Its nearly 48 hours since I had the privilege of broadcasting a terrific basketball game between the University of Albany and Maryland, and to be honest, I'm still on my way back down to earth. My experiences in Syracuse's Carrier Dome and George Mason's Patriot center were really great earlier in the season, but (and I know I've said this already) this was the best one yet. A heavy contribution into why I give this Maryland experience the nod over the others is first and foremost how great of a game my partner and I had a chance of calling. The game v.s. the Orange was competitive during the first half, but there was never really a chance that Albany would beat one of the best teams in the nation, and at George Mason the Great Danes shot so poorly (worst shooting percentage in Albany's division I history) they were lucky they only lost by 20. Against the Terrapins of the ACC though, Albany came in and made sure that the nearly 12,000 fans got their moneys worth. Down by as many as 13 in the first half, Albany stormed back to take a second half lead, and were trailing by as little as 3 points with 3 minutes to go in the game. Maryland's second chance points and solid free throw shooting down the stretch eventually sealed Albany's fate with a final score of 83-72. The fact that Albany played so well against superior competition was only one storyline that made the trip particularly special though...
One of the focuses coming into the game was the match up between Maryland's super sophomore Terrell Stoglin and Albany's junior stud Gerardo Suero. The two players were tied for 6th leading scorer in the nation (over 340 teams, at least 12 men a roster, do the math) coming in at 21.5 points per game. Turns out Maryland coach Mark Turgeon almost brought Stoglin off the bench because he "didn't think he could guard anyone on their team", a flattering comment for Albany. But he did start and ended up having a big first half with 13 points. Suero on the other hand did not start the game on the right foot, shooting just 3-12 through the first 20 minutes. The second half would be a different story though, for both players. Suero, who was playing in front of his family for the first time since he moved to the United States from the Dominican Republic over 4 years ago, exploded in the second half, making 6 of his 10 shot attempts. Since both prolific scorers averages were so evenly knotted, everyone expected one of the two to move ahead on the national list. As fate would have it, both Suero and Stoglin finished with 22 points.
The other storyline coming in to Wednesday's game was a young man named Alex Len that would join Maryland for the first time this season after serving a suspension for playing on a club team back in his native Ukraine that had professionals playing on it. It would be the 7-foot 1-inch freshman who would ultimately steal the headlines after bursting on to the scene with 14 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks in 27 minutes. Not bad for a first game, huh? I promise you'll hear more and more about this kid as he continues his season/career. As far as potential, the skies the limit for Len. He's got longer legs than a giraffe, runs the floor like a gazelle, jumps like a kangaroo, and swats shots like flies. Even when he didn't get his hand on the basketball he was still effecting nearly every shot taken in the paint. Len is light on his feet making for shifting footwork, something that will have NBA scouts drooling. After talking to two different folks 'in the know' at Maryland, it seems its understood among Terrapin nation that if Alex Len lives up to even half of his hype, he'll be wearing one of 32 different jersey's before long, none of which read 'Maryland' across the chest.
Lastly what made the trip extra special for me is what happened not during the game, but before and after. While Albany was having a shoot around in the Comcast center earlier on game day, I decided to take a walk around the first class facility. Eye popping features such as a basketball hoop in the athletic weight room, and about 30% the 2002 Final Four hardwood floor being lifted and hung in a huge hallway were certainly a site to see. But my favorite section of the complex was the mens basketball hallway. Every player that played at Maryland and went on to play in the NBA had their jersey finely framed and hanging in a case. Steve Blake, Joe Smith, Steve Francis, and Chris Wilcox to name a few. I was outside the locker room snapping photos on my phone when a Maryland player was walking into in. He noticed my admiration and invited me in the locker room to take a quick peek around. At that point I switched my phone over to video mode (excuse the poor quality) and started rolling. I met some cool guys, one of them named Berend Weijs, a senior and native of the Netherlands. He was the starting center until Alex Len came back (sorry Berend!) but still provided good minutes off the bench for the Terps. We had nice a nice conversation, during which I of course had to hit him up for some Maryland gear. He didn't have any on him, but after the Maryland victory he made a point to come back out onto the floor and give me a bright red 'Maryland Basketball' shirt in just my size. I thought that was special for him to do such a nice favor for a virtual stranger, and I look forward to one day hopefully being in the position to repay him with such a favor. Below is the quick video of some of the things I saw over those few minutes. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a chance to unwind with family and friends. I'm still in Maryland covering UAlbany's basketball team, and will be down here until after the Mount Saint Mary's game on Saturday. I did write up his huge post on last night's (Wednesday) game against the Terrapins, but through some bizarre turn of events the entire piece was erased, and I really can't bring myself to write it all again today, but a recap of the trip will find its way up here in the next day or two. In the meantime, my friend advised me to check out this new NBA commercial that I must have missed over the holiday. To say that the 2 minute spot is well done would be a severe disservice to the creators. This my friends, is a masterpiece. The premise of the commercial is superstars in todays NBA game playing against the greats of years past. Deron Williams being guarded by John Stockton, Larry Legend looking to drive on Dirk, Magic dishing it to a cutting Kobe, and so on and so forth. Don't ask me how they made this work visually, but they did and they did it well. The images and the accompanying music are both powerful. If you call yourself a basketball fan and don't get goosebumps, I herby revoke your hoop-head card. Oh and for the record, in this pretend picture seen above, Paul Pierce is using a serious hand check on Jerry West. Hands off The Logo! Enjoy the video below.
I just walked in the door from broadcasting the UAlbany/Dartmouth game and am ready to mentally check out for the Christmas festivities. The Great Danes sent the Albany faithful home for the holidays with a good taste in their mouth after picking up an 82-74 victory, their fifth win in the last seven games. After talking with both players and coaches before and after the game, it was evident that everyone was ready for a few days away from the grind that the hoops season brings, even if for a few days, and I'm no different. From here I'll go spend some time with my immediate family out in Western New York, open presents, drink some wine, and of course watch some basketball (wait until my girlfriend, mother and sister-in-law find out that my brother and I are putting it in park for five Christmas day games! Plan accordingly ladies!). From their I'll be making the trip down to Maryland with the rest of the UAlbany players and staff to play the Terrapins in College Park on Wednesday, and then at Mount Saint Mary's on Saturday. After it's all said and done I'll be pulling back in the University's parking lot at midnight on New Years Eve...what timing (as I roll my eyes with frustration). I'll be taking these next few days off from updating the blog, but look for a new post sometime next week. I hope everyone has a very safe and happy holiday and I'll see you soon enough.
The University of Albany's men's basketball team may have hit the growth spurt it needed in becoming a fully developed winner on Monday night when they gutted out a tough non-conference win at St. Francis 76-64. The win pulled UA over the .500 mark yet again bringing the overall record to 6-5. In covering the University's games on radio, I've had the opportunity to watch every game played. Some of losses on the schedule during this young season Albany simply could not have won. Games on the road against nationally ranked Pitt and Syracuse were largely unrealistic wins, and even beating a George Mason team who was in the sweet 16 last season seemed like a stretch. Those three perennial powerhouses took up three of the Great Danes first five games, but those contests aside, Albany could have, and in my opinion should have beaten the rest of their opponents. There's the old sports adage that says 'the best team won', but that's not always the case. My old college coach used to say, "It's not who's better, but who's better longer", and it's so true. For instance, Albany lost to an average Cornell team this past Saturday after having a 12 point second half lead, simply because it takes time and experiences to learn how to win. Learning how to win probably sounds like a silly phrase or excuse to someone who's never participated in athletics, but the science of closing out a game can be tricky. Albany was clearly the better overall team, but didn't know how to respond to Cornell's momentum and pressure down the stretch. The result on paper was 25 turnovers and an overtime loss. But in spite of turning the ball over 25 times, combined with Cornell's best shooter nailing 7-three pointers, the game was still tied at the end of regulation! That fact alone should tell you more than the newspaper's headline of 'Albany losses' the following day. It was the same deal in the Albany Cup against an inferior Siena club. The Great Danes were up 19 points and let the game slip away in a regretful 64-60 loss. Even in some of Albany's wins the final score wasn't as indicative as it should have been giving the way UA dominated. A prime example of that was the 20 point lead against Navy that turned into a one possession game with under a minute to play. But if you go through enough of these trials during the first half of the season, the successful teams will learn and grow from those experiences and hopefully prevent them from happening later in the season. I saw a serious glimmer of that growth on Monday when St. Francis' 20-1 run to start the second half erased Albany's 16-point halftime lead, but Albany didn't curl up and concede victory. The Great Danes absorbed the punch of nine second half three pointers and a rowdy St. Francis crowd to eventually beat a team that they should have. I thought junior guard Logan Aronhalt showed serious leadership during that St. Francis run by stepping up and taking, and making big shots that seemed to remind his teammates 'Hey, we can score too, and we're going to be fine.' Once the cover was off the UAlbany basket, the 11th leading scorer in the nation, Gerardo Suero, began to do just that. One particular spin move with two minutes left in the game from Suero literally left his defender on the perimeter as he finger rolled the basketball over the iron to make it a two possession game. Suero finished with 25 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, and just 1 turnover in 33 minutes of play. The bench provided some nice production as well with 18 big points off the pine. At the end of the day coach Will Brown's club pulled out a huge emotional victory, one that moving forward will serve as a reminder that 'we've been here before,' because surely they will be in a similar dogfight soon.
Football players are banned for colliding helmets, gasoline is 4 dollars a gallon and Chris Paul plays for the Los Angeles Clippers. The end must be near. It was almost surreal seeing CP3 sitting down at his introductory press conference Thursday surrounded by Clippers logos and management, and actually be excited about it. "What a long strange trip it's been", huh? That 'other' team from Los Angeles has always been the go-to punch line for late night talk show hosts and the last place any baller in the league would ever consider a desirable destination. Not only have they always been the 'little brother' of the Lakers, but they've been the little brother who was born deaf, dumb, mute and deranged, forever banned to the basement with an iron mask locked on their face. OK, maybe that's a little much, but the fact that the 'Clipps have only had two winning seasons since moving to L.A. in 1984 can't be overstated. But it seems that the nightmare may finally be over. While Chris Paul is being heralded as the savior for the Clippers, I have to remind you that the original domino was Blake Griffin. My infatuation for Blake has been well documented on this blog, and it's my belief that without the high flying young superstar, there's absolutely no chance of Chris Paul donning a Clippers uniform and no new found hope for Clipper fans. But why wouldn't a passing point guard want to link up with a guy who in his FIRST SEASON put up the same numbers as Charles Barkley's career averages? And because of such an X factor like Blake Griffin, I believe signing with the Clippers was the best possible move for CP3. Now being a Lakers fan, of course I wanted Paul in purple and gold, and I think originally that's what Paul wanted as well. But I'm convinced that CP3 will blossom more as a Clipper than he would as a Laker because of the personnel in both places. With Paul as a Laker, Kobe would have to play much more off of the ball than he ever has in his career, and I think we can agree that with an aging Bryant, now isn't the time for experiments. Could the two guard combo have worked on a macro scale and brought more banners to Laker-land? We'll never really know, but the window to find out whether it will or won't work is much larger with the Clippers. If you look back at Chris Paul's young career (six seasons), the times that he's been most successful is when he had athletic frontcourt players. From 2007-2009 when Paul had David West and Tyson Chandler, he led the league in assists and had his highest scoring outputs, as well as led the Hornets to the most victories they had in the years before or after. Between Griffin at the power forward and an athletic 7-foot DeAndre Jordan at the center spot, I think CP3 will have all the help he needs when he gets into the paint, and run the open floor. For as talented or athletic as Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol are for the Lakers, the 1-2 punch of Griffin and Jordan seem tailor made to the strengths of a speedy Paul. From here on out it's just about filling in the pieces for the new-look 'Clipps. I feel like Caron Butler is another perfect fit for Chris Paul because he can score without needing the ball in his hands and he's proven that he can ball with another dominant guard. When Butler was paired with Gilbert Arenas in Washington, he scored roughly 20 ppg, and everywhere he's been on his travels he has hit the glass for easy offensive put backs. He also runs the floor and has a good basketball IQ that should mesh perfectly with his new best friend, Paul. As for Mo Williams and Chauncey Billups, I can't be sure. Both are good pieces but whether they fit into this particular puzzle in terms of minutes and shots remains to be seen. Bringing Chauncey off the point for the first time in his career seems enticing because he can knock down shots at the 2-guard spot, but something tells me he won't be a Clipper this time next year, just a hunch. All in all the move to land Chris Paul as a Clipper was a move that needed to be done if you're going to be progressive as a franchise (finally!). It's like having Yao Ming on the draft board...it's a larger risk not to make the move than it is to pull the trigger. Time will be the ultimate judge, but I think going all-in will end up paying dividends for years to come for both Chris Paul and that 'other team' in Los Angeles.
I was just texting back and forth with one of my best friends who lives out in Chicago about the ankle breaking deke that Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks put on goalie Niklas Backstrom of the Minnesota Wild last night, and decided that the move was just too good not to throw up here in video form. Kane, who is in the midst of having another fantastic year for Chicago (31 points in 31 games!), used a move that as I described to my buddy as the hockey version of getting your ankles broken in a casual street basketball game...only Patrick Kane is on skates, and the game was during the regular season of a professional sport where the shootout win is worth a much needed two points in the standing, especially with the Detroit Red Wings breathing down their neck in the Western conference's central division. So of course the pride of the Blackhawks ignored those 'play it safe' factors in the shootout and decided to pretend he was in the Matrix, slowing down his speed toward the goalie to that of a turtle, only to crank up his stick work to the speed of a Allen Iverson crossover. The puck was bang, bang, back and forth until the goalie had been shook out of his oversized padding, leaving half of the net wide open for Kane to put it away for a 4-3 Blackhawks win. I counted 13 different times that the puck was brought back from one side of the stick to the other from the moment Kane passed the blue line, which is only 20 meters from the goal. Basically, with a possible exception of Charlie Conway, I've never seen anything like it. Have you? Here's the vid...
Did anyone else see Alabama forward Tony Mitchell fall from the ceiling the other night and catch that crazy reverse ally oop in a 62-54 win over Detroit? Who is this guy and since when is Alabama BASKETBALL ranked nationally in the top-25? I think the last time the Crimson Tide hoops team was a part of the national poll I was a teenager, but their team has quietly become a serious player in the SEC. Last season they won 25 games and went 12-4 in conference, eventually winning the SEC Western Division and snagging a top seed in the postseason NIT tournament. All of this forward movement for the program seems to slide under the radar simply because of how much damn attention college football deity Nick Saban and his club get on a daily basis in Alabama, and rightfully so. Eventually though, after the showdown in the BCS national championship with LSU, folks in 'Bama will have to recognize the round ball squad if the boys in Crimson keep up their winning ways. As for Tony Mitchell, this dude is a freak. A 6'6 frontcourt guy who moves like a swingman and is averaging 15 points and over 7 rebounds a night will catch the SEC's attention, but his athleticism will catch (if it hasn't already) the eyes of the nation on SportsCenter top plays. He first caught my eye when he had 17 and 11 against Maryland, and then again when he dropped 26 on Wichita State...but the display of springs against Detroit deserved a blog post in itself. Hopefully Alabama can continue to play well and gain exposure, and with their next ten games against teams like Kansas State, Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State, and Kentucky, they'll certainly have their chance. Below is the video of Tony Mitchell bruising his wrist repeatedly on the rim v.s. Detroit.
I thought this was a very cool still image of rookie quarterback Jake Locker barely getting the football to break the plain of the pylon as he put his stretched out body on the line for six points in a 22-17 loss to New Orleans on Sunday. Locker came into the game during the first quarter for an injured Matt Hasselbeck and made the most of his snaps yet again going 13-29, 282 yards, one passing touchdown, and of course this rushing touchdown. Nice job, rook.
As any regular reader of this blog would know, my work covering the University of Albany's men's basketball team has kept me pretty busy over the last month or so. But since I have a break between last night's resounding 87-63 win over Colgate and the next time the Great Danes play on the 17th against Cornell, I wanted to shell out some opinions on some of the national conversations that I haven't had a chance to lately. My number one hot button issue, at least to me, is whether the near and dear to my heart Los Angeles Lakers will go after Chris Paul, or Dwight Howard, or both. The probability of landing both mega stars seems a little farfetched from what we're hearing, which has sparked the debate over which player is more essential to another championship in Southern California. For me, it's a 'slam dunk' decision on who L.A. should shove all their chips to the center for...Mr. D12, Dwight 'Manchild' Howard. I think Chris Paul is great so don't twist this up, and wherever he lands up will surely be better off for it, but anytime you have a chance to put a purple and gold jersey on the best center in the league, you do it. Ask a group of 10 basketball junkies who they think the best point guard in the league is, and I bet half say CP3, and the other five split between Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, or the MVP of the 2010-11 season Derek Rose. Ask those same 10 fanatics who the best center in The Association is all of them would be forced to say Dwight Howard. He's a dominant 23 points and 14 rebounds every single night, three time reigning defensive player of the year, and the most physical presence in the game of basketball today. Bynum and Gasol have been terrific for the Lakers and have helped win two championships, but when you see a youthful Steve Young on the Horizon, you do what you have to do to Joe Montana for the future's sake. Same situation, you sell everything on the farm besides the farmer (Kobe, of course). I hear people say, "but it's a point guard league!" Umm, ok...sure, there's a bunch of successful point guards right now, but how are we measuring success? Look at last year's NBA championship between the Heat and the Mavericks. Dallas ended up hanging a banner with Jason Kidd starting at the point and he's 38 years old! The Miami Heat, the Eastern Conference champions were playing Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers at the PG!?! Some point guard league. Who won the chip the two years before that? L.A...Did they have an All-Star point guard? Nope. The Celtics did have Rondo back in 2008, but I don't think anyone would argue that finals MVP Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and the greatest three point shooter ever Ray Allen didn't have a 75% say in that. Oh, and by the way, Rondo wasn't even an all-star that season, or the year after. But what have all these past champions had in common that can't be disputed? Frontcourts people, frontcourts! What made Dallas different last season as oppose to the years< before, huh? Tyson Chandler. The Gasol/Bynum, Garnett/Perkins, Duncan, Shaq, and Ben and Rasheed Wallaces of the world have dominated the paint for all the past champions. It's proven that you can win it all without a top tier point guard, but you cannot win it all without a Big. Period. So if I'm Jerry Buss, I do whatever I can do to insure the next 5-7 years of success in L.A. by cutting loose his unrealistic vision for Andrew Bynum, and making a serious run at the best center in the NBA, Dwight Howard, just like they stole Shaq, Kareem, and Wilt in years past.
I've just awaken this Tuesday morning one night after my first ever experience with the annual Albany Cup between Siena college and the University at Albany. I'm only eight games into this young season broadcasting on radio for the University, and have called games against Syracuse and George Mason, but none of those games against nationally notable opponents felt quite like two crosstown rivals duking it out in front of over 8,000 capital region basketball fans. For those who don't know, the fans from Siena traditionally aren't too fond of the Great Danes or their supporters, and the UA faithful pretty much share the same sentiment. I hate to clump everyone in one big category, but generally speaking that's just the way things are. Now this isn't a malicious type of distain, but an element of distain nonetheless. The game itself provided all the drama the paying public had hoped for with Albany first jumping out to a 19-point first half lead, but eventually losing 64-60. It seemed like everything was working early on for the Great Danes. Defensively UA was in the Saints players shorts and it didn't feel like Siena knew how to handle it. Their offense was extremely stagnate once they did break the press, and it was one of those times in a basketball game where everything seemed hard. Hard for Siena to get into the teeth of the defense, and hard to get high percentage shots. Thankfully for the Saints, they had Evan Hymes, a 5-8 147-pound freshman that bailed them out with five first half three pointers and 19 of Siena's 29 first half points. The kid who looked like the ball boy and could probably get lost in a junior high hallway was downright brilliant through the first 20 minutes. Albany's 37-29 lead at halftime eventually evaporated due to the most under rated statistical category in basketball: Defensive rebounding. It seems easy because the defense is already in position on the inside of the offense, primed for the ball to come off the rim. A simple box out and secure the rock will do it, right?. Easier said than done against Siena's junior forward OD Anosike and Seton Hall transfer Brandon Walters. Both are 6'8 230lb athletes that if left unattended will kill you on the glass, and that's exactly what happened. The two horses for Siena had 12 second half offensive rebounds and finished with 17 offensive boards for the game. Almost half of Siena's points came right inside the paint (30 of their 64), and Albany didn't have a big man talented enough to except and win the frontcourt challenge. Anosike had the best game of his Siena career finishing with 21 points and 18 rebounds. My broadcast partner Rodger Wyland and I talked during the pregame about regardless of who the favorite is, somehow the game is always close between the two teams, and this year was no different. Albany was thought to have a distinct edge coming in, but speculation turned out to be just that. For the Great Danes, there's no time to dwell on a non-conference loss, no matter the regional significance. Wednesday UA hosts Colgate at the SEFCU arena, a game that I'll be doing solo on the radio for the first time ever. Hopefully both Albany and I can grow from this latest challenge.
I was just on the verge of posting my first ever 'vlog', a blog in which the content is video instead of written words, but for whatever reason the audio isn't matching up with the visual. So while the vlog will have to wait until next week, I'll just bang out what I had just said on video in the mean time. I've already watched most of the top 25 teams in the country (and then some) so far in the young college basketball season. I'm seriously impressed with a few, but above everyone it's Kentucky that in my own mind has risen to the top just 7 or 8 games in. I thought it was a great decision for both Doron Lamb and Terence Jones to stay out of the NBA draft and hit it hard again in Lexington this season, and newcomers Marquise Teague and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist both look promising...but of the budding superstars on John Calipari's star studded squad, it's got to be freshman Anthony Davis that has impressed me the most. If you haven't seen Anthony Davis yet this season, just turn on the next Kentucky game and look for the 6'10 string bean that runs like a deer, and has a unibrow that can be spotted from the nose bleed section of Rupp Arena. He's very hard to miss. I mentioned he was 6'10, but he wasn't always that big. Dude was a very average 6-1 at the end of his sophomore season in high school, but by the start of his senior season he had grown 9 inches. It's not just dumb Shawn Bradley height either, the kid was used to dribbling and shooting the basketball with the rest of the guards for 80% of his life and just because he had a Andre the Giant growth spurt didn't mean those skills have diminished at all. Davis is a capable dribbler in the open floor, and often grabs a big board and pushes the ball up the court with 2 or 3 long strides before giving it up to a guard. And after he does that, he doesn't stop running. Missed shots for Kentucky mind as well be post entry passes for Davis. In just seven games Davis has 21 offensive rebounds. It took me three games of watching Kentucky to be convinced that Davis is the best weak-side shot blocker in the nation as well, and is among the nation's leaders is swats. Remember how hyped everyone was about Greg Oden? A 7-foot athlete that runs the floor and can get off his feet? Well Anthony Davis isn't exactly 7-foot, but he seems to embody the projections that Oden never could fulfill. The question I have is what can Anthony Davis NOT do? On Wednesday night (December 1st) when Kentucky played St. Johns, Davis went for 15 points, 15 rebounds, 8 blocks, 2 steals, and only 1 turnover. Don't forget, Davis is doing this while sharing the basketball with other NBAers. I'm sure Anthony Davis's statistics will dip a bit as he gets used to the fulltime rigors of a his first college season, and as opposing coaches start narrowing in on him in the scouting report, but don't expect too much of a drop off. You take his skill set, mix it with his IQ for the game, along with his length and athleticism that can't be taught, and you're left with an All-American and top 5 draft pick. Calling my shot about Davis here and now, just like I did in private among my friends before the college season even began. If he can stay clear of injury, I believe we're looking at the next big thing.
Zach graduated from St Rose in 2010 with a degree in
communications. After graduating he covered the same program in which
he played, the st rose mens basketball team for one season before
being hired as an analyst for UAlbany's division 1 football and