This was officially the worst sports day of the year. I mean the worst. There was absolutely nothing happening in the world of sports and the news was so thin that I actually found myself saying, “oh well Greg Zoubek broke his foot. Wonder how this will effect Duke next season?” That is not good for anyone. On days like this, our mind immediately wonders to that which is important. Specifically, are the Cats going to be any good next season? I mean at this point, Billy Clyde is proving to be an even better recruiter than Uncle Sam at a Toby Keith concert, but that doesnt assure success. Ultimately we have to actually play games….against other real live teams. And those games will have a scoreboard where one team will win and another will lose. And in the last couple of years, the losing games have been all too frequent. So the question makes us all wonder…..will next year’s team be different?
The only method we have to judge future success is of course the Summer Pickup Game Season. Ahhh yes….the legend of summer pickup games. Since the dawning of the internet (really what did we do before it?), the legend of pickup games in Memorial Coliseum and the Seaton Center has been a rite of passage for the summer months. Every couple of days, fans get on message boards and post their thoughts on seeing the players…..who is good, who is bad…..who has bulked up, who has had too much pizza…..who “cant miss”, who looks rough. It is what we all wait for and it makes the summer worth living. Of course, summer legends dont always equal success. In the past, Josh Carrier, Jules Camara, Woo and Antwain Barbour have all been summer legends, thus making the system not fool proof. But summer game watching (which I have done more than my fair share of) did protect positive things for the future for guys like Marquis Estill, Cliff Hawkins, Patrick Sparks and Jodie Meeks. The summer can be a hint of the things to come and thus the reports are always exciting.
So what about this year? Well the reports have been fewer and far between. Why you ask…likely because the players are playing more and more in the closed-to-the-public practice facility. The days of unfettered access to the stars of tomorrow is gone and we are left with fewer reports and more secret operations. But fear not my good friend. For some still see the games and reports do come in. Here is a sampling of what I, your fearless blogger, have been hearing about this summer:
Any person who talks to me about this team this summer always mentions two storylines that dominate all of the games. First, the freshmen combo of Patrick Patterson and Alex Legion is the real deal. Both of these guys are showing top-notch skills that illustrate why they will be stars of the very near future. Patterson’s success is not a surprise. His hype has been through the roof and his name may be the most known of any incoming freshman since King Rex. But his summer performances have shown that the hype is at least somewhat deserved. He is a true banger and what one knowledgeable observer called “the best interior bruising forward in 15 years.” Patterson is not necessarily a huge scorer, but he does every little thing right. Think Chuck Hayes with low post moves and leaping ability. He will be special. And Alex Legion is a scoring machine. The athelticism and ability to put points on the board is through the roof as Legion attempts to make it impossible for Billy Clyde to keep him out of the starting lineup. One observer told me, “Alex Legion in his Sophomore season will be unstoppable.” Throw in the fact that AJ Stewart (as we have said all along) is being called “surprising” by most everyone and this freshmen class will be bringing the goods.
The second thing I hear all the time is watch out for “Razor” Ramon Harris. If Patterson is the most known incoming UK player ever, Harris may be the most unknown current UK player ever. Virtually every conversation I hear about UK basketball inevitably leaves Harris out and most forget he is on the team. But from the reports I have been getting, he is the most surprising summer star. Harris has athleticism that is off the charts, and has been able to block shots, get rebounds and score all summer long. His shooting has been strong as he has shown how he was able to put up the boat load of points that he did in the Great White North. His ball handling is still suspect and is the only issue tempering enthusiasm, but Harris has people expecting an off-the-bench scorer that can come in and guard people much taller than he is for a team lacking in size. Literally, everything I hear about Harris is positive….will he be a summer Carrier or a summer Hawkins? Only time will tell…..
There are some negatives as well. I continue to hear that Joe Crawford is struggling with being too individualistic, Porter’s ball handling is a question and our big men still leave much to be desired. But the team is much more unified than at any time recently (continuing a trend that began last year and should be attributed in large part to Ramel Bradley’s efforts) and that “team play”, which has been such a struggle in recent years, seems more fluid. Folks are seeing some potential in Mike Williams and some return to confidence of Derrick Jasper. And even the Coury Flurry is showing some signs of life. All in all, the news is positive, but then again the summer almost always is. But if the trends continue, UK could be much improved next season.
IF you have a summer report, and it is well done, email it to me at [email protected] I know some of you are seeing the guys…..let us know how they are doing. And in the mean time, remember…..you can smell the basketballs bouncing in the near future.