Six-Seven No.1: Six-foot-seven freshman Jordan Tolbert continues to be a phenom for the Red Raiders. Tolbert was lethargic in a first half that saw him score only four points. He asserted himself in the second, however, and rammed home eighteen more, finishing with a team-leading 22 points to go along with seven rebounds.
There are several secrets to Tolbert's early success at the collegiate level. First, he catches the ball very well on entry and that's no small thing. You can't score if you can't squeeze the orange, and the ability to do just that is what chiefly separates Tolbert from Robert Lewandowski on the offensive end.
Second, Tolbert is becoming a very patient and controlled player. Yes, he obviously loves to score, but he does not force the issue in attempting to do so. If a defender shuts down his first two or three moves, Tolbert dishes the ball off.
Third, Tolbert is becoming a decent defender, as anybody with his athleticism should be. He's an extremely strong player and can root out post players who are larger than him. Tolbert also puts forth good effort on defense.
And finally, Tolbert runs the court very well and knows how to finish with extreme punctuation. In this respect he reminds me of former Rutgers star and eight-year NBA performer, Roy Hinson.
Six-Seven No.2: There has been some speculation as to what Jaye Crockett's role will be in Billy Clyde's high-low post system, that seemingly features Lewandowski and Tolbert. It became apparent during the Grambling contest that Crockett will get many minutes in the high post. When he is the high post, look for Lewandowski or Tolbert down low.
Crockett could excel at this position. He's always been a slick passer in traffic, but showed against Grambling that he is equally adept at the entry pass. If Crockett can consistently hit the fifteen-foot jumper he will be murder in the high post because defenders will not be able to cheat down on Lewandowski and Tolbert in attempt to close off that bounce pass.
Six-Seven No.3: Guard Xavier Rogers led Grambling with 19 points, and almost all of them came on three-pointers. And Rogers hit the majority of his jumpers while five-foot-11 Bean Willis was guarding him. Rogers went silent, however, when Jaron Nash was his nemesis. Nash's height, long, active arms and surprisingly good lateral movement caused severe problems for the six-foot-two Rogers.
I expect to see much more of Nash as a perimeter stopper. We've seen tall, long-armed players be very effective as perimeter defenders against short, quick guards in the past. Prime examples at the NBA level were Stacey Augmon and Michael Cooper. Iowa State's Shawn Bankhead and Georgetown's Boubakar Aw were similarly nightmarish defenders at the collegiate level who never made the jump to the NBA.
Everybody Loves Luke: Few people would have bet a dime on five-foot-nine freshman walk-on Luke Adams from Big Spring being a serious contributor to the Red Raiders, but he is just that. Adams drew the start against Grambling and rewarded Billy Clyde for placing him in the lineup.
Adams single-handedly blew away Grambling's zone defense, but in addition, was a pest on the defensive end, hustling, scrapping and getting his hand on numerous balls. He was also—along with Bean Willis—Tech's leading rebounder in the first half with four caroms.
Adams may or may not be a regular starter once conference play rolls around, but a hustling energy guy who can break down a zone and blend the offense will always get significant minutes.