PB and I attended the scrimmage this evening against Lenoir-Rhyne. The outcome was never in question. The Horns won easily 98-64. We were more concerned with watching individual players: who is ready to play and who still needs more work. Also, with so many newcomers what combinations looked best.
A few quick scrimmage notes:
DJ Augustin ran the point whenever he and AJ Abrams were on the floor together. While DJ's play didn't instantly remind of us of TJ Ford, he was still solid. Augustin ran the half court offense well (seven assists to just one turnover) and made some nice passes in transition to Kevin Durant. He finished with eight points but neither PB nor I remember him taking a shot.
Abrams and Durant were the stars of the night. AJ is by far the best shooter on the team. His quick release allows him to get his shot off even over taller defenders. He hit threes off the pass and off the dribble. He also pushed the ball nicely in transition and got to the rim at will. There was no visible drop off between his play at the end of last season and what we saw tonight.
Durant is the real deal. Sometimes high school players in all sports arrive in college over hyped and never reach their full potential. Durant is not going to be one of those players. Durant can get his shot at any time. He is too long. His jumper is basically unblockable. He showed ball handling skills better than most guards and had no trouble beating his man one on one. Durant already appears to have the green light to shoot from anywhere. He hit one long three and had a few others rim out. PB is hoping/praying for two years. I'm convinced he will be gone at season's end.
The numbers don't show it but Justin Mason played a good game as well. He played solid defense, moved the ball well, and seemed to play in sync with Augustin and Abrams nicely. His defensive intensity will earn him plenty of minutes.
We are really lucky Damion James ended up in Austin and not in Norman. He is extremely athletic and a persistent rebounder. His defense was excellent as well. He stayed on the ground and didn't overreact to pump fakes. On offense, he didn't try to score with his back to the basket. Instead, he was able to beat his man off the dribble or knock down the mid range jumper. James had the only double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Matt Hill surprised and impressed me also. He was more physical than expected. Hill used his body to gain good rebounding position. He was especially effective on the offensive glass tipping in misses and earning second chance opportunities in the half court. He was a perfect 6/6 from the foul line too.
Connor Atchley played 22 minutes but failed to impress. He is still a liability on defense. His feet are too slow, and he tried to block too many shots. Atchley did knock down three open three pointers though. It will be interesting to see how much he plays this season.
JD Lewis and Craig Winder each played only a few minutes. Neither was impressive. Winder is simply out of control most of the time. As PB pointed out, he is a much better athlete than basketball player. Like Atchley, Lewis suffers from slow feet on defense. He is also a one dimensional three point shooter. He can't attack the rim or create his own shot. Let's hope he is used only in certain situations, like against a sagging 2-3 zone.
Harrison Smith and Dexter Pittman did not get much playing time either. They were the last two scholarship players to enter the game. The first action for each of them didn't come until late in the second half. Smith was a scorer in high school. He will need to show more on defense to earn more playing time. At this point, Mason appears to be well ahead of Smith in the eyes of Coach Barnes.
Pittman's stat line reminds me of some of Brian Boddicker's from his freshman year. Big Dex played just six minutes but was called for three personal fouls. He was able to change ends during his limited minutes. He also snagged a couple of offensive rebounds. I am holding out hope that he will be effective in spurts this season.
Overall, this team looked good. Barnes tried lots of different lineups and appears to still be searching for the most effective five. We were only somewhat effective with our fast break offense and are miles away from looking like the Phoenix Suns. If I had to start five tomorrow, I would go with Augustin, Abrams, Mason, Durant, and James. Hill would be the first player off the bench. I saw nothing tonight to cool any expectations for this year's squad. This team is a work in progress with limitless potential. Controlling turnovers and the defensive glass will be crucial. But this will be a dangerous team come March.