Fellow readers of WRNL. Last night, I witnessed something special inside Valley Southwoods' gymnasium and it wasn't Sherron Dorsey-Walker's insane 67-point outburst. Okay, yes it was, but almost more impressive was my fiance, who soldiered through nearly three hours of summer league basketball with me and didn't even complain (well, not much at least).
Iowa State athletes wasted little time getting Cyclone fan's expectations out of whack. Georges Niang led things off with a scoring barrage, followed by Dorsey-Walker's record setting performance and the debut of Matt Thomas, and the finale featured a duel of point guards, Naz Long and Monte Morris. The action and play was so good that it didn't even hit me until I left that two starters - Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane - were absent from the evening.
If you want to check out the stats and video, our friends at Cyclone Fanatic have you covered, but I thought I'd share a few of my thoughts from CCL's opening night.
"Holy Shit, Bro"
We have to start with Dorsey-Walker's special night. 67 points is 67 points. I know, I know. It's summer league ball and nobody plays defense and blah blah blah. Look, I was there and it was a show. I watched Dorsey-Walker last summer and came away thinking he'd benefit from a redshirt year and adding about 10-15 pounds to his frame. Fast forward to Sunday and it looks like Dorsey-Walker took his developmental year seriously. He looks stronger, more confident and his game was superb. You name it, Dorsey-Walker did it. He posted up smaller guards. He attacked the rack with both hands. He showed a devastating mid-range game with a deadly fade-away and you better believe he shot the hell out of the ball from behind the 3-point line.
The craziest thing about Dorsey-Walker's night was that he completely overshadowed Cyclone fan's first look at Matt Thomas. The 4-star freshman guard had a fantastic game as Dorsey-Walker's sidekick and the two played beautifully off each other. In fact, the pair played so well together that at one point, some younger fella sitting near me turned around and said to his friend, "holy shit, bro". My thoughts exactly.
As for Thomas, he looked as good as advertised. Trust me when I say this, but he is simply not just some spot up shooter. At 6'3", he's got good size, can handle the ball and moved like a young Rip Hamilton on offense when the ball wasn't in his hands. Oh, and he simply can't be left open. He's got a perfect release and if his shoulders are squared up to the rim, there's no need to bother boxing out for a rebound because that ball is going in.
Fred Hoiberg went heavy on the junior college transfers, having signed as many as four at one point, but with the release of Richard Amardi, three will make it to campus. K.J. Bluford had the best night of the trio. The 6'2" sharpshooter showed nice range and versatility in his deep shooting game, displaying the ability to get up his shot off the dribble and in spot up situations. He was brought in to fill the role of outgoing senior Tyrus McGee and it's easy to see the similarities in their games.
Physically, Dustin Hogue and Daniel Edozie looked the part. Hogue is every bit of 6'5" and Edozie has the body to bang in the paint with Big 12 posts. Offensively, I just didn't see much from either guy that made me think they'll be a significant contributor. Defensively, they had their moments and if they're going to factor into this year's rotation, it's going to have to be on that end of the floor. I want to watch both Hogue and Edozie at least another time or two before I put my pristine reputation as a hack basketball blogger on the line and claim they won't be impact players, though.
So Many Guards
I went to the games on Sunday night hoping to see some separation in the back court. I left wondering how The Mayor was going to sort out that log jam. As mentioned, Kane wasn't there Sunday evening, but with a resume like his, I think it's safe to pencil him in as a starter. After that, you've got Bluford, Dorsey-Walker, Thomas, Naz Long, Monte Morris and Bubu Palo. They all looked good. I've spent the last hour thinking of lineups Hoiberg can use where he plays 7 guards. As crazy as that sounds, I just don't see how Hoiberg can keep any of these guys out of the rotation. Unfortunately, we've all seen enough basketball to know that a 7-guard rotation probably won't work, meaning at least one or two guys will be relegated to riding the pine. Will there be redshirts? Will someone transfer?
-Georges Niang is good, really good. He looked slimmed down and once he got going, there was no stopping him. I'm still on record as saying that he will lead the Big 12 in scoring at some point in his career.
-Percy Gibson also looked like he shed a few pounds, but basically spent the night chucking up 3s and mostly being a non-factor. I'm not going to get too worked up over it, because these guys are just going out and having fun for our entertainment, but you'd still like to see a little more from him, especially in the post.
-Monte Morris is a playmaker. His shot was better than I'd expected and he played like a true floor leader. I don't think there's any question that he'll be running the show long term.
-I don't know what to think about Naz Long. I watched him last summer and came away thinking he'd play quite a bit as a freshman, but he toiled away on the bench all of last year, only seeing mop up duty here and there. He had another good night on Sunday and looks stronger, but is he going to be an odd man out in the back court log jam? Completely unrelated, but Naz was rocking some Rafael Nadal-style man capris on Sunday night. I could never pull that look off.
-My completely ridiculous and highly speculative guess at the starting five: Niang, Ejim, Kane, Dorsey-Walker and Thomas.