Thankfully, now that this disappointing football season is on a month-long vacation, we can really focus on basketball. Which brings me to this: I hope El Mohawk stopped by the gym while he was in Tempe and pile-drived Jahii Carson through the hardwood, just to help out the basketball team a bit.
What is it about defiance that we find so attractive? Nelson Mandela's grandeur is defined by his defiance. Twenty-seven years in prison and he walks out the front gate and puts a fist in the air. That wasn't a gesture of humility or graciousness. That gesture, along with the young man standing in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square, are the two enduring 20th century moments of defiance. Amandla!
But in us lesser people, like basketball players, we call that defiance the "chip on your shoulder." Brevin Knight was openly defiant. Magic Johnson smiled a lot, but you could smell the defiance in his sweat. Aaron Bright carries himself with defiance too.
Swagger comes varied. Brevin's was a soup of confidence, defiance and elite competitiveness and a hell of a lot of athletic ability. I am not sure what Brevin focused his defiance upon. I am also not sure what Aaron's is about either. Or mine for that matter. But Aaron's shoulder needs to be repaired and his season is over. Getting healthy again is one of the best ways to focus one's energy, and maybe even one's defiance. Hopefully, this is what Aaron can do with this time.
The game is going to retire you, one way or another. Either you aren't good enough, or your body breaks down, or your mind breaks down, or you aren't good enough because your body or mind keep breaking down. Aaron's career is defined, to me anyway, by his being the best player in the NIT a couple of years ago, and by the injuries he suffered through to be that best player in the NIT a couple of years ago, injuries that held him back last season and that have now, perhaps, finished his career. Twenty-nine points against Illinois State with six three balls in a postseason game. Twenty-seven against ASU last season in our overtime conference tourney loss, as Aaron often showed up big in big games. Fans can quibble about his defense, his shot selection or whatever. Aaron can stand there, a little defiant sparkle in his eye, a curl in the corner of his smile, and think, "Bleep you, come a little closer so I can shove this NIT MVP Trophy up your nose." Whether it is here, there or Google, thank you Aaron.
And now back to our regularly scheduled analysis of the guard play from our guys during the last few games, which includes the team's dismantling at the hands of the Pitt Panthers. We should have beaten Houston and we did. We should have beaten Fargo Technical Institute of Paleantology by 30, and we did. So here is all I'll say about the Pitt game: We had the game at 11 points with nine minutes to go and the ball and we missed the shot that would have made it a ball game again.
Chasson Randle cooled off slightly in Brooklyn against the taller, stronger and just as athletic guards of Houston and Pitt, but I thought against Pitt he took four good three-pointers and three of them almost went down. We need one or two of those, and his rushed three pointer at the nine-minute mark of the Pitt game was a great example of a competitive guy trying to "make a play" instead of letting the game come to him. Let me clear my throat on this. When your coach constantly talks about needing guys to "make a play" (an utterly overused phrase by the way), what do you expect in that instance? Patience? Or a guy trying to "make a play"? On the other hand, if that shot goes down for Chasson I'd be talking about the brass on his heuvos, so let's move on.
Chasson would have played better in Brooklyn if he'd stayed out of foul trouble. With Aaron down, Chasson now has to exercise discretion on defense, because he has to stay on the floor now for 34 minutes a game come hell or high water. Come to think of it, Dwight Powell needs to learn this skill too.
The revelation for me in watching the Brooklyn games was Anthony Brown, who played beautifully in both games. Other than being just rock solid on both ends, shooting 8-of-9 from three, and grabbing 15 rebounds in the two games, Anthony was our best defensive player as well. He was excellent in the zone, particularly crisp in his rotations, aided considerably by his height. The Pitt guards in particular could have cared less if Aaron or Chasson was near them if they caught in rhythm, but with Anthony there, they deferred.
I'll say this for Robbie Lemons: Dude is busting his butt. He needs to make more shots though.
Marcus Allen was our second-best defensive guard in Brooklyn, even if he only played five minutes. He moves well and he plays bigger on that end than his size indicates. These are good things. Then, what you saw against the NoSoDak State ToHellandGones was the fledging of a scorer. His first shot was a cold in-rhythm three, and once that went down you could see the psychological lid lift off. And when he is playing with his brother Malcolm, their chemistry has him moving crisper and anticipating the play, instead of purely reacting.
Malcolm Allen has hops. Dude will go to the rack when faced with a bunch of pasty, white-tube-sock-looking dudes in front of him. And dude will throw down on your pasty, white-tube-sock-looking dudes. [Editorial note: The political incorrectness and poor excuse for humor in this article are the responsibility of the author, to use that term loosely, not The Bootleg or its owners, employees, volunteers, spiritual advisers and subscribers (except for the subscriber that is the author).] Nice minutes against SoDakState. And really nice free throws. Most importantly, he ran a clean ship in his 13 minutes at the point guard, which portends well for the future.
What we need to be doing, other than studying and getting good grades and resting our wounded -- which should be enough but it's not – is tightening up our defensive fundamentals and drilling down our guard zone rotations. If we are going to run a 2-3, we simply have to recognize opponent location (called "locating" when coaches yell at you) and leave on time to get to that location, meaning take off nanoseconds before the pass leaves the passer's hand, or as it leaves the passer's hand, instead of after it has left the passer's hand. Oftentimes, the issue for us has been being too upright off the ball coming out of our defensive stances, so that our first reaction is to sit back down and then slide—instead of just sliding. Fractions of seconds. This isn't something we need to improve on to be better. This is something that must be improved on, or we should crapcan this experiment.
Final Thought: I have no idea what happened in practice after the Pitt game, but it is a bipartisan clusterhoozle to lose a game, lose Aaron Bright, and have John Gage and Grant Verhoeven injured or reinjured prior to the next game. Dumb crap like this is what snakebit the Davis administration from 1984-1986. When you step on the damn snake yourself, it's not the snake's fault you got bit.
Final, Final Thought: A teammate of mine my freshman year, Charles Hunt, passed away. Charles Hunt ("C-Hunt") is not a name most fans will readily remember, because he never got to play nearly enough. A small forward of great ability, and a scoring machine that never saw eye to eye on anything with his coaches other than the color of the uniform, Charles' defiance cost him the minutes he deserved. Yet, throughout, he was a very positive, supportive teammate. And there has been no funnier, no more conversational guy to have worn the uniform. Charles Hunt slept in the lobby of the Pullman Best Western so he didn't miss the bus to our shootaround, which Coach Davis called for 7:00 a.m. after we arrived at 3 a.m. from Seattle. Game was at 11:00 a.m. Charles Hunt scored 22 points in 11 minutes on Arizona State in 1985, put in the game when we were down 35 because we couldn't score, which was an enduring problem that season. C-Hunt was defiant on every shot, and I think he was showered and dressed by the time coach got to the locker room. It is not a long list of guys that hung 20 in 10 minutes for the Cardinal, and I don't even know who is on that list, but I know C-Hunt is on that list. Rest in peace C-Hunt.
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