamlessly, was freshman Christian "No Look" Sanders. Like Randle last season, ol' No Look plays like he belongs at this level. A surprisingly physical and good defender already, and the fastest guy on the team to the floor after loose balls, he showed great court vision on both ends against the Titans—after showing nothing against the Dons. His beautiful diagonal No Look to Huestis on the left block for an And One flush was one of the highlights of the game. What leapt out at me though was the cleanliness of his scores. The first was a relaxed catch and pump fake that froze two defenders before a drive left, down the pipe, for a finger roll. His second was a right-side pump fake of another defender flying at him and a nice one dribble right for a contested 16-footer that was just pure. It is a high caliber move, a natural scorer's move, the ease of which portends a future we will enjoy. Both moves, as well as his No Look, required confidence, anticipation and great vision without the ball.
Gabe Harris is the other guard getting run right now and it is great to see him healthy. He didn't fix his funky release, which seems like a waste of good downtime, but maybe I am asking too much. He is clearly in attack mode, and he has been effective getting to the rim. He played well against the Dons. In fact, against the Dons, he was the only guard that appeared to even notice there was glass. Three rebounds in each game is terrific production, and six rebounds in 24 minutes so far this season is something we'd like to see out of most of our big fellas. But, in both games, he continues his career-long struggle with shot selection, taking shots that are too difficult. A senior has to know his role is not to attempt nine-foot baseline floaters. I suspect that over the next few games, he will iron this out or Christian Sanders will get even more run. Still, a strong start for Gabe coming off yet another snake-bit season.
Final Thought: Speaking of snake bites, Anthony Brown continues to be fighting the cobras in his knees. And speaking of knees, Andy Brown's performances so far are both heartwarming and outstanding. He is 6-of-7, 4-of-6 at the line, with six steals and four boards in 31 minutes. Start the kid, Coach!
Final Final: It is really early, but Josh Huestis is going to have a lot of dunks this season. Dude has taken the next step in the development of a leaper. I remember back in the day coming back on campus for our preseason runs before our junior year and Howard Wright was no longer being caught "in between", so he had to lay the ball up strong. Suddenly he dunked everything if you didn't have body on him. Well, Josh is now a junior and he has also taken that step and is now going flush-o-rama on folks.
Final Final Final: Scoring a lot of points is nice from Dwight Powell, but we need him to eat glass this season like an NBA forward. So far, that is 19 rebounds in two games, and a double double against Fullerton, with several huge Robin Lopez-like aircraft carrier grabs. We are going to need a lot of that in the Bahamas!
… and Beat the Water Foul!
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