Random Notes on Matta's Open Practice

By Chris Lauderback on October 27, 2008 at 11:00a
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Excited to get my first look at this year's hoops squad, I ventured down to the Schott on Saturday to catch the one and only practice/scrimmage session open to the public. Fans were allowed into the lower bowl and I'd guess about 1,000-,1500 showed up.

The practice consisted of a 30 minute drill session in which bigs and perimeter guys worked mostly at opposite ends of the floor followed by a scrimmage comprised of four 10-minutes quarters.

I did my best to take notes on anything/everything I saw and the result is a hodge podge of observations. To keep this simple, I'm just gonna run down my notes in a semi-organized fashion. Please remember it was only 90 minutes so don't put too much stock in this stuff...just thought you might be interested in what I observed.

I think it's pretty clear that Jeremie Simmons and Anthony Crater are the top two PG's with PJ Hill not likely to see any meaningful minutes. Simmons and Crater really went at each other while Hill mostly served as an extra body. He actually fell down more times (2) than he shot (0) and my unofficial count had him at zero assists. Peters even drained a three in his eye for good measure. Based on what I saw from all three and from Hill last year, I'd be shocked if Hill averages more than 3 minutes per game this season. Oh, and Turner never brought the ball up, in case you were wondering.

Crater and Simmons run the point with contrasting styles. Simmons was much more likely to look for his shot from both the outside and after penetration without shooting too much, while Crater is clearly a distributor who might even need to get a little more selfish over time. Don't get me wrong, I like the thought of having a pass first guy running the point when looking at the rest of this roster, but he'll be an even more effective distributor if defenses have to respect his intent to do more than pass off penetration.

Off the small sample size, Simmons had the edge, in my opinion, largely because the opposing D got punished when they didn't respect his ability to score.

Crater Notes: He lit up the drills hitting nearly every jumper he attempted, especially in the corner. He had good lift on his shot and always went straight up. As I said, I think he'll be even more effective when he forces defenses to respect both his ability to score and pass. He looked more focused than anyone else during the drill session. His scrimmage highlight was a steal in the half-court then he surprised everyone throwing down a one handed jam. The crowd was never more pumped as Crater ran back down court with one flap down, a la Jeffrey Leonard after a home run.

Simmons Notes: You can tell dude was a scorer in juco. He was pretty effective breaking down the D and was not afraid to shoot jumpers, drive against the bigs or dish out to open wings. He showed a nice basketball IQ running the offense during this small sample. He took it straight at Dallas (fouled) once and against a few other bigs off a loose ball resulting in a three point play. He also knocked down a three from the corner. His shot is flat in comparison to Crater's and it looks almost like a push. Again, small sample size, but I bet Simmons is the starter going into the exhibition games. He just seems a little more diverse after the juco experience.

Walter Offut didn't wow me in the drills as it seemed his release was a little slow. That said, he was a beast in the opening quarter of the scrimmage recording a 3 point play off a sweet driving runner in heavy traffic before scoring on another drive then hitting a conventional three from the wing giving his Gray squad a 12-2 lead over a Scarlet unit featuring the returning starters / key players (Turner, Lighty, Dallas, Diebler) plus Simmons. He didn't show any apprehension or favor his surgically repaired knees though he's not the quickest of the freshman crop, either. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by his play.

Staying on the wing, William Buford also generated contrasting thoughts in drills versus the scrimmage. He looked slow in the drills, especially the shell offense. He appeared lost conceptually as the rest of his mates whipped the ball around and set phantom screens. Once the scrimmage began, however, I was impressed with his footwork coming off screens and he showed a quick release looking comfortable shooting off the dribble and in the corner.

The last freshman and biggest recruit of them all, BJ Mullens, didn't impress me nearly as much as I hoped he would. Shot wise, he looked comfortable spinning to his left from the right block for jump hooks but he looked horribly uncomfortable spinning to his right from the left block. He struggled to hold post position against Dallas but not against the other bigs. He was also terribly slow executing the hedge and recover against guards up top. He also seemed the most winded of all players for virtually the entire scrimmage. He did have a nice block and a few bucket but I'm hoping he was victim of the small sample size as far as this review goes.

Nikola Kecman was hard to get a read on but I fear he could be a man without a position during conference play. He wasn't quite fluid enough on offense or defense to be a three and probably too small and finesse-ish to be a four. He showed poor footwork trying to score with his back to the basket and became increasingly frustrated with contact pushing him out of position. He did show nice touch on his jumper, especially along the base line. Hopefully, he just needs time to adapt and for Thad to define his role because he clearly didn't know what that was yesterday (to be expected).

I'll be brief with Zisis Sarikopoulos since he won't be eligible 'til next season but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. He's not as galoot-ish as I thought he'd be and he showed decent touch around the basket - his hands were much softer than I expected - at least for 90 minutes. He's already better than Madsen and a year going against Dallas and Mullens should do him good.

Since you are already familiar with the rest of the roster, I'll spare you an overload of specifics. I will say Dallas Lauderdale impressed me with his leadership. He was very vocal, directing the wings to come for screens or reverse the ball and calling for the ball when he had position. It's clear he's also been working on some post moves, notably a little lefty jump hook moving to his right from the right block.

Evan Turner was smooth and more careful with the ball (maybe 0 turnovers) while flashing his all around game while David Lighty looks like he bulked up a bit. Lighty stroked a couple threes but blew two fast breaks by passing to the wing way too early allowing two defenders to guard three guys. Interestingly, I didn't get the feel it was his team, as previous reports indicated, but again it was 90 minutes and I do think the experienced guys were willing to defer to the young guys playing in front of OSU fans for the first time. Jon Diebler hit a few threes but still looked too content to stand outside and jack up jumpers.

Anyway, that's what I got from my eyes and scribbles. Hope this was of some value. Don't forget, the exhibition season starts Thursday November 13th against Walsh.

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