Wow. What a season opener. Granted, A&T wasn’t ranked high, so I expected the win … but we did so much more than win. We played a LOT of guys, and in doing that, the fans got to see a pretty good preview of what to expect this season.
Zay has probably had more scrutiny and hype on him this pre-season than any other Spartan player ever (except maybe Kyle Hines). Last night was not indicative of what we’ll see from him this season. First, A&T did not let him do his thing offensively because any time he got near the basket, they mauled him with cheap fouls. They DID NOT want another embarrassing dunk-fest from him like they had at their home last year. And they DID NOT want an Isaiah SC-Top10 moment for UNCG fans to retweet on twitter for another long year.
Oh well, it didn’t work. Isaiah finished with 13 points, 6 rebs, 3 assists, & 3 steals (including one of his patented skyscraper steals) … and the venerable #1 position in the SC-Top10 collage. Here’s some unedited video from a million angles:
Favorite parts of this:
#35 throwing his hands out after the dunk, like he was saying, “What am I supposed to do about that?”
— UNCGHoops.com (@uncghoops) November 6, 2019
Side Note: Zay would have had 19 points if he’d made the 6 freethrows he missed; and I’m sure he’ll be working on them today. Coach will see to that.
I wasn’t surprised by Kaleb’s 17-pt performance. I expected it. We saw shades of his greatness last year. Once he gets in his flow, he’s virtually unstoppable. Three more years with this kid holds very well for the UNCG basketball program. And might I say that Kaleb’s freethrows are smooth as butter. They’re a joy to watch and they make me giddy.
Michael Hueitt Jr.
After seeing this kid in practice (and watching him win the 3pt contest at Madness last year), I knew we had a shooter that would lessen the loss of Francis Alonso. In fact, my prediction was that he’d fit into the offense a little better because he was quicker. I think we saw that last night.
After missing his first 3 shots, he finished strong with 4-8 shooting (2-5 from three-land). And man, is that a quick release! He also releases just as quick with his no-look passes … which is an absolutely fun aspect of basketball that is getting lost in the non-John-Stockton era of NBA basketball.
I went to see this kid play a few games last year at SW Guilford, and made it to the State Championships to watch he and his brother lead their team to a State Title. I told people he was as quick as Isaiah Miller, with a longer range and more of a point guard vision. He doesn’t have quite the ups of Isaiah (he’s close!), but he’s got a different set of talents that mesh with the team to give the squad a great mix when he’s on the court.
More important, he didn’t play like a freshman; in fact, he played like he was a court general, just like in High School. He threaded the needle with some superb passes a few times, leading the team with 6 assists, and hit a few shots after he shook off the freshman-first-game-jitters. With a game line of 7pts, 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, & ZERO turnovers … I think we see the future of UNCG in this kid. Can you imagine having two Langleys on the court at the same time?
The 6-10 freshman from the Netherlands, whom I call Jordy 2.0, had a nice debut in his Spartan uniform. 8 points (6 of them from freethrows) is a great start. The stats don’t have him for a steal but I’d be curious who they gave his steal to … I distinctly remember him intercepting a pass at half-court and going the distance only to be fouled under the basket as he went up for a dunk. Add 5 rebounds, and you’ve got a big guy who moves better than most big guys. Yes, the future is bright for our “new guys.”
Gelo has picked up right where he left off last season. 4-8 shooting (2-6 from beyond the arc), 5 rebs, 3 assists, 1 steal. It was a solid game for him, a solid game for anyone. Nothing too flashy, but he’s got a shot that I think is going in every time he shoots. In fact, if you’re quiet enough during games, you can hear me yell, “Gelo Shots!!” every time he gets the ball and starts to square up.
Malik Massey – He’s not flashy, and you won’t see him dunk the ball, but Malik did what Malik does last night. He set the tone for the team and ran the offense like it should be run.
James Dickey – Not his best night. He’s still getting stripped when he brings the ball down below his waist. But he’s making up for it by blocking shots (3 blocks). Dickey may never be an offensive force, but he’ll clean up the boards for easy trash points and intimidate the opposing team when they bring the ball inside.
Kyrin Galloway – Kyrin’s shot has not changed. It’s still pretty to watch, but it sure didn’t fall last night: 1-7 from 3pt range. He did pull down 5 rebounds, get 2 steals, and block 3 shots, so he’s forgiven.
Ryan Tankelwicz – Hit his only shot of the night, a fake-sidestep-squareup-three-pointer that swished through the basket like budda. It was a thing of beauty, and with around 5 minutes to go in the game and the crowd feeling lackluster with a 20+ point lead, it got everyone hyped again.
Big Mo & Kobe Langley sat out due to injury.
I like this squad a lot.
We lost Francis Alonso but got Michael Hueitt Jr. We lost Demetrius Troy but got a couple Langleys (Kobe is just as good as his brother, Keyshaun, and they play off each other well). We lost Lloyd Burgess and got Bas Leyte, a Jordy-Kuiper-alike who’s ahead of where Jordy was as a freshman (and saw what Jordy turned into).
So I’d say that we gained more than we lost. But a team is not made of individual stars … it’s a mix of talent that has to gel into a cohesive, well-oiled machine to win 20+ games. We had 9 guys play 14+ minutes last night … and that’s a threat to any opponent.
When you can take your starters off the court and replace them with guys who aren’t less in talent, but rather possess a different skill set of equal talent, you’re going to wear down opposing teams. Especially with a smothering defense like ours.
So yes, it appears we have a contending TEAM again. We’ll find out how ready they are when we travel to #3 Kansas in a few days.