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Rob Goes To Pickup!

Rob C. posted this pickup report on the board. We
got ragged on by ACC Handbook
for posting reader reports, saying that they
lacked accountability. We're not sure we understand that one. Some guy stands
in the gym, watches pickup, and tells his opinion. It's not like he's saying
Phil Ford beats his dog on a newsgroup (note - that is an example, not an
inference or a rumor).

We've done pickup stories since our first year, and
we'll keep on doing them. It's a nice break from the routine, and we
appreciate seeing other people's takes on it. We realize people will have
different opinions, and some of them we disagree with, but it' still fun to
read them, and like we keep telling everyone, this Page is a Fan's Joint. So
the pickup reports will continue. As a matter of fact, here's Rob's Take on a
recent game.

A day off, beautiful weather, and a visiting friend equalled my first chance to see a pick-up game this year. The players started wandering in at around ten till four, and things got going in earnest at about ten after (for those who might want to check it out).

We arrived shortly after the women had finished scrimmaging, with only Krista Gingrich around working on her shot (looks fluid). The following men's players were around:

Simpson, Williams, Horvath, Sanders, Dunleavy, James, Battier, Carrawell, Buckner and Borman. Boozer and Christensen were around but obviously didn't play. The good news is that Boozer is off crutches, and even the shoes he was wearing looked normal. He walked with a bit of a limp but otherwise seemed normal. He took some shots but only flatfooted.

Warm-up impressions: Dunleavy has unlimited range and a very smooth release. When open, he may be near-automatic. Horvath also has effortless three-point range and also looks very smooth. Williams is extremely physically mature. His shot looks good, but his motion is a bit herky-jerky. Sanders looks very, very raw offensively. He hit the occasional jumper but it's clear that it's not his strength. He tried the occasional hook shot but it also looked a bit forced. James and Battier shot very, very well. Nate has really trimmed down and it's helped his movement. Shane looks about the same.

First game: The teams remained constant in all five of the games I saw. Team 1 was Simpson, Williams, Horvath, Sanders and Dunleavy. Team 2 was the far more experienced Battier, Carrawell, James, Buckner and Borman. Interestingly, Shane ended up matched up against Sanders more often than not and did quite well against Casey.

In this game, team 2 came back to win after team 1 took an early lead. James was the man for his team, hitting a three and driving well to the basket. Williams was the leader for his team, also hitting a three and zooming by everyone for layups. This kid is not only quick, but strong. Buckner couldn't really check him, although Andre played admirably pesky defense, swatting away at balls and forcing turnovers. JD Simpson played with a surprising amount of confidence the whole time, with his shot looking smooth. I see him becoming a very good practice player, the kind who will challenge the starters.

In game 2, Shane and C-Well teamed up to leader their team to victory. Buckner managed a three, although he was reluctant to shoot the entire time. Dunleavy and Horvath came on for their team, each hitting threes. Horvath showed that he has the potential to be a very good rebounder, and he and Sanders teamed well to smother C-Well and Shane in the post. Dunleavy has a nice array of up and under moves and glides well to the basket. My friend pointed out that both Horvath and Dunleavy looked slow in comparison to most of the other

Game 3 had the young players getting a big victory, with Williams and Simpson leading the way. Williams has excellent floor sense, and both teams were looking to run at all times. Jason had some fantastic pinpoint passes, but Casey and Mike D showed a flair for passing as well. Nate helped his team with a couple of threes.

Game 4 was one of the most exciting, as it ended on a perfect Williams-to- Sanders alley-oop slam. Sanders was very active in this game and showed off his incredible leaping ability. Not only could he jump, but his quickness and agility are both remarkable. He needs to get much, much stronger, as he was being pushed around under the boards. Williams directed the show well for his team, with all four of his teammates scoring: JD on a three, Casey on a couple of dunks, Dunleavy and Horvath both getting threes, as well as Dunleavy driving and Horvath crashing the boards for

Game 5 was the deciding contest. Behind Battier and James, their team won a tight game. Nate hit two threes and had an amazing baseline drive for a dunk. Shane abused Casey down low and hit some jumpers. And C-Well directed the action, getting a layup for Borman on a back-door for the win. Casey was once again very active, as was Horvath. Williams was scoring more this game, mostly on hard-fought drives.

So what did I learn? It was an interesting matchup because the young team had such a huge size advantage, whereas the other team had all the experience. The young team played well defensively in the post, but had trouble with transition defense and rotating to the baseline. Luckily, with Shane and C-Well there, it won't be a problem, but the young players need to have rotating on D beaten into their heads. Even though it was only pickup, it was all business, as the players constantly urged each other to pick up the

It's interesting to observe player relationships, and it seems clear that Mike and Casey have developed a rapport on the court. In the warm-ups, they were clowning around, blocking each other's shots, taking crazy threes. But during the game, you could see Casey throwing great outlet passes to Mike.

C-Well, Nate and Shane have really taken their leadership roles to heart. They were all-business the whole time. This may be the best leadership we've ever had, and that's no slight to the past captains. This trio is that mature, that vocal, that mentally tough. I think Nate is really ready to raise the level of his game. If he can score 10 ppg and get maybe 4 rpg on a consistent basis, plus play his usual tough defense, he will make a big difference. I think he can do this. C-Well has absolutely no problem being aggressive and looking for his own shot. I think Shane actually could have shot a bit more.

Jason Williams will be special. While I think he'll probably put up 10-12 ppg as a frosh, I sense that a lot of his contributions will be subtler. His poise and maturity are both remarkable, an excellent complement to his already considerable physical skills. I worry about his shooting a little, but then Ed Cota has managed to get by as only an average marksman, so I don't forecast too many woes for Jason.

Horvath, Sanders and Dunleavy all have formidable skills but would have to be considered works-in-progress. All three obviously need to put on muscle, but Sanders needs to want the ball more, and needs to post up more. Horvath's instincts are excellent. Despite his lack of quickness, he was excellent at getting in the right position for Williams' passes. Nice rebounding form, too...he has all the fundamentals. Not a great leaper, though. He and Sanders make an intriguing twin towers set-up, as each complements the other. Dunleavy is the most intriguing of the three, with astounding shooting and passing, and nice instincts. He has a tendency to disappear for long stretches, however. Thinking of what he might grow into as a senior is exciting.

Buckner is a plucky player who will be quite handy for bursts of energy. He is very quick and a surprisingly good leaper. He was going after offensive rebounds and tip-ins. I see him causing turnovers and 5 second calls galore. Offensively, he's a bit shaky. His shot is OK but nothing special, and he's not a great ballhandler or passer, but is solid. If he makes any impact on the court it will be for his defense.

Overall, the session was nice because it was pretty much the team for next year, since the pros weren't there. We really need Boozer and Christensen, though, because I worry about scoring inside without them.

--Rob C.