Some summers, I gorge on pickup basketball. This summer, I’ve held off, mostly because of timing. It’s also fun to wait and see what looks new. Friday afternoon, I took a look at the Shockers in the Heskett Center. No AC. After a miss, Nick Wiggins wanted a redo on the jumper because the ball was so slick. It makes a person appreciate Koch Arena’s climate control.
I feel bound to give my pickup game disclaimer. It’s fun to watch, but I don’t draw many solid conclusions. I’ve discovered that quite often the players who need to play well in pickup games are the ones who play well. I also remember the first time I watched Ryan Martin jog up and down the court at Koch Arena. I figured he didn’t play hard. Of course, Martin turned out to be one of WSU’s all-time effort guys.
Let’s stipulate they didn’t play MVC-level defense. Every time a Shocker drove to the basket, I had visions of a Panther or Purple Ace stepping in to draw a foul. A lot of guys looked good with the ball, and it will be more difficult in January. Obviously, WSU will miss the five seniors (and the ones who graduated the year before). That group played a ton of DI basketball and by the end they knew where to be and when. That will be missed this season. I’m also not sure this team can spread the floor with outstanding three-point shooters like the 2012 team – and it won’t have Garrett Stutz to demand a double team. It might need to get its points in other ways.
Here goes with some notes from Friday:
- Carl Hall made two 15-foot jumpers. Then he took a three-pointer and missed. I don’t think he will be taking threes in games, but coach Gregg Marshall isn’t shy about letting guys who look good shooting let it fly. Hall looked pretty confident out there. Later, he made a short fadeaway over Chadrack Lufile and another 15-foot jumper. If he can do that in games, it’s a huge bonus for WSU’s offense. He will be WSU’s top inside scorer and any additions to his scoring game are important.
- I’m not sure what to make of Tekele Cotton, in a good way. My impulsive urge wants say he’s Darren Brooks in training, but that’s extremely high praise (Brooks won two MVC Player of the Year and two Defensive Player of the Year honors for SIU). Cotton won’t do that, but I won’t be surprised if he gets an All-MVC honor before he’s done. He will likely take a back seat to the senior guards this season, so the real test may come as a junior. He plays defense. He shoots well. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s got surprising athletic ability. I really like his game, for reasons I’m not fully able to explain. Maybe I’m way out on a limb.
- Loved watching Wiggins shoot. He really gets up and his jumper is smooth. I think he can be a double-digit scorer once he adjusts to Division I basketball.
- Lufile runs well for a big man. We’ve seen some big men come in and need time to get in shape. I don’t think that will be a huge hurdle for Lufile. He caught the ball and handled the ball adequately. I didn’t see many back-to-the-basket moves.
- Cleanthony Early was quiet until the last game, when he got in a duel with freshman Derail Green and then he scored several baskets. He looks like a small forward to me, and at 6-8 he will be a big three-man for the MVC.
- The Shockers are fast at a lot of positions and I think this team will be good on the break if it can gets stops and rebounds. There is a lot of depth and coaches will be able to use playing time as a hammer in practice, when needed. Marshall is going to be able to look down his bench and find a replacement for every position.
- Malcolm Armstead and Fred VanVleet regularly drove into the lane and made nice passes to open teammates. Armstead also shot the ball accurately from outside. VanVleet looked to pass first, and he scored mostly in the lane. He took jumpers judiciously. I don’t think either will shoot amazing percentages from three, but it doesn’t appear defenses can totally neglect them.
- Demetric Williams did all the things that got him more playing time last season. He rarely made mistakes, passed the ball and made open shots. Williams and Armstead will be a handful defensively. Both are quick, physical and tenacious defenders. There will be point guards who don’t enjoy their dates with WSU.
- Clevin Hannah played and – flash update – he can still shoot. He will play in France this winter and is excited to move up to a better level of basketball.