Sunday, July 29, 2007

Pan Am team fizzles

It was another dreary international tournament for USA basketball at the Pan American games. Team USA dropped its first two games to Uruguay and Panama in ugly fashion. These losses prevented the USA from contending for a medal. The followed up with wins against Argentina and the US Virgin Islands. Maryland's James Gist saw his playing time dwindle in the last two games playing only six minutes versus Argentina and only eight minutes versus the Virgin Islands' team. In that game he did have 6 points and 6 rebounds in only 8 minutes of play. Not too shabby. Clearly Jay Wrights coaching ability isn't a slick as his hair. To be fair the selection committee botched the process for this team and saddled Wright with two guards, Drew Nietzel and Scotty Reynolds, who are ill suited for international play. They were both dreadful from long range and provided little ability to run a half court offense. Reynolds plays for Wright at Villanova, which seems to be the only logical reason Reynolds averaged almost 25 minutes a game while shooting 23% from the field for the tournament. He did lose his starting spot in the third and fourth game but it came too late for the US team.

Only Indiana's DJ White proved he is a big time star and his performance should peak the interest of some NBA scouts. Georgetown's Roy Hibbert has to be considered a disappointment. Anyone who thinks he will be an All-American candidate this year should be concerned by his inconsistent play at the Pan Am Games. For the first four games of the tournament James Gist's numbers are:

13 minutes per game, 5.5 points (10/20 FGM/FGA), 2 rebounds per contest. Gist needs to continue to work on his rebounding.

Class of '08 not so good?

So says Sporting News basketball guru Mike DeCourcy in his latest blog entry. Perhaps there is an element of truth to this. Everyone could tell that the 2005 class was one of the worst in recent memory even before the recruits ever got on campus. Maybe that is the case again this year. Maryland target SG Sean Mosley is ranked in the top 60 by most services but his game hardly inspires many superlatives. More often terms like "tough", "gritty", "hard nosed" are used to describe the Baltimore guard. For a top 60 player in the country you'd think it would be better than a bunch of tired sports cliches to describe him. The Terps are still targeting Mosley along with highly ranked PF Terrence Jennings and the up and coming PF Quintrell Thomas. The 2009 class is loaded with talented locals like SG Mo Creek, PF Isaiah Armwood, SF Tristan Spurlock, PF Terrell Vinson, and PF Wally Judge among others.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Skip Prosser dead at 56

Like most ACC fans I was shocked to hear the news that Wake Forest coach Skip Prosser died of a heart attack today. He collapsed while jogging and was rushed to the hospital. Prosser is survived by his wife and two sons. Few fans have a sense of how demanding the position of head coach is at a school like Wake Forest, Maryland or North Carolina. In recent years Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski have had health scares. Maryland fans should remember the two games in 1995 that Gary Williams missed because he came down with pneumonia. The stress and pressure can be unimaginable and it can force coaches out of the profession, sometimes in tragic fashion.

Prosser was a decent and honest coach who was a very good recruiter without ever having the taint of scandal or sleaze so prevalent in college basketball. He was a credit to the ACC and to Wake Forest. He'll be missed.

USA Downed at Pan Am Games
Team USA lost to Uruguay 81-72 in the first game. The wing players for the US team were deadful while the post players had a mixed performance. DJ White further made the case he will have a dominating season with 14 point 9 rebound performance. Starter Roy Hibbert had a horrible game and fouled out after only 14 minutes of play. Maryland's James Gist scored 7 points in only 18 minutes of play. Let's hope he continues to see that kind of playing time.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Vasquez to play for Venezuela

Sophomore Greivis Vasquez will play in the Venezuelan national team at the upcoming FIBA Americas Championship in Las Vegas at the end of August. The Venezuelan national team has some experienced guards but Vasquez will probably still see some time on the court. The USA team is composed of NBA stars like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Vasquez will probably be at a big physical disadvantage to most of the NBA players but he is a fearless competitor and it highlight areas he needs to improve upon. Venezuela opens up with team USA on August 22nd at 8pm, the game will likely be on one of the ESPN channels though it has not been announced yet.

The two cornerstones of next seasons Maryland basketball team in Greivis Vasquez and James Gist are getting some valuable experience this off season.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gist makes Pan Am roster

Maryland senior James Gist made the final roster cut for the USA Basketball team going to the Pan Am games this month. This will be a great experience for Gist to compete against some of the elite big men in college basketball including Georgetown's Roy Hibbert, Memphis' Joey Dorsey, Indiana's DJ White and Oregon's Marty Leunen along with the best international players in South America. A USA team game will be shown on ESPN at 5pm on July 25th. The USA teams have not done too well as of late but lets hope James contributes to getting the gold back.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

DJ hot with Suns

Former Terp DJ Strawberry has been turning heads in the NBA summer league recently. Strawberry currently ranks 25th in scoring at 16.5ppg and is second in assists per game at 6.2 and if you remove the second year players he ranks as a top 10 scorer at this point. Not bad for a kid that even some Maryland fans thought wasn't good enough to play in the NBA. Summer league play doesn't guarantee anything but Strawberry is well on his way to earning a roster spot with the Phoenix Suns. He is performing just as well as the Suns' first round pick Alando Tucker.

Another former Terp, Steve Blake, has returned to the Portland Trailblazers as a free agent. Terms were not disclosed but you can bet that Blake received a nice three year deal. He and his wife have settled in Portland and seem to have made the area home. Blake and Strawberry are proof that you don't need to score 20 points a game and dominate the ball to get into the NBA.

Coming off a fantastic 27 point 8 assist performance Strawberry has a game tonight as the Suns will play the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight at 8pm.

In other news senior forward James Gist has made the 14 man roster for the USA team at the Pan American games in Rio de Janeiro. There will be a final cut to 12 players coming up but given the other big men who made the 14 man roster and Gist's ability to score from out to 3-point range I'd be surprised if he was among the final two cuts. Let's hope he makes it. James only needs to realize he can be a dominating player, once he believes it and accepts that mantle, look out. As Gist showed last year, he can take over a game if only he asserts his will. If he makes the Pan Am games roster it will help greatly to prove to him how good he can be.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Reflections of NCM

Our friends over at the DC Sports Bog have an interesting interview with Nik Caner-Medley in which he discusses his current plans and his years at Maryland. Some of Nik's answers are surprisingly candid and mature. It seems dealing with an injury that ended any hope of a rookie season in the NBA, or anywhere else, and playing in Germany have helped him grow up a little. As any regular reader knows I have mixed emotions about the 2002 class that Caner-Medley was a part of and that hasn't changed. I felt that at the end of the 2005 season Caner-Medley played heroically at times trying to singlehandedly lift Maryland to an NCAA tournament bid. He didn't always play smart, however, and his famous defensive lapses cost his team dearly. He tried to lead by example when the team needed a locker room presence to motivate the more lazy elements on the squad. Even diehard Terp fans can't help but feel ambivalent about his career at Maryland. He does have some words of wisdom that all Maryland fans should read. In life things don't always turn out the way you expect or want them to.

In other news Lonny Baxter is still dealing with related legal issues from his troubles steming from the discharge of a Glock pistol near the White House last year. He apparently used Fed Ex to ship two pistols and a rifle from Rockville to College Park in violation of Federal law. It appears this will be packaged with his plea agreement related to the previous gun discharge. Hopefully Baxter will learn his lesson and stay away from guns for good. Millions of Americans are responsible gun owners but Baxter obviously isn't one of those and now that he has a criminal record he better not be caught with another or he could go to jail for a long time.

I've had a chance to look at some film of 2007 recruit Shane Walker recently and was impressed. Walker is a scrapper with good hustle who runs the floor very well. He needs to develop strength, as all freshmen do, but has good ability to finish around the basket. With redshirt freshman Jerome Burney still dealing with lingering foot problems fans could see more of Walker and fellow frosh Braxton Dupree early in the season. Walker is a work in progress but I think he has the potential to develop into a viable starter in the ACC.