Sunday, November 12, 2006

Opening Night (2006-2007) PVAMU

Just a few quick notes to recap the game and to let you guys know what we learned on Friday night when the Aggies took on Prairie View A&M.

The Aggies were never really challenged the entire night and PVAMU was just simply overmatched.

Billy Gillispie and his 2006-2007 team looked very sharp early on jumping out to a 32-9 lead over the first 12 minutes of the first half. The early pace was set by using effective ball movement around the perimeter and taking advantage of the small Prairie View lineup inside.

The later part of the opening half was marred by poor shooting and too many turnovers by the Aggies. I think it was just a matter of becoming disinterested in the game and not really being challenged by Prairie View.

The second half was not so much about working with your starters, more so than it was working on rotations with some of your new guys all the while getting additional minutes for Joe Jones and Acie Law, both of whom missed nearly the entire preseason with injuries.

Speaking of injuries, Marlon Pompey was on the sideline in street clothes and on crutches. Marlon has a stress-fracture in his foot and is out for at a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks. There is a chance he may need to have pins inserted in the foot to help the fracture heel. If this is the case it may be as long as two months before Marlon could be ready to go. (More on the impact of Marlon’s injury on the team is detailed below.)

There were moments in the first half when this group of guys showed that they have the ability to compete with nearly anyone in the country. There were also moments when they went absolutely brain-dead and reverted to many of the problems that plagued them early on last season (turnovers / poor shooting).

The bottom line is that they came out and put on a good show against a lesser opponent in front of the largest crowd (10,722) to ever see a home opener in the history of the school.

OK – Here is what we learned.

I’ve already talked to quite a few of you guys about this, so forgive me while I repeat myself.

The biggest thing with this year’s team is going to be about the “next 4” guys.

In 2005-2006 the core group of guys who accounted for most of the team’s production consisted of Joseph Jones, Acie Law, Dominique Kirk, Josh Carter, and Antanas Kavaliauskas.

Last year, your next 4 guys were Chris Walker, Marlon Pompey, Kenneth “Red” White, and Eddie Smith.

No offense to any of these guys, but on any other team in the Big 12, none of them probably crack the rotation to play meaningful minutes.

I know Marlon and Chris were permanent starters on last season’s squad, and without either of them, the team likely would not have had the success that they did have (Chris probably more so than Marlon). Looking back, I think Chris Walker not only epitomized everything that was right with last year’s team, he also epitomized everything that was wrong with last year’s team.

Chris brought an energy and a toughness on the defensive end of the floor that not only endeared him to his coach, he also made him a cult favorite amongst the student body at A&M. This does not change the fact that “C-Walk” was not a legitimate power forward at the NCAA Division I level.

Marlon also brought a degree of toughness and a certain level of athleticism to the defensive end of the floor, but he too was an Achilles heel on the offensive end.

This year, your “next 4” guys are going to be Junior Elonu, Bryan Davis, Derrick Roland, and Donald Sloan.

Junior Elonu is probably going to be the flashiest of the 4 guys. The 6’10” 225 pound big man is like a more polished Pompey. He is just as athletic (if not more so) than Pompey, but he brings you more on the offensive end of the floor. His game will likely never extend beyond 10 feet away from the basket, but as a defense you will certainly have to account for Junior.

Junior had two electrifying dunks and a great “come from behind” block on Friday night. All three plays caused “oohs and aahs” throughout the arena.

If Junior can keep his head on straight and control his temper he can become a very effective player for Gillispie very quickly. Junior will certainly garner some of Pompey’s minutes while he is injured.

The other guy that will help make up minutes in Marlon’s absence is going to be Bryan Davis. The 6’9” big freshman is probably not quite as athletic as Elonu, but he plays much bigger than both Marlon and Junior. He is going to be a beast to handle inside and seems to have a nose for the basketball – in other words he loves blocks and rebounds. Bryan can extend his game to around the 15’ mark on the floor and will also cause defenses to account for his presence on the floor.

Both Junior and Bryan are going to be able to contribute more to this team than Marlon would have been able to. That’s more a testament to the talent of these two guys than it is a knock on Marlon.

On the perimeter, Derrick Roland is going to be a difference maker on the defensive end of the floor. Friday night he caused two 5 second penalties with his ability to “get wide” as a defender. One of them was in the open floor playing solid defense. The other was guarding a guy trying to inbound the basketball on the baseline.

In the season preview we talked about his ability to guard all 3 perimeter positions and this was clearly evident on Friday night as he was all over the place on the defensive end of the court.

He looked a little out of place on the other end and was struggling to find his role in the offense. I think this is just a matter of Roland getting used to Gillispie’s system and in no way, shape, or form a matter of ability. We’ll be able to tell a little more about Derrick’s game over the coming weeks.

Donald Sloan, a high school teammate of Roland, did a great job coming off the bench and running the offense. At 6’2” is surprisingly quick and was able to create a few more things
for himself in the offense.

On the defensive end I thought Sloan was ok. He wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t great either. Over the course of the year anything that may be missing on the defensive end of the floor will likely be made up with his ability to create in offense.

So there you have the one game impression of this year’s “next 4”.

The talent and bench on this roster is night and day better than last season.

Some quick hits:

- Antanas Kavaliauskas continued the domination he started in February of last year. This guy has improved leaps and bounds in a very short time. You can tell he put in a ton of work in the gym this summer and has a chance to be a key contributor in his senior year.

- The state’s top prospect, DeAndre Jordan and 3 other players signed letters of intent last week to join the Aggie team in 2007-2008. Details are in the links below.

- Heralded recruit Bryan Beasley from Pflugerville did not see the court on Friday night.

- Point Guard Logan Lee was the first guy off the bench in the first half.

- Chris Walker was in the crowd on Friday night and received a standing ovation when they showed him on the scoreboard.

- The Aggies shot 49% (29-59) on the game which included a horrendous 2-10 from Acie Law and 1-7 from Dominique Kirk. Remove those two guys from the equation and the shooting percentage would have been a salty 62%.

- Reed Arena has never looked better with the addition of a new 8 panel center hung scoreboard and a full complement of ribbon boards encompassing the entire arena. It was quite a production and the atmosphere in the building was certainly entertaining. It should be a lot of fun when conference play rolls around.

Looking Ahead

No mid-week game this week as the Aggies get ready to host the 1st annual Shelby Metcalf Classic on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday this weekend.

Joining A&M in the round robin tournament are Lamar, Saint Louis, and Louisiana Tech. The Aggies play Lamar on Friday night, Louisiana Tech on Saturday night, and finish up with Saint Louis on Sunday night.

** Sunday night’s game vs. Saint Louis will be broadcast on FSN at 5:30 **

I don’t know much about any of the three teams other than the fact that Saint Louis and Louisiana Tech are not terrible while Lamar is terrible.

It will be good for the guys to get some experience playing in a back-to-back-to-back situation. Despite the S.M. Classic falling so early in the year, let’s hope that playing on 3 consecutive days will help them get ready for similar situations they will hopefully face in both the big 12 tournament and postseason play.

Continued Cheap Promotional Ploy

We are not going to be able to make it to any of the games this weekend and are still trying to sell our tickets if you are interested.

Also – since we’re going to be unable to make it to the games we will likely just send a quick update later next week with minimal details.

As you were.


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