Bumped. - BN Eds.
We're 15 days away from the season opener against Drexel. So where are we? DC is doing a multi-part season preview starting here. You may have seen my fanshot about the open practice. I'll summarize my thoughts in this post. But first...
DC talks about the PAC-12 Media Poll here. I think this is right. A few months ago, I was reading anywhere from 2nd to 4th in the league. I believe the national coaches poll now has Oregon ahead of us. Unbelievable. I don't think I'm going overboard on the homerism to say we are a strong #2 in the league, challenging for first (odds of Arizona being overrated again are very high), and finally making it to the Sweet 16. And BTW, I'm sad to say this is my low expectation, but still I must soldier on.
I never had the chance to talk about recruiting over the summer for obvious reasons--there was nothing to talk about. So let me spend a few words on that. I think we get Thomas Welsh, Loyala LA, a 7'0" center (Cal and Stanford are the competition). I've commented on him before-he's definitely a work in progress but seemingly a good fit, will stay four years, and won't scare off some of the big fish.
I also think Daniel Hamilton, Isaac's brother will come. He would be decommitting from Connecticut. Yes, I think this could be a theme in the Alford era--decommits, transfers and other assorted issues (like foreigners-stay tuned). Daniel is a wing, so I don't think this is transformational, but we can't be too picky right now.
There is a possiblity that we get one of the 5 stars left out there: Kevon Looney or Justice Winslow. Both have had there official visits, both are out of state, and both are offered by the big boys. I would go with Looney simply because he is a 6'8" power (or combo) forward, and Winslow is another wing. That said, we are in no position to turn down a 5 star.
Aside from this, we have to hope we put a good season together so that we can convince the still uncommitted-which in this era is an increasing phenomenon, and the rising seniors who haven't been on the radar of the scouts yet. Of course we want a point guard, but no one is on the radar right now. The next guy is a 3 star and not nationally ranked. There are also rumors about PJC decommitting from Arizona because he is being recruited over. I won't hold my breath.
2015 has a mother load of recruits including Steve Zimmerman, #1 in the nation, 7'0", and who's mother is a UCLA alum. Then there is Aaron Holiday, brother of Jrue, and Tyler Dorsey, same school as the Hamiltons. Both of them are combo guards who want to be point guards. Its going to take a very good season and a satisfying style of play to prove that Alford has the goods to get these elite recruits.
What's our play with respect to recruiting? Well Alford isn't going anywhere (Thanks Dan and Alford's lawyer), so you shake up the staff. Grace is already a bust in my opinion.
OK, with the future out of the way, let's talk the practice and other current events. Based on what I saw at the open practice, and Alford' presser Monday (video behind the firewall at BRO), I believe the starting lineup will be Kyle, Jordan, Norman and the Wear twins. Alford did say that defensive rebounding is his biggest concern, and Tony Parker and Kyle are his two best defensive rebounders. I was surprised by this given what I saw Sunday. I didn't think Tony was ready for prime time. Though his body is transformed, it didn't look to me like he even knows how to box out. I would definitely welcome a surprise appearance in the staring lineup against CS San Bernardino (exhibition) on October 30.
Alford's comments also tell me there will be a lot of flexibility with the lineups. Unlike Ben, he seems to be acknowledging the nuances in personnel which will lead to a lot of different looks on both offense and defense. While Kyle will handle most of the chores at PG, Norman will cover the opposing 1 (no news there), but you will see Kyle all over the court, especially if we need rebounding. You will also see Kyle post up his defender (Ben never did this). It will be interesting to see who the other team puts on Kyle. It will be a challenge for the defender whether its a guard or a forward. Alford sounds like he knows he has to take advantage of what he has: a big lineup, but not particularly athletic, with shooters.
I think, finally, we will see a lot of zone, in earnest, and an organized attempt to fast break. Also, with the motion offense, 85% of the time, there is no designed play, so don't expect the standing around--like with Ben.
Now to player evaluations:
Kyle Anderson: He's clearly established himself as the leader and alpha of the team. He's going to do what he's always wanted--be the prime ball handler. In a motion offense, this is not the same role as in Ben's offense. That said, I hope Kyle can actually bring the ball up to initiate the offense when Dominic Artis is pressing him full court. I've expressed concerns about this situation for a while now. Its not ideal. Kyle won't cover the other 1. The team loses energy when players have to run all over the court to find their man in transition back on D. Fortunately, Alford will probably use a fair amount of zone, and the motion offense doesn't have a Larry Drew-type standing at the top calling the plays.
Kyle won't be here next here, so I expect him to have a big year to showcase his talents in spite of the organizational challenges. He's starting from a good base at the end of last year. I do expect big things, but I'm not sure whether he's going to be the big assist man, the rebounder, or the defensive closer on a 3 or 4 (intentionally left out shooter).
Jordan Adams: What else can I say? Out-of-shape due to injury, he's already the best player on the court. I think he's back next year. I wish he had better prospects for the NBA. He's a guy who is going to have to prove himself in training camp because the scouts don't like his body type or perceived lack of athleticism. What you can't measure is that he seems to have a hand in on every rebound and every steal. I sincerely hope he gets the opportunity. The 2 in the NBA is usually the top scorer or the defensive closer. That's probably not Jordan, but I think he can be an off-the-bench role player.
If I'm not mistaken, Alford has totally given him the green light to shoot. He took shots he shouldn't take--especially if you are just getting back. Alford did stop scrimmage once after a bad shot to vaguely say into the ether that everyone should be looking for the smart pass. I would say that Jordan has developed swagger knowing he's option one. Let's see if he's still the happy warrior.
Zach Lavine: I think everyone already knows about his hops and highlight reel dunks. Sunday, I saw cat-like moves. I don't think anyone can cover this guy. Can he use that in a game situation? I'm not sure. I commented before that I hope he develops a power move to the hoop. You only need to ditch your defender once, then go to the hoop. I'm seeing the Jordan James joystick in him. On a basketball court, that's wasted if you shake, bake and then pass. The motion offense isn't famous for taking your defender off the dribble. I'd like to see Zach do it anyway, and I'd like to see Kyle and Bryce pass to him cutting or back door. Oh, and he has a sweet jay. Finally, with Schillling's help, he just might be fast enough to cover a 1--but just not tomorrow.
Tony Parker: He is the difference between finishing #2 or 3 in the PAC-12, and being a final four contender. Unfortunatley, I don't think we are going to get the 5 star McDonald's All-American this year (make believe this is his freshman year and next year he makes the mythical sophmore jump). Lost Weight: check. Runs up and down: check. Will commit fewer fouls: check. Will cover his man: probably. Will block shots: maybe. Will rebound: no. I hope he doesn't get discouraged, and sticks it out. If not, we know it was never meant to be, and there are some new guys on the horizon who might displace him. Given Alford's comments on Tony, I could very well be surprised. Stay tuned.
Norman Powell: Make or break year. I think he's getting a clean slate with Alford who wants to give the vets a shot first. Also, in a man-to-man, the only guy who can cover a quick point guard..but probably not a Carson or Artis. I have to say, he seemed more happy-go-lucky at the meet and greet after the practice, so you dont always know what someone is thinking. Though not as cat-like as Zach, he does have a power move to the basket, and a running game might benefit him. Norman is in a wing glut with Zach on his tail. Frankly, he probably would have been better served to go to a SDST or LBST unless, in a good regime here, he is or was willing to come off the bench as a defensive specialist or offensive catalyst.
Bryce Alford: Positives: smart player, excellent passer, feet not as leaden as I thought. Negatives: shot form and consistency not as good as advertised, can't hang with any guard on defense. Best case scenario: we are where we are. He probably gets 15 minutes a game backing up at the 1 and 2.
Wears: no changes to report.
Bail: I thought he was a week away from running. Sounds more indefinite now. I hope its just caution and a poker face. This would effectively mean no serious contribution this year. The guy is an incredible physical specimen--I'm thinking Albert Aboya. We'd take that.
Noah Allen: Invisible thus far.
Isaac Hamilton: will likely sit out the year. It's a shame. I read reports about his lack of lateral quickness, etc., not to mention that he is a head case. All overblown in IMO. I spoke to the kid-I like him. Redshirts simply just don't get much action in practice, and and at some point, they are likely to not go all out. That said, I saw him stay with anyone he guarded (except maybe one sequence on Zach LaVine). If, in fact, we don't bring in a point guard for 2014, and we are shooting for 2015, then I believe he will be the starting point guard next season. He's a 5 star, and does look the part. Sweet stroke, and effortless moves, but he is not going to be a Zach LaVine (Zach is not LaVine yet) athletically, or have the power and dedication of a Russell Westbrook.
OK, there you have it--overblown and bloated as per usual. I'm a glutton for punishment, so for $10 per ticket for the CS San Bernardino exhibition, I may not be able to resist seeing who steps out on the court first for Alford. Look for a short thread/fanshot...there will probably others from our family out there like luv.