After a slow start, State came out and dominated Lynn in every facet of the game. It was the first game for this Wolfpack team against another opponent and the first look anyone has gotten outside of practice on how this team would mesh. Before we get started, lets first remember that this was superior talent that the Pack went up against (nothing against Lynn U). Their was a large discrepancy in both size and athleticism between the two teams and from what the Pack will face the rest of the year. Along with that, this was also the first time stepping on the court against college competition for many of the Pack players, and a long time in over a year for everyone else outside Abu, Anya, and Rowan. So expect alot of guys to be knocking off rust, adjusting to the game, and not be able to do some of the things they can do against lesser competition. With that said, lets begin with a quick overview of the offense and Defense overall.
The offense came out very slow on Thursday night. My guess was a combination of nerves and over excitement for the season to start. But either way, the Pack seemed to rush alot of shots early on which lead to some difficult contested and off the dribble pull ups. They also came out ice cold, as some of the shots were wide open looks that the Pack just couldn’t get to fall. Through a good portion of the first half, the offense seemed out of sync. It wasn’t till late in the half that State started to impose their will over the much smaller Lynn lineup. The pack started to dominate in the post and seemed to get to the lane at will. In the second half, State outright dominated. The ball movement was MUCH better than it was to start the game, they were able to push the ball on the break to get easy baskets, and they were able to penetrate and kick to get some wide open shots. This Pack team has plenty of guys who can handle the ball and will be a tough team down the line to full court press with their combination of speed and ball handelers.
Much like the offense, the defense got off to a slow start as well. Early on the Pack looked pretty bad actually, giving up alot of dribble penetration to the smaller gaurds and the big seemed slow to help over screens. This let to players getting deep in the lane and getting shots from close range or a kick out for an open 3. There were plenty of times there early as well that some of the freshman took too many risks to try and get steals leading to easy drives to the basket or other defenders to collapse in the lane. This probably has more to do with being a freshman/trying to get a highlight dunk than anything but definitely something for the film room. There were also quite a few occasions where players were pulled out of postion on pump fakes which is something I find most freshman struggle with on the next level(and still BJ Anya). But overall, the defense looked pretty good, especially in the second half, where they held Lynn to just 9 points in 11 minutes of play. This state team has very good length with Terry Henderson back as well as some players with good instincts for the ball. Their match-up zone gave Lynn alot of trouble and looked like a good option for State to mix it up with later in the season. Again, its harder to tell sometimes given the skillset and small stature of the gaurds on this team. But I think the team has the pieces to be very strong defensively given they are willing to put in the effort to be great defensively which is larger what a good defensive is made of.
Alright finally on the the players:
Note: Kapita still has not been cleared by the NCAA and was unable to play in the exhibition.
Lets Begin with what everyone is waiting for and the guy who impressed the most,
Dennis for the most part lived up to his hype. He was able to get where he wanted to on the court when he wanted too with his explosive first step. Then when he gets to the rim, his explosive jumping ability make him difficult to block and puts him in good position to finish or get to the free throw line. Smith also showed GREAT use of his body going to the basket. I use great because he is just a freshman, and that sort of use of drawing contact is often a skill that take a few years in college to get good at(exception TJ Warren who was the master of this). Smith also displayed his ability to play the pick and roll. The combination of his speed and court vision make it nearly impossible to gaurd as he either got to the rim or made a sharp pass to a cutting/popping big for an open look. Most importantly for Smith is he showed a nice touch on his jump shot. If he can knock down enough shots to keep defenders honest, he will be a handful night in and night out. Sorry to go on about Smith, he did have a much smaller defender on him which made his life much easier, but Smith showed enough savvy out on the court last night to get Pack fans(or at least me) excited.
Abu was Abu. He absolutely dominated in the post against Lynn. He was too strong and too athletic for any of them to handle. We did not see much of his jump shot which will be important for him as the competition get tougher but he did try a few posts moves that lead to free throws. Overall, there is no doubt that he is a beast down low, but we really did not get to see much that he haven’t seen already. Once state faces a tougher opponent and Abu isn’t as overpowering we will be able to give you a better breakdown. But a very good game for Abu, putting up a double double with efficient scoring and dominating the blocks with rebounding and defense and at the very least it was very clear he has worked hard the offseason getting his body in even better condition for the upcoming season.
This was the first glimpse of the new bigger, taller Mav. He ran a decent amount at the 4 and it seemed for the most part he was able to hold his own down there against Lynn. There were also times were Mav would rebound and push the ball up court which is a huge plus to have from your 4. Mav’s jumper started off a little shaky but he continued where he left off last year in terms of being unafraid to shoot when he gets a look. Hopefully, and there were glimpses, where Smith was able to penetrate deep in the lane and kick for an open look. These easier set looks should greatly improve his shooting percentage this year. Even when Rowans shot was off early, he still showcased his overall scoring savvy, cutting the lane for an open look, or being in the right spot on a put back or break to get an easy bucket. Rowan looked like he was a little more fleet of foot and in better shape this year as well, though he may never be a lock down defender, it will be hard to keep him off the court with his size and ability to find ways to score and stretch the D. It was a good showing overall for Rowan on both sides of the ball, even showcasing some shot blocking abilities with the added length!
Terry, like the theme of the rest of this article, started slow and looked like a guy who hadn’t played in a real game in over 2 years. Terry’s shot struggled early but it was good to see his confidence in his shot as he never shied away from shooting. Terry has a good looking stroke, squaring up to the basket and a good release and once he gets in the groove of things, like he started to late in the game, showed signs of being a real threat from the outside. At first on defense Terry struggled with blow buys while guarding a guy who looked to be half his size, but as the game wore on you could really start to see the havoc he can cause on defense with his great length and athleticism. I think he had at least one steal on a cross court pass and nearly missed at least 2 others. Henderson also showcased his athleticism with a few big dunks on the break.
Dorn was a player I was really excited to see play, as I think many of the fans were too. Coming off a CUSA freshamn of the year award, you knew this kid had to be pretty good. While there were a few times he somewhat forced the issue on his drives and missed a couple jumpers, you could clearly see Dorn’s energy and athleticism out there. He has good strength as well to withstand contact and finish around the rim. He also finished with 8 rebounds which put him second behind Abu. Dorn is definitely an energy guy, which is always a huge asset to any team, especially when the offense starts to lull at times. He attacks the basket and is not afraid of contact. He also looked very good on the defensive side, consistently playing aggressive.
Hicks got a decent amount of run Thursday and we saw some good things from him. Hicks did not show us anything really from an offensive prospective but did show good length and athleticism out there on defense and rebounding the ball. There were a few breakdowns for him on defense off ball screens but nothing surprising being the first game as a freshman. Hicks may not show us a bunch on the offensive side this year but he should be a guy who can spell some of the bigs and help out defensively and with rebounding.
I’ll say it now, Yurtseven is going to be a game changer when he is done with his suspension. First things first, you can’t teach size. He is a big guy who moves very well for his height, along with that, he also posses great hands and a high basketball IQ. From the moment he stepped on the court, you could see the spacing he created. He is going to be deadly on the pick and roll with the ability to both roll to the rim or pop and and shoot. He also showed us he has good vision for a big man and found multiple cutters going to the basket. While he was the biggest guy on the court, Yurt showcased some very skilled one-on-one post skills, utilizing multiple pump fakes to get his man out of position. Lastly, he showed us his ability to run the court on the break, getting down court on the break a few times for open dunks. Very exicted for this big man to play for the pack. He will need to adjust to the more physical style of play but overall his IQ and skill set should make him an immediate factor when he finally gets to suit up for the Pack.
Markell is a true PG. The learning curve is always steep for freshman PG’s and he will have alot to learn and adjust too but he just looked like a guy who knows how to run a basketball team. He is also a freak athlete, but if you saw any highlights you can see why. He showcased a quick first step and the ability to drive and find the open man. Though we are deep at the wings, Gottfried tried, and I would not be surprised if he went with on occasion the 2 PG lineup. I’m excited for what Markell brings to the table, while obviously not the Lottery Pick talent of Smith, come mid season, Markell should be a more than viable backup to spell Smith. He may not put up the points like Smith, but he is a guy who can attack the basket and will make the players around him better.
Kirk showed good improvement from last year. While he still doesn’t quite have the skill set to garner major minutes, he is a long, very athletic wing who is able to defend well and play above the rim. Most of Kirk baskets were around the rim, but he did show a nice looking jump shot even though he was unable to knock one down. Kirk moves very well for his size and is very springy. His minutes will more likely come when he is needed to guard a long athletic wing like himself. He still needs to improve his handle to be a wing player and sure up his jump shot before he can make a major impact, but will certainly be a guy who can come off the bench as a strong defender and high energy guy.
Last is Spencer Newman
He did not get many minutes, but he did come in before any of the deeper bench guys which give you the idea that he is someone on Gottfried’s mind as possibly using at some point. Spencer is a little undersized and slow to be a consistent 2 gaurd right now, but this kid can flat out shoot. He struggled some of the defensive side of the ball in his limited minutes but that was no different than any of the starters early in the game. I think Newman may be able to get some court time this year due to his ability to knock down the 3 ball. Maybe not long minutes but his shot and quick release could make him a good quick zone killer.
Thats all we got guys, what are your thoughts after the first game about this team? Remember, and as I said earlier, this was against division 2 talent so alot of this will definitely change and I wouldn’t be too quick to take much out of this game. But either way, it was good to see those guys out there and at the very least was encouraging for things to come!