Scrimmage Review

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Scrimmage Review

Post by Stonehouse on Thu Oct 25, 2007 1:24 pm

A bit late, but better late than never, right?

http://blog.oregonlive.com/pilots/

The highlight of last weekend for me was the men's basketball season ticket holder event/scrimmage that happened this Saturday. Not only did I get a swanky new blanket as a gift, but I also finally got the chance to check out all the new players in action. And I've got to be honest - I came away impressed. I thought a lot of the new guys looked smart and skilled and it was great to see some improvement in the returning players and to see them hitting shots. All in all, it was very encouraging and I left with dreams of a fifth place finish in the WCC in my head! Smile

The format of the scrimmage was pretty simple - three 10 minute periods with the rosters changing a little bit after each session. In marked contrast from last season's season ticket holder scrimmage, the team looked in sync and like they had really put in a lot of work during the summer and early practices. Two players were missing - Taishi Ito is back home in Japan due to his father's illness (prayers to his family!) and BJ Porter tweaked his knee (or was it ankle?) in practice and sat out.

Most of all, I was impressed by the play of the freshmen big guys. I thought Kramer Knutson looked very solid, both defensively and on offense. He didn't make many mistakes, was able to handle to ball pretty well, and could finish the shots he should have. He didn't create a whole lot for himself, but honestly just having a guy who can receive the ball in the post and either make a good pass or finish is very, very nice. I think everyone will be pleased with Knutson's game - not flashy, but smart and solid. It's nice to think we'll have a guy like that for the next four years.

Luke Sikma showed some good shooting range (he hit a three) and some nice passes. You can just tell that he has a great feel for the game. I think of all the freshmen on the team, he has the most potential to be a truly terrific player. Once he develops the aggressiveness and fire that it will take to make it at the next level, he really could explode. But until that point, he's still got enough skill to be serviceable, especially at the high post where he can utilize his vision and passing skills.

As for big Jasonn Hannibal... I went in expecting nothing more than a big body with a long way to go, and I came away impressed. He was able to finish pretty well around the hoop, and he is just so massive that he can clog up the lane pretty well on the defensive end. He did get whistled for a lot of fouls and mishandled a few entry passes - clear signs that he still has plenty of work to do - but you really can see the potential in his game. I was watching him battle against Kramer down low, and there were times when Kramer quite literally could not get around him in the post because he is just so darn big. I'm not expecting a whole lot this year, but if he puts in the work... it's tantalizing to think about what he might be able to become.

The new guards also looked pretty promising. Nik Raivio is knocked down a couple of threes and looked pretty comfortable running the offense and spotting up. He's smart, made some nice passes... he's just knows how to play basketball. He's not necessarily explosive and I don't remember him ever trying to penetrate, but then again I only watched him play for about half an hour. Make no mistake - the kid can play and will be a vital part of the team over the next three years. From my standpoint, I think he will make a terrific back-court partner with Ito. Just think... in two years, when both of them are seniors... ah, but I'm getting ahead of myself. Smile

Jared Stohl also looked pretty good, though his shot seemed a bit off. Still, I love that we'll have a guy on the team who both has confidence in his shot and is not afraid to shoot it if he's open. Outside shooting was a major weakness of the team last year, and it allowed opposing defenses to basically not even guard the perimeter and dare us to shoot. Now, with guys like Stohl and Raivio (and Ito, whose shot I've heard has improved over the offseason), maybe we'll have some guys who can stretch the defense a bit - especially if we've got guys who can distribute the ball pretty well out of the post. I know he's a freshman and will take his lumps, but I like his attitude and his scrappiness. Given the lack of depth at guard, I think he will definitely see plenty of minutes at the one and the two.

As for returning players... Robin Smeulders and Sherrard Watson both looked pretty good. Smeulders got off to a slow start and didn't really do a whole lot in the first period, but he got rolling by the end. He definitely can handle the ball well and has some shooting range, but he also has some pretty good post moves too. He's definitely slender and not a physical player, but he's got skill for sure. If I had to guess right now who this team's leading scorer will be, it's Smeulders. I think his inside-outside game will allow him more opportunities than the other guys on the team and that he's got the ability to score when needed. And since he's the only "returning" post player on the team - he sat out last year - he has more time with the offense, coaches, and other players than anyone else.

I must say that I was pretty impressed with Sherrard's play too. He definitely looked more confident and comfortable on the floor. I think he has embraced the role as the team's only senior and has put in the work to become a more consistent performer for the team. He was clearly the most athletic guy out on the floor and had a few explosive drives to the basket. I know that our offense doesn't really rely on isolating guys for a one-on-one (of course, we haven't had someone who could actually do that since Pooh, Donald, and healthy Cooper), but it's nice to know Sherrard has that ability and can give opposing defense a different look. I think making good decisions and playing in control will be the key for Sherrard... he's not a great outside shooter, but it would be great if he could develop into a guy who can at least hit an open shot if defenses give it to him. If nothing else, it's amazing how much he has improved his game since he first walked on to the Bluff and I hope that he has a good senior year to help reward him for all the work he's put in.

Ethan Niedermeyer looked improved as well. He hit a shot or two, made some good defensive plays, and seemed to be pretty calm out on the floor. Last year, sometimes it seemed like everything was happening a little too quickly out there and he seemed a bit lost. At this scrimmage, he seemed much more comfortable, even though he switched teams for every period, I think. If he can continue to work on his shot I think he can be a fine contributor off the bench and he always brings hustle out on to the court.

Most surprising to me, however, was the play of Walter Thompson and Marcus Carter. Thompson had a great day, knocking down shots and attacking the hoop. Carter also looked pretty good, scoring some buckets and making some other plays. Neither of them contributed a whole lot last year, but it does look like both have improved. If Thompson can hit shots consistently, he could be a contributor. In terms of ball-handling and defense... not so much. But maybe as instant offense off the bench when a team is killing us with a zone? Maybe. If nothing else, it was encouraging to see him playing well. I still think his minutes will be limited, but he definitely looked better than he did last season.

Ditto for Carter. I would love, love, love, LOVE it if Carter turned the corner and became a regular member of the rotation. The small forward spot is a weakness after Sherrard, so we'll need someone to step up and fill the minutes. Niedermeyer seems the likely candidate at the moment (with maybe even Smeulders sliding over there too), but Carter does still have potential. I'm not sure I've seen enough yet to think he will step up and be a consistent performer, but there were some encouraging signs at the scrimmage anyway.

So... that's it for now. The first game is on Halloween... SIX DAYS! Hard to believe. The Pilots will be playing Concordia in an exhibition game before really starting the season in Fresno on Nov. 9.

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Re: Scrimmage Review

Post by upsailor on Thu Oct 25, 2007 1:55 pm

Very good Stonehouse, I don't think Reveno could do any better.
For myself, I saw what you saw, and while I think a fifth place finish is a reach, its not impossible IF the new players work hard to improve. That also goes for players like Thompson and Carter who appear as you say, to have improved their play.
Knutson, I like a lot, good work ethic.Stohl, while playing the point, I felt dribbled a little too much and would be late in involving others. Cureable.

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Re: Scrimmage Review

Post by PilotNut on Thu Oct 25, 2007 2:32 pm

I have to agree that I walked away from the scrimmage feeling cautiously optimistic... I really liked what I saw with the "new" team.

Did anyone else notice if it was indeed Jack Sikma (Luke's Dad, in case you didnt know!) in the house?! I saw a guy walking around afterward that looked a lot like him, but I couldnt be 100% sure.

Sikma is now an assistant coach for the Houston Rockets, under Rick Adelman.... how cool is it to have Jack tied into the program, too?!

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Re: Scrimmage Review

Post by upforever on Fri Oct 26, 2007 12:58 pm

Stonehouse wrote:A bit late, but better late than never, right?

http://blog.oregonlive.com/pilots/

Most surprising to me, however, was the play of Walter Thompson and Marcus Carter. Thompson had a great day, knocking down shots and attacking the hoop. Carter also looked pretty good, scoring some buckets and making some other plays. Neither of them contributed a whole lot last year, but it does look like both have improved.
It would be sweet if these two can provide quality mins off the bench !

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