The Trent Frazier Show was rolling in fifth gear all night. Luke Goode rebounded. Coleman Hawkins drained threes. Austin Hutcherson made a 90° turn in mid-air, to shoot a ball that he’d already rebounded while already in-air.
I guess that’s what we expected to see in a contest featuring the state’s worst basketball team versus the state’s best basketball team. (I’m including JV teams from the IHSA.)
The unexpected performance came from Andre Curbelo, who was really … um … bad? And amazing? But we expected amazing. We didn’t expect five turnovers.
Brad Underwood won’t lose much sleep over it. He explained that Belo was, frankly, nervous. After a freshman year of balling for 200 people, he’d found himself on display for a few thousand, including a rowdy student section.
This is why we schedule exhibition games.
And we shouldn’t forget that he was also amazing, as expected.
The challenge for Brad Chet Tim Geoff is to rein in Belo’s exuberance without crushing it. Or am I being too control-ly?
Maybe Belo just needs a couple of exhibition games under his belt, and he’ll be fine?
Coleman Hawkins is the other free spirit whose playmaking thrilled fans and burst capillaries in his coach’s face. Should he be throttled?
Coleman seems to know that it’s a matter of picking his spots. Knowing when to play it straight. Knowing when to get creative.
Surely the surprise of the night was RJ Melendez, who didn’t get in the game ’til the fourth quarter. That late entry was expected, because RJ’s performance in the Open Practice suggested he was a few years away from comprehending the defensive principles that Underwood’s staff requires of its rotation players.
But RJ found his spots against USF-Joliet. He didn’t get backdoor-ed. He hedged correctly. He didn’t look afraid.
RJ was fun on offense, hitting a three and converting a reverse lay-up. But that was the expected part for him. We knew he could rebound, too. But what about his defensive positioning? Will he be instant offense for the other team?
He did not look lost against USF.
The rest of the veterans displayed rust here and there, among moments of grace. Da’Monte Williams best play was batting a ball from a Saint and simultaneously knocking it off his victim, out of bounds. He nearly emoted in celebration.
Kofi had a somewhat frustrating game, of the sort he’ll experience every night over the next five months, as teams study his every move, and do their utmost to stop him.
He’s a kind, sensitive person. So you hope he can keep that good nature while opponents do their best to ruin his future.
We still can’t be sure that Hutch is ready for P5 competition, because he certainly didn’t face it Saturday. But he looked a lot more like the super-hyped Hutch than he did the skinny Division III kid we saw two years ago.
It still looks like Podz and RJ won’t see a lot of floor time this year, a vibe that Underwood conveyed in his season kickoff press conference. Podz didn’t have the opportunity to show us anything worth knowing. He didn’t have time.
The ball was in his hands as time ran out on the game, so he was in position to score the hundredth point. He did it.
RJ’s brief tick was a lot flashier, but he faces the same general problem: Which three veterans will he replace?
Maybe we’ll know more after Exhibition #2, just six days from now.