Samardo Samuels scored 36 points and grabbed 16 boards in his Freedom Hall debut last night in the annual Red/White scrimmage in front of an estimated 11,600 fans. Mardo, as the team calls him, had by my count 9 dunks as he owned the painted area. His red team was victorious 97-80.
Earl Clark led the white team in scoring and rebounding with 30 and 15 showing off his mid-range game and displaying a number of ways he can get to the bucket. Clark didn't even seem like he was trying that hard but did show that he might be the most unguardable player in the Big East. His rare combination of both size and skill makes it difficult for anyone to man up with him. He can shoot over top smaller guys or drive around bigger ones. As long as he limits his mistakes (ie: walks, bad passes) E5 is due for a monster year.
The winning red squad was led by Samuels, however 2 newcomers had a big role in the victory. Jared Swopshire, showing off his new 210 pound frame, scored 21 points. The frosh from St. Louis via the IMG Academy in Florida showed he could play both inside and outside, hitting a couple threes and taking the ball to the rim with vengeance. There were at least 3 times he tried to go up and dunk over Clark or fellow frosh Terrance Jennings. Although he was unsuccessful for the most part, he drew the foul and made most of his free throws. It will be good for Swop to get some in-game action in the absence of T-Will early in the season. He will be very useful spelling the 3 spot come Big East play.
Mississippi State transfer Reggie Delk scored only 11 points but displayed intensity and athleticism for the red team. He can do anything that is asked of him whether it be handling the ball on the press or locking down the opposing 2 guard on defense. Tony's cousin is also a very smart player who doesn't make mistakes. He might have even been a step slow after spraining his ankle early after landing on someones foot after a three point attempt. The way my man Jerry Smith has played the two times I have seen him this year (Thursday practice & yesterday's game) don't be surprised to see Delk and Preston Knowles steal minutes at the loaded shooting guard slot.
Smith is struggling to say the least. The usually surefire junior missed all 10 of his attempts from long range yesterday and was sent to the track to run laps for the rest of practice on Thursday after falling asleep on defense. Every shooter goes through a slump now and then, however Jerry usually makes up for it with in-your-face, tenacious defense which was absent on both occasions. I have very high expectations, as does Coach Pitino, for Smith this year and even though the year is very young, I am disappointed in what I'm seeing. It could be the frantic pace or the pick-up type atmosphere that has taken Raindrops off his game, but I hope he turns it around quickly without dragging this slump into regular season play. I, like most Card fans, think Jerry has the potential to be great and his intensity is a crucial cog in the team's overall potential.An assistant even told me he was the most-improved player on the team, which is very exciting if true. The silver lining for Smith is that no one particularly shot the ball well at all.
At point guard, Edgar Sosa and Andre McGee were asked to get the ball over half court in 4 seconds, most of the time against a press. Both did a good job with McGee playing a little better in my opinion. McGee limits his mistakes, gets everyone involved and will take the open shot in the flow of the offense all the while playing under control. Sosa showed some razzle-dazzle moves, hit a few shots and made a few nifty passes. However, he was wild at times. Shooting contested shots (a Pitino no-no) and having to get Earl to bail him out taking the ball up the floor. That is what we are used to getting from Sosa though. He's a Feast or famine, high risk/high reward type of player. As fans, you just have to live with the good and the bad and hope the former outweighs the latter. I like how the two floor generals compliment each other. McGee looks quicker and more polished after losing some weight and getting his body fat percentage down to around 6%. Sosa finishes better around the basket, but sometimes he doesn't belong there. I think the competition. For the starting slot will help both improve. I'm just afraid Sosa might take it the wrong way if he is forced to come off the bench. Time will tell which guy steps up to the challenge.
Here are some other things I noticed...
-Preston Knowles hasn't lost a step and the sophomore slump that plagues most players will miss him. He is a fireball who seems to never get tired. I saw him handle the ball more than usual last night which might foreshadow a stint at point if Sosa and/or McGee are hurt or in foul trouble. PK just adds to the back court depth that is essential for a deep run in the tournament.
-George Goode doesn't seem quite game ready but he could step in when the Cards are in foul trouble. He is very raw and athletic, gets after it on both ends, and can knock down an open 15 footer if need be. He needs to add muscle so he can bang around with the beasts of the Big East, however it doesn't look like we lose much when he's in the game.
-Terrance Jennings looked a step slow as he is battling a nagging turf-toe injury. He gives the squad front court depth. TJ is a monster of an athlete which will help mask his unpolished post game. I envision him having a few huge games this season.
-Kyle Kuric has a great motor. He gets after it on both ends of the floor. At one point he knocked down a shot, then stole a pass at the other end and finished off with a nice assist. I have trouble thinking he's going to get much time this year (redshirt?) but again like the others I have mentioned, he adds to an already deep team.
-T-Will was playing the cheerleader role on the sidelines. He was dressed in a red team uniform but did not see any action. Coach Pitino first said he would be out 4-6 weeks, then on Sports Night it went to 2-4 weeks, and now I'm starting to think he will be back by the opening game against Morehead State.