After watching several scrimmages with my son, I made the following observations:
Players present (including non-Purdue players) at one or more of the scrimmages:
(DNP - did not play while we were watching)
Willie Deane DK Ivan Kartelo Chris Booker Kenny Lowe David Teague Matt Carroll Matt Kiefer Brett Buscher Austin Parkinson Brandon McKnight Andrew Ford Melvin Buckley Kevin Garrity (DNP) Greg McQuay Brad Miller Russell Trudeau (DNP) John Allison (DNP)
and others who remain unidentified
First, some general observations and disclaimers: - the scrimmages were merely pickup games with little or no structure to them. How players played in that context certainly has little or no bearing on how they might play in a more structured offense and defense. - scrimmages were generally played to 5 or 10 baskets with breaks in between games. Players rotated in when there were more than 10 present. - games were generally fast paced but with a fair amount of passing on occasion. Man defense used exclusively of course. Players called their own fouls and were generally pretty fair in the calls. - overall, the games were not really intense though the play would elevate on occasion as one or more players would make a really good play causing the others to pick it up. Chemistry between teammates seemed what you would expect from student athletes tired of summer school and endless weight training regimens. Plenty of good natured ribbing but generally subdued. Players often sat off by themselves between games. However, there were no tempers that flared up despite an occasional hard foul. Even Brad Miller seemed somewhat amused by Kenny Lowe's constant verbal and physical harassment...
Common matchups: Willie Deane vs. DK Brandon McKnight vs. Austin Parkinson or Andrew Ford Kenny Lowe vs. David Teague vs. Melvin Buckley Matt Carroll vs. Chris Booker or Matt Kiefer Brett Buscher vs. Matt Kiefer Ivan Kartelo vs. Chris Booker or Brad Miller other matchups occurred but not with any observed regularity.
Some notes about each player's performances:
The guards and small forwards... Willie Deane - quick as a cat off the dribble. Gave DK fits trying to contain him. A LOT of very creative drives into a very crowded lane. Finished exceedingly well despite being hammered in the lane. Somehow got the ball above the rim amidst a sea of waving hands every time. Easily the most entertaining player in the scrimmages. Constantly caused my son, Mikey, to drop his jaw in amazement. Face it, he is super quick with major hops and gets great hang time as he maneuvers the ball in and around grasping defensive hands. Hit numerous 3's effortlessly beyond the arc even with DK in his face. His outside shooting was somewhat streaky but when he wanted it, he usually hit it. Defense was adequate though DK and others got around him on occasion. Seems to be content to let someone get around him knowing he has the hops to block any shot from behind without fouling. Recorded more blocks than anyone in the scrimmages including blocks against DK and Kartelo among others. His hops may be part of the reason he has been somewhat lax with on-ball defense. Why not? When you can block anyone in the gym, why worry about IYF defense? Of course, Gene Keady might see things a little differently...
DK - Very enjoyable to watch as he is extremely fluid in transition. Finishes exceptionally well. Outside shooting remains streaky. His body rotates as he shoots which can only make it tougher to compensate with his wrist to keep the ball square as he releases. Very consistent motion though. Can sky as well as anyone with superior springs. Rarely showed his hops except for a couple of boards and blocks on the break. Was forced to release high to get his shot off over Deane on numerous occasions. However, Deane never got a finger on any of DK's treys. Did not look to penetrate as much as Willie. Seemed to work on defense though effort all around was about the same as the others in a hot, humid Mackey at the end of a long day.
Brandon McKnight - Like a good waiter, Brandon kind of disappeared into the flow of the games. Seemed to play inspred defense, passed well, penetrated pretty much at will when he wanted which wasn't a lot. Took few forced shots and seemed to move well without the ball. He has deceptive quickness and can accelerate as quickly as anyone I have ever seen with the possible exception of Kenny Lowe. Plays within himself and rarely got himself out of position. Perhaps because of the conditions, he did not dominate Park on offense or defense. It was a very good matchup between two talented guards. Brandon hit some outside shots with ease but is not the shooter that Willie or DK is. Brandon is probably the most versatile of the point guards.
Austin Parkinson - This kid is old school all the way. Tough, determined and easily the best passer on the team. The jaw-dropping wizardry of his passes were only exceeded entertainment-wise by Willie's gravity defying drives to the hoop. This kid can get the ball to the right man in a major hurry. This was the first time I saw him (and the others) in person but he looked like he has REALLY bulked up more than anyone except for Matt Carroll or Ivan Kartelo. Actually, Mikey and I were surprised at how quick Austin really seemed as he completely torched Willie on one drive that left Deane in knots. To Willie's credit though, he recovered and skyed to block Austin's layup from behind. Too bad it was a foul! Anyway, Park's shooting seems marginally better than last year from what I observed though I heard from several sources that his shooting is much improved. I guess we'll see. His on-ball defense seems pretty tight and kept Brandon at bay for the most part. Whether that is because Brandon chose NOT to drive, I cannot tell from my limited exposure. In any case, whether Brandon drives the team or Austin, we will not be hurting in either case IMHO. Word has it that Brandon will get the nod though. It seems to be the general conclusion that Brandon brings a few more weapons to the table.
Kenny Lowe - Wow! Is this guy on a mission or what? Clearly the most intense player on the floor at all times bar none. Incredible acceleration, smooth-as-silk movement, fearless pit-bull drives to the hoop. Easily the best defensive player on the team. He shoots well and drives almost as easily as Willie though he did tend to go out of control on occasion as bodies would fly. Ferocious rebounder not afraid to mix it up with the likes of Brad Miller. In fact, Kenny blocked Brad's shot from behind once causing many whoops and catcalls. On another occasion, Kenny quite literally mugged Brad as he tried to board over him from behind. He landed on Brad's broad back and proceeded to wrangle him from behind. Of course, Brad finally stood straight up and merely shrugged him off but the incident left a smile of respect on Brad's face as he chuckled and shook his head at Kenny. For awhile, Kenny seemed on a crusade to be a major thorn in Brad's side every time he touched the ball. Anyway, Kenny seems to have some rust but that should quickly disappear. He shows no signs of any nagging injuries. A deceptively good ball handler, Kenny could easily play the point IMHO.
David Teague - Very fast and fluid on the break. A very good finisher even in traffic. Good shooter and seems to be able to create his own shot though he did not show a lot of moves to the hoop. Most of his moves were of the stop and pop variety. Good pump fakes and squares up nicely with a good high release on his shot. Very active off the ball and looks to use screens very well. Now we just need someone to get him some screens! Adequate defender but was no match for Kenny when he made up his mind to go to the hole. In time, with experience, Teague will get quicker and learn to read his man better. Again, considering the conditions, nobody but Lowe really put a lot into defense.
Melvin Buckley - a very pleasant and well-spoken young man who seems to have an excellent attitude. Did not get to see him play significant minutes but what time we did see, he was very well balanced with excellent overall skills. Can drive and pull up and stroke the J with no effort. Is quick and runs the break with ease. He did not see the ball enough for me to offer any significant insights. He was the only one on the men's team besides Kevin Garrity to actually come up to me and my son and strike up a conversation with us. He is very polite, respectful and quite enthusiastic about his opportunity. He will make a fine addition to the Boiler family. I wish more people were like him.
Andrew Ford - Actually I was quite impressed with this young man. Obviously very grounded in fundamental skills no doubt learned from his talented father. He ended up playing about the same amount of floor time as Park with similar results. He is a good passer and playmaker. He could drive when it was prudent and could hit the open J when it was available. He showed very few weaknesses. In fact, perhaps more so than others more talented than he, Andrew knew how to play within his capabilities better than most on the floor. He did not try to force any part of his game and could be counted on to play quality backup minutes with minimal risk of losing any advantage due to his heady play. He is scrappy and appears fearless when it comes to fighting for a board with much bigger players or driving the lane on a fast break to draw in the defense. He seems smart and savvy and plays under control at all times. He may never end up starting but he will never hurt the team either. Andrew was certainly not out of his league in the pickup games and could be counted on to be a steady contributer in whatever role Gene may have for him.
From discussions I had with individuals who are a part of the program, the biggest question seems to be whether or not this group will, in fact, gel into a cohesive unit. In my opinion, the talent is there at all positions but how it is integrated into a complete team with good chemistry will make the difference between a losing campaign and a potential contender. Tomorrow, the forwards and post players...
continuing on with the scrimmage assessments from last week, I will offer some thoughts on the big guys... First of all, I want to make sure everyone knows EXACTLY how I feel about Kevin Garrity. While all of you may want to debate his skills and potential until you're blue in the face, I want to go on record that I am very proud to have a kid of his character and caliber as a member of the Purdue basketball team. After having talked to him on numerous occasions last week and after he spent some quality time talking to my kid, Kevin Garrity is one of the classiest, most courteous and sincere kids you will ever have the privilege to meet. Whether he ever starts for this program or ever averages more than 1 point per game, his presence on the team sets a very positive example for the other teammates in how they should conduct themselves. He is one of the few players who came out on their own to practice outside of the scrimmages (taking off his cast to do it as well) and worked hard at improving his shooting and free throws. He is truly a fine ambassador for Purdue basketball. And if it is my choice between having a team of Kevin Garrity's who finish middle of the pack every year vs. a team of thugs and criminals who go to the final four on a regular basis, then screw the final four IMHO! With the likes of Kevin Garrity, I think he can be a great influence on getting the right kids who might get us to the final four the right way. So say what you will about this kid but you can count me on his side for the remainder of his days at my alma mater! Now, enough of the sanctimony.
Brett Buscher - Brett played sparingly and, unfortunately, twisted his ankle to put an end to his scrimmaging. From what he told me, the injury is not significant and he should be on the court again around the time school starts. From what I saw of him while he was in the games, he was very aggressive (!!!) and crashed the boards with authority albeit occasionally a little out of control. But after a few years of Purdue's timid rebounding, I'll take a little out of control from anyone! He finishes better around the hole than previously though still missed an occasional point blank when challenged. Of course, when you are challenged by people like Booker and Kartelo, it is not such a crime. His shooting seems about the same and his overall game looks pretty much as it was from last year. He has grown and bulked up but is still pretty thin by comparison to, say, Matt Carroll. My guess is that he is more aggressive, smarter and stronger than last year. That can only help this year. I really think Buscher is one whose game shines more within an organized team game than in street ball scrimmages.
Matt Carroll - Watching him on TV last year, he seemed about the same size as Brett but somewhat softer. That would be freshmen, I guess. Matt Carroll is anything but that now. Do you remember the Jim Rowinski transformation? Well, Matt is huge now. I don't know what weight he is but let's just say that with his mass and muscle, not many bangers in the Big Ten will move him around very easily. He is clearly more physical and active than any of our big people. Booker had his hands full and more in trying to handle Carroll. Plain and simple, this guy is a load! Even Kartelo, as big as he had grown, had trouble pushing him around. As for his game, Carroll runs the floor very well, is absolutely not afraid to go hard to the hole and finish. He definitely looks to be the most aggressive rebounder on the team at this point. Matt can shoot all the way out to the 3 but seems to be most comfortable in the 10-15 ft. range. He also has a really nice, soft jump hook effective out to almost 10 ft. His defense is aggressive and has no problem with holding his ground on the low block. He seems quite good at positioning, footwork and blocking out and doesn't seem prone to trying to block shots. Instead, he seems to simply go straight up and get his hand in your face trying to disrupt the shot rather than swatting at it which tends to result in fouls. He seems to play smart and aggressive at the same time which is very appealing to me. In fact, if he plays good D and boards well in team practice this fall, I would be surprised if he were not the starter at the 4. On the other hand, it was mentioned to me that he might be a candidate for a redshirt especially considering his major I was told. With Booker, Buscher and Kartelo battling him for only two spots, it could be a reasonable idea. However, he just looks too good for that to happen. In fact, most seem to think he is the one who has made the most progress in the off season. From what I saw, I cannot argue!
Chris Booker - This kid is a workhorse and tends to play the baseline or at the low block. He seems quiet and reserved but is not afraid of getting physical. Watching him gave me the impression he was only playing about 50% as you could just sense he could explode at any moment. However, he never really did save for a couple of pretty definitive slams down low. He has good natural footwork and maneuvers well in tight spaces. However, he did try to go over people for rebounds rather than block out. That might have been because he was tired (he played in almost all the scrimmages...) in a hot, humid arena. I wouldn't make too much about that until we see it in games. When he does get good position, he gets the board, plain and simple. He has strong hands and has no problem finishing if he gets loose underneath. His shot range extends to 3 pt territory (doesn't it for all big men??? lol) and he does have a really nice baseline fadeaway J that has nice arch. He did not seem all that excitable but if he gets that way, I don't think you want to get in his way, IMHO. Defensively, he will work you and does not give ground easily. Kartelo and Chris had some pretty good shoving matches out there as he did with Carroll as well. This guy is all business and could be a good one. The question is how intense he can get. Plays very similar to Joe Barry with slightly less quickness but more raw power. It will be a close battle between Booker, Carroll and Kartelo for the two low post starting jobs. And if Buscher has improved, that will make it even closer.
Ivan Kartelo - He is an interesting mix of physical muscle and finesse. He looks definitely bigger than the photos I have seen. Evidently he has been hefting weights quite a bit. In fact, he is even bigger while at the same time more trim than Brad Miller. However, he has a few things to learn from Brad who was clearly not playing at his peak in these games. Brad definitely muscled Ivan and to Kartelo's credit, stood his ground pretty well. As a matter of fact, the two kind of look like clones - at least game wise. Ivan has a nice soft touch all the way out to, you guessed it, 3 pt territory. Yet at the same time he can finish down low. He tends to set up on the high block and then work his way down. He and Booker had some really good wrestling matches with Kartelo getting a slight edge. He seems stronger than Chris but is not as athletic. Ivan also does not work for low inside position off the dribble. He tends to get you on your heels and then spin around and hit the 5-10 ft. J. He is a good rebounder but is not as active as Carroll in getting position. He does have very good footwork but, again due to the playing conditions, may not have been fired up enough to fight around the block outs when he was on offense. On defense, his blocking out seemed quite adequate and when he got his hands on the ball, like Booker, he didn't let go. He runs exceptionally light and well for a big guy but simply cannot keep up with Willie, Lowe and DK. If they don't have a jam on the break and have to kick it out to the perimeter, if they can wait a few moments, they will get plenty of board support from the 3 big guys. Can they wait that long this year? Good question. Kartelo seems pretty smart, has a great attitude and sense of humor and is not afraid to roll up his sleeves and bang. If he avoids the usual shooting guard siren song to which all big men seem prone, he could easily become our starting post.
Matt Kiefer - Matt is very fluid and quick for a guy his size. He moves effortlessly around the court. In fact, I could see him possibly at the 3 considering is smooth shooting touch from anywhere on the floor. He is capable of banging but is not as physical as, say, Matt Carroll. He definitely had his hands full with the other Matt but not to the point where he was dominated. He leverages his height quite well on defense and is quick enough on his feet to draw charges from slower moving posts. He is aggressive on the glass but due to his thinner frame, can get pushed out of the lane when going to the offensive glass. Defensively, he seemed adequate at blocking out but definitely needs to bulk up if he is going to play at the 4 or 5. He runs the court well for a guy 6'10" and can finish well with pretty good body control. He moves well without the ball and knows how to cut rather than jog into position. His quickness is what will give him an advantage against other post players. He has a good high release on his shot and was never blocked from what I watched. That might also be partially due to his broad wingspan. He handles the ball well but Brandon and Austin don't need to worry about their jobs. If he improves his driving skills off the dribble and stays lean, he is an interesting option at the 3. If he bulks up and develops a real nose for hanging out in the low block, he could be a very good 4. Maybe even a center. He will be the most versatile of the big men, IMHO.
Kevin Garrity - He did not play in the scrimmages due to his injury but it is worth noting that he would sneak out and ditch the cast in order to practice his shooting. During that time, he appeared to move smoothly with no noticeable limping or favoring the healthy leg. He continues to have a really nice soft jumper with unlimited range and, to his credit, seems to have a very nice form. Squares up, releases high, keeps his legs apart as he jumps and holds his point on release. Very good technique. He indicated he was looking forward to getting out and banging and asserting himself this year. I look forward to it as well. He is a great kid with a good work ethic and great attitude. He deserves our support.
I guess the big question we all have for these big guys is whether anyone will actively block out and hammer the glass this year. Bulk wise, we got the bodies to bang with anybody. The kids all seem pretty smart and play aggressively. Perhaps it is a hunger and self-discipline issue. Someone in the program indicated to me that part of the problem last year was that the guards would not wait for board support before launching their shots. That would tend to reduce a team's offensive board numbers, indeed. If these guys play good low post D to where they don't need the guards to double down, our perimeter D should improve thereby improving our defensive glass performance as well. I am not so concerned about our quick shots and fast breaking style if we are playing well on defense and owning the defensive glass. All of the big guys can throw great outlet passes and if Willie, Kenny, DK or Brandon can get out on the break, who needs offensive glass? All of our guards can finish - the only question is whether they can hit free throws. If Willie or DK can get out on the break in a one on one situation, you can count it as two since those 2 guys have the hops and quickness to beat anyone in the open court. I would love for them to force the drive to the hoop much more often than putting up rainbows. While they can shoot, they are clearly at their most dangerous driving to the hole. And with their springs, they should easily foul out most of the guards they face.
With a few adjustments and a hard nosed defense with relentless boarding, this team could go a long way to being one of Keady's memorable surprise teams. If they improve in the areas we all know they need to work on, we could be talking about this team for years to come. If they do not, the conversations will end come next March. I think we have a great group of kids and look forward to the season and getting these monkeys off everyone's backs...
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