Friday, November 14, 1997
A Stale Basketball Exhibition Report
Something around here smells like old cheese! What is that? Oh, yeah, it's my report on last Friday's men's basketball scrimmage with Inter Bratislava Slovakia!
Sheesh. Let's call 'em IBS from here on, okay?
I attended the exhibition game between the men's hoops team and IBS a week ago, and I thought I would give you some impressions of what I saw. The Hokies won, 66-51, in a lackluster performance marred by poor shooting (19-50, 38%) and indecisiveness offensively. But that's what happens when you lose your top ten players over the course of two years. The guys who are left behind, including a mess of freshmen, are going to take a while to gel. Just ask Xavier, which featured a bunch of diaper babies two years ago and is now ranked in the preseason top 15 with the same five starters.
First of all, let me interject that I was not able to attend the exhibition game against Court Authority last night, which the Hokies won, 78-68 in overtime. The win surprised me, because Court Authority, although an exhibition team, is generally a pretty solid outfit with any number of former college players on their rosters. The version the Hokies played Thursday night featured Kenny Harris, Edmund Sherod, Calvin Duncan and Vince Wilson, all former players at VCU, and Kenny Wood of Richmond University. So that's a good showing by the young Hokie team to win.
Now, back to the IBS game.
First of all, the player everyone wants to hear about is freshman guard Jenis Grindstaff out of North Carolina, and I can assure you after seeing him in person that he is "all that." He shot poorly against IBS, going 0-8, including 0-5 from three-point range, but when you're a freshman, the shot is going to come and go (even Bimbo Coles was erratic as a freshman). I was a little concerned not that Jenis went 0-5 from three point range, but that he looked bad doing it. On most of his three-pointers, he didn't set himself and square up, and that's why he missed them.
When he's got the ball, though, he is in charge and under control. Some players exude confidence, control, and authority, and Jenis Grindstaff is one of those players. People are comparing him to former UVa guard John Crotty, and I think that's a good comparison. I played in a pickup game with Crotty years ago, the summer before his freshman year at UVa, just a few days after he had stepped on campus and no one knew who he was (so that makes me an authority on Crotty comparisons ... or something like that). Crotty was in control, and in a similar fashion, Grindstaff is in control.
The difference is that Grindstaff is a better athlete. He's smoother with the ball than Crotty, and he supposedly can jump out of the gym. Crotty wasn't exactly glued to the floor, but he wasn't a great leaper, whereas Grindstaff is. In all fairness, I didn't get to see Grindstaff show his leaping ability in the IBS game, so I'm not sure exactly how well he can get up.
But despite the poor shooting performance, Grindstaff impressed me. It should be noted that while he was tanking it from the field, he was a perfect 8-8 from the free throw line and turned in a good overall performance in other aspects of his game. That's a key point about Grindstaff. Some guards, if they're not hitting their shot, are useless, but Grindstaff, even if he's shooting poorly, will contribute in a lot of other ways. This is a good thing.
Next up: Rolan Roberts. I was led to believe that Roberts is a physical bruiser, but don't be fooled into thinking that he's a lumbering lug who's just going to bang bodies. Roberts is also very explosive and is quick to the ball on rebounds. He's inconsistent and still trying to find his way offensively, but he's a big, quick, physical talent. If he screws his head down tight and applies himself and improves, he'll be a great player to have.
Kenny Harrell didn't play much, unfortunately, so I didn't get to check out his reportedly smooth three-point shot (he was 0-1 from three-point range and never got to establish a rhythm). He did get to throw down a breakaway dunk, though, and he can get up pretty good.
I don't have a whole lot to say about the other players, because I was mainly watching for Grindstaff, Roberts, and Harrell. Shawn Browne did a great job, though. He was everywhere, offensively and defensively. I was shocked to hear that Brendan Dunlop led the scoring with 11 points, because I don't remember him scoring much at all. I'm a big Dunlop fan, though, and Bobby Hussey's got his work cut out for him trying to get playing time for Dunlop, Harrell and Grindstaff. Lastly, I still think Russ Wheeler is a smooth ball-player, although he doesn't look as if he'll be a dominator or anything like that. He reminds me of Bobby Beecher - he's a solid ballplayer but not a great athlete, with a smooth shot and a cool demeanor.
A few team and coaching notes: first of all, the Hokies shot a sizzling 28-33 from the charity stripe. Grindstaff shot something like 90+% from the line in high school, so look for him to have the ball in his hands late in close games.
Bobby Hussey was running the press a little bit against IBS, so expect to see the Hokies doing some full-court pressing, with Wheeler as the back stop underneath the bucket.
Something else I noticed is that almost every time Grindstaff gets the ball on the defensive end, he wants to run. He's looking upcourt and looking to speed up the tempo. And Bobby Hussey doesn't tell him to slow it down. I love that. We just need a rebounder who can get the outlet pass to him.
Coach Foster, God love 'im, used to keep a tight noose on Troy Manns. Thanks to Coach Foster's walk-it-up, halfcourt style of ball and a conference full of no-name teams (Fordham? La Salle? Duquesne?), Cassell Coliseum has a been a pretty empty place the past few years, despite all the winning. Here's hoping these guys, the coach and the players, can reverse that trend and pack the house again.
Mims Signs on the Dotted Line
The college basketball early signing period opened a few days ago (when is football going to get one of those?!?!), and the Hokies' prize verbal recruit, Dennis Mims of Morgantown, N.C., made it official by signing on the dotted line of a letter of intent to attend Virginia Tech.
Mims is a 6-9 forward who weighs somewhere in the 230-240 range, if I remember correctly, and by all accounts, he is a steal similar to Grindstaff. He averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds as a junior at Freedom High School, leading his team to a 24-3 record and a berth in the state's final 16.
Mims chose Tech out of a lineup of suitors that included Wake Forest, Seton Hall, Florida State, Arkansas, Southern Cal, LSU and Penn State. These teams didn't just call him and mail him brochures, folks, they offered scholarships.
It remains to be seen whether or not Bobby Hussey can coach, but he and his staff sure can recruit. In the last few years, they have snagged players like Dunlop, Wheeler, Roberts, Grindstaff, and now Mims. For a Tech team that suffered through a long recruiting dry spell, this is a great trend.
Mims will be Tech's only recruit this year. The Hokies are only going to graduate two guys, Myron Guillory and Shawn Browne, and one of those two scholarships is going to be handed to Navy transfer Eddie Lucas. The other one goes to Mims. By all accounts, it's money well spent.
A Little Beggin' for Contributions
For those of you that haven't signed up to be a HokieCentral member, I encourage you to do so. Membership incentive items include bumper stickers, drink huggies, mouse pads, and T-shirts, and it's all nice-looking, high-quality stuff. Plus, your contributions provide the funding to keep HokieCentral going, and to provide me, one of the world's most insane Hokie fans, the incentive to keep producing this site.
There are only about six weeks left in 1997, and I've got plenty of merchandise left (D'oh! Darn minimum order quantities! What do ya mean I have to order at least 100 mouse pads?!). So go ahead and fire off a donation to HokieCentral to claim your share of the goods. The membership plan will be revamped for 1998, and a new line of goodies will be offered then, so now is the time to snag some of the 1997 items.
Have I mentioned yet that HokieCentral memberships make great Christmas gifts? Get your gift donation in by December 15th, and I guarantee I will ship the goods in time for Christmas. Just fill out the membership form with the info for the person you're giving the membership to, indicate on the form that it's a gift, and I'll get their stuff to them.
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Speaking of the membership stuff, I just got an email from a new reader who says, "I just thought I would let you know how I found out about your site. I saw it on a bumper sticker in Atlanta, GA while I was driving on I-285. I am an alum (MKTG '90) and have lived in Atlanta for seven years since graduation and it is really difficult to get news on Tech here, so your site is terrific. Thanks for putting all this information on there."
All right! The bumper stickers worked! And you're welcome, Greg.