Saturday, July 25, 2009

Deveroes Summer League: Playoffs--Semi-Final

SLATS 78, 77

Incoming UC scoring sensation and soon-to-be media circus, Lance Stevenson was in the building at Woodward High School on Saturday, but remained in street clothes and on the bench. Nonetheless, fans were treated by a scoring outpour from another UC recruit, Sean Kilpatrick,who dropped 40 points in a one-point game against Superior in the semifinal round of the Deveroes Summer League Playoffs.

Kilpatrick caught fire early, racking up 28 first-half points, and kept SLATS in the game despite a cold-shooting first half by point guard Dion Dixon and a generally lethargic first-half effort from the Oak Tree, Yancy Gates.

Superior started five Division I players---Dante Jackson (Xavier), Anthony “Biggie” McLean (UC), Vince “Captain” Cook (Miami, OH), Jason Love (Xavier) and Deonta Vaughn (UC)---and looked like the better team for much of the game. But once Dixon settled down, and Gates woke up, SLATS gained the momentum late and edged out a great win.

The last two minutes was an intense, back-and-forth affair that saw Dante Jackson and his magical mustache drive hard for a basket plus the foul that put his team up five with 1:47 left.

With their backs against the wall, SLATS turned to outside shooting but from an unlikely source in center Yancy Gates who knocked down three second-half 3-pointers, including one in crunch-time to put his team up by one.

Superior reserve guard Armon Basset, hit a huge jumper to regain the lead by two points with under a minute to play, but then turned the ball over after a defensive stop on the next possession; a play that proved to seal their fate.

Kilpatrick then took the ball aggressively to the rim for the score and the foul and completed the three-point play, giving SLATS the lead.

Deonta Vaughn got off a good-looking three-point attempt with under five seconds left, but the shot rattled off and bounced out of bounds.


Sean Kilpatrick flows with the game and puts up bunches of points naturally instead of dictating the pace and the ball like so many other players in this league. He moves very well without the ball and has a smooth, quick release that doesn't need much space to be effective. He plays solid face-up defense and rebounds well for a guard. Killa averaged 22.1 points for the season and was 20-51 from 3-point land.

Yancy Gates has shot from the outside almost exclusively in the last three games and has actually shown a bit of stroke from 18 feet and farther. It's unlikely Yancy will be encouraged to demonstrate this kind of shot selection during the college season, so he might as well show off his range in the DSL.

Dante Jackson plays some mean defense. Jackson disrupted Dixon in every facet of his game during the first half, and when he switched to Kilpatrick in the second, Killa appeared less deadly. Dante showed more intensity and seriousness than any other player that I've seen in this tournament. His shooting looks sharp and he clearly has the respect of his peers. Even Deonta Vaughn took a back seat to Jackson within the offense. I would look for Jackson and his Chris-Paul-stache to raise his game this upcoming season for X.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Deveroes Summer League: Playoffs--First Round

SLATS 89, Flessa 80

After watching the first round of the playoffs in the Deveroes Summer League, one thing is certain: winning matters to these guys.

Most of these players have an entire schedule of college basketball awaiting them in the fall. They will practice, play games and watch tape of basketball almost nonstop for the next six months or longer. Most people would be called obsessed if they did the same activity as much as these men play basketball. Yet here they are at Woodward High School on their free-time, balling on each other.

Then there are the local legends; the guys who once played somewhere most people have heard of and now dominate the YMCA league of their choosing. For some of these men, the DSL is their biggest stage, and it becomes their chance to finally shut these young punks up who think they’re better than everybody else.

The point is that when the game-clock ticks down, the intensity turns up. During that time, the lore and reputation of a player can wax and wane. Even though there is no money involved, the extra effort is given for the respect of ones peers—which has an interesting way of motivating people on its own.

On the car ride over, I expressed to a friend how I thought Dion Dixon was very average. Dion seemed to make hasty decisions, not do any one thing particularly well and complain a lot. On the car ride home, my opinion of him had been completely turnaround and I began wondering about him in the NBA. I’m easily impressed.

The initial intrigue of the match-up was the battle of the heavyweight centers. SLATS had the Oak Tree, Yancy Gates and his 18-foot shooting touch, while Flessa had the Human Snow-Cap, Kenny Frease and his crafty glass work. The two giants didn’t disappoint, each providing solid contributions to their team. But at the end of the night, it was Dion Dixon who made the difference.

With seven minutes left and his team down by two, Dixon decided he would take the ball to the rim every time until someone stopped him No one could stop him.

Team Flessa tried putting the tiny, but scrappy, Steve Steward on him and Dion out-muscled him. Flessa went with the scowling and barrel-chested, Paul “Mad Man” McMillan to defend him, and Dion zoomed past him. They tried the long, slender, cartoon-cat-like Darnell Wilkes who was out-muscled and zoomed past.

In that seven minutes, Dixon scored 16 points, including eight on free-throws to help his team win by nine. He showed a combination of strength, athleticism and sheer determination—particularly on defense— that proved I had severely underestimated him. He finished the game with 29 points and was 12-16 from the line. The term is thrown around a lot in the world of sports, but on this night, Dion was truly unstoppable.

SLATS as a team played good defense forcing Flessa into shooting 8-26 from 3-point territory. Explosive scorers Eddie Gray and Paul McMillan each shot poorly. McMillan missed multiple close range shots inside down the stretch and although he finished with 24 points, he seemed too irritated to get into rhythm. Gray bounced around and dazzled with his quickness and his ball-handling skills, but he hoisted three-pointers up from all over the court unable to find a spot he liked. He finished 3-12 from outside.

Aside from feeding Frease in the post, Flessa never worked a team offense into the game plan and relied on one-on-one match-ups for scoring. With Flessa’s veteran gunslingers, that philosophy normally suits them just fine, but sometimes a team needs more than that to beat a young, talented team like SLATS.

SLATS plays in the semi-finals on Saturday,12:30pm, at Woodward High School.

Box Score:

SLATS vs JOHN H. FLESSA LAW OFFICE (07/22/09 at Woodward High School)

Official Basketball Box Score
07/22/09 7:30 p.m. at Woodward High School

04 STEFANOU, Steve..... f 2-4 1-1 0-0 1 3 4 1 5 3 2 0 0 20
24 GATES, Yancy........ f 10-21 1-2 1-2 6 7 13 2 22 3 0 0 0 32
01 McBRIDE, Anthony.... g 6-12 0-2 2-2 1 4 5 2 14 0 0 0 1 32
03 DIXON, Dion......... g 8-17 1-6 12-16 2 4 6 3 29 4 4 2 1 32
23 KILPATRICK, Sean.... g 8-13 1-5 2-2 3 3 6 0 19 3 3 0 1 32
14 ALUISE, Mike........ 0-2 0-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 12
TEAM................ 1 3 4 1
Totals.............. 34-69 4-17 17-22 14 25 39 8 89 14 10 2 3 160

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 16-41 39.0% 2nd Half: 18-28 64.3% Game: 49.3% DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-11 18.2% 2nd Half: 2-6 33.3% Game: 23.5% REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 3-5 60.0% 2nd Half: 14-17 82.4% Game: 77.3% 1

22 FREASE, Kenny....... f 8-11 0-1 2-2 1 10 11 0 18 2 4 2 0 27
23 WILKES, Darnell..... f 1-2 0-0 0-0 1 3 4 4 2 2 0 1 0 21
24 McMILLAN, Paul...... f 9-19 2-4 4-5 5 4 9 2 24 0 4 0 0 26
05 STEWARD, Steve...... g 3-7 0-0 2-2 1 1 2 3 8 1 0 0 2 24
11 BYRD, DeAndre....... g 5-16 3-9 0-0 3 1 4 2 13 3 4 0 0 30
01 GRAY, Eddie......... 5-15 3-12 0-0 2 2 4 2 13 4 0 0 1 24
04 JACKSON, Joe........ 1-3 0-0 0-0 2 2 4 1 2 1 1 0 0 8
TEAM................ 2 2 4
Totals.............. 32-73 8-26 8-9 17 25 42 14 80 13 13 3 3 160

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 17-36 47.2% 2nd Half: 15-37 40.5% Game: 43.8% DEADB
3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 5-14 35.7% 2nd Half: 3-12 25.0% Game: 30.8% REBS
F Throw % 1st Half: 5-6 83.3% 2nd Half: 3-3 100 % Game: 88.9% 0

Technical fouls: SLATS-None. JOHN H. FLESSA LAW OFFICE-None.
Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total
SLATS......................... 37 52 - 89
JOHN H. FLESSA LAW OFFICE..... 44 36 - 80

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Deveroes Summer League: Regular Season

Monday, 7/20/2009

It seems shameful to admit that I had never been to the Deveroes Summer Basketball League until yesterday, but it’s true.

All I’d been missing every summer at Woodward High School, is a three-dollar sneak-peek at Cincinnati’s best hoopsters playing on different teams with different coaches, learning to adjust to new roles and new referees, and, perhaps more importantly, trying not to get dunked on.

The level of competition is slightly better than I suspected. The big names playing at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University obviously showcase the event, but it’s the obscure players that climb out of the woodwork and light up the scoreboard that make the league legitimate.

I was also surprised at the extent of the season; ten teams play a nine-game season, and the top eight teams play in a single-loss tournament. College coaches are not allowed to attend the games, so players like Yancy Gates can fire up three-pointers all he wants without worrying about being benched and screamed at for a week. Yancy spent the day hovering around the outside, testing his range without success. No one said a word about it.

Live action.

Former Xavier legend, Jamal Walker is the MC for the event, and although he at times nearly damages his microphone from his vocal enthusiasm on breakaway dunks and big three-pointers, the man is pure comedy who could eventually make Dick Cheney crack a smile. He was fantastic with his nicknames (Steven Toyloy was “Muscles”, Jamal Warren was “Grimey”, Sean Kilpatrick was “Killa”) and impressed me with his anecdotal tidbits about each player. He called the game well, and would at times do something else entirely, leaving the spectator to silently take in the moving poetry of the game on their own. However, when he did eventually return to his post as public announcer, he began with, “Live action” every time, and resumed his play-by-play hilarity. The basketball makes the event, but laughing at Jamal all day is worth the three bucks to get in.

Teams are named after their sponsor which results in intriguing match-ups like Superior versus S.I. Pool Care. Each team wears a different color of the same t-shirt which features Wolverine brandishing his metallic claws and has a dialogue bubble that reads, “Come get some Bud!”. It seems the designer of the shirt overlooked the facts that Wolverine typically refers to his villains as “Bub”, and that a comma is necessary to indicate that he is calling someone Bud. Luckily, the confusion did not cause hordes of shaggy people to turn up hoping to procure available Wolverine bud.

Live action.

New Xavier sensation, Jordan Crawford, showed up for the season finale and dropped an effortless 31 points in 28 minutes, including a ferocious dunk on another XU newcomer, Jeff Robinson. Crawford’s style is mellow and controlled, but freakishly athletic and all-in-all deadly; players like Glen Robinson and James Harden spring to mind as comparisons. He doesn’t appear to have a smooth, natural shooting stroke, but at the same time, he went 3-for-6 from three, highlighted by a deep fade-away as the shot-clock ran out.

Crawford’s a long-strider, getting into the lane easily and he likes to cup the ball as he swoops in for finger-rolls and runners. He showed enough handles and court awareness to use as a point guard if needed; similar to the role that Harden played at Arizona State last year. And yet, after all of that praise, Crawford’s most impressive facet is his leaping ability. It’s scary.

His team, OHC, had the best record of the regular season (8-1) and features other Xavier players, like incoming freshman guard Mark Lyons, and the freshly graduated yet still visibly sleepy, C.J. Anderson. Lyons appeared super-quick, having no problem getting to the paint and eventually the line, but still looked very young, demonstrating freshman symptoms like poor shot selection, not finishing around the rim, and dribbling too much. With time and coaching, Lyons should become a legitimate starting point guard someday, but from the little I’ve seen, I wouldn’t trust him with the keys just yet.

For size, the squad has former Dayton Flyer forward Norm Plummer, banging around his 6'7'’, wide-bodied frame. Plummer posted season totals of 16 points and nine rebounds a game, and kept smiling the whole time—who couldn’t root for a guy like that?

At one point during the game, OHC head coach Ozie Davis III, was moved enough to cry out chants of MVP. Jamal Walker stopped his play-by-play and asked Ozie who he was referring to. Ozie emphatically announced “Norm Plummer”, and everyone laughed. That’s just the kind of place it was.

Live action.

SLATS is the other team that gets most of the attention. Its roster is composed of all UC players and is led by the bruiser, Yancy Gates. Gates is a wide and beefy 6'9"; a person that seems rooted to where he stands. It must be like boxing out an Oak tree for opponents. He certainly has an NBA body, but has only shown flashes of an NBA game thus far in his career.

In the match-up against, Gates made defender Biggie McLean’s day easier by lurking outside and hoisting threes and long twos instead of working his college teammate in the post. Gates could dominate a league like this if he wanted to, but that may be why it doesn’t happen.

One player on SLATS who seems comfortable in his role, is UC freshman guard Sean Kilpatrick. Killa put up over 20 points a game on the season and was third in field goals. He showed a nice shooting stroke and seemed to be one of the only SLATS players to let the game come to him. He plays with a quiet sneakiness and looks dangerous from the outside. I see enough swagger in his game to picture him the league at some point.

One of the most impressive players of the day was Miami sophomore Vince “Captain” Cook, who helped beat SLATS on that day. Cook was extremely active defensively and had stretches where he seemed unguardable. A bonus of Captain Cook is his very genuine pirate beard, which, in my book, makes him an immediate fan favorite.

The other game of the day featured Eddie Gray; a man I know nothing about, but in around an hour, showed me that there’s something legendary about him. Imagine a mini Chauncy Billups; an older, veteran player, who gets fired up and drops backbreaking threes each time down the floor. Eddie Gray had 27 points, including five three-pointers in 25 minutes and he taught the youngsters playing for the Cincinnati State team (S.I. Pool Care) how to properly respect their elders.

Unlike the high-profile, Division I characters around the gym, the older guys like Eddie Gray live for these moments and take it all very seriously. It’s players like these that usually play a key role in determining who wins the whole thing. His team, John H. Flessa Law Office, is made up of a handful of veterans, including perennial leading scorer, Paul McMillan, and a young guy; a high-flying UC swingman named Darnell Wilkes. It wouldn’t be a long shot to pick Flessa as a championship team. Their first test will be against Yancy Gates and SLATS on Wednesday.

Live action.