Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Further support for Gregory

This was originally a comment, but it got WAY too long. Thanks to the good analysis of why we need to support Coach Gregory from our own Frank Iguodala, but there is one important note left out. Gregory is doing something that no Dayton coach has down in a long time. He's bringing in the best players from the city of Dayton. Before Chris Wright, Dayton coaches had missed out on the likes of Daquean Cook and Romain Sato during their recruiting and it seemed the Flyers weren't even really considered by the top Dayton area recruits. Now in back-to-back years Gregory has brought in two of the best players in the city in Chris Wright and current high school junior Josh Benson.
Secaur did a great job breaking down Wright for us already. Wright is hands down one of the best athletes in this senior class and will bring something to the table that very few teams in the A-10 will be able to match up with...pure athleticism. While the rest of his skills are quite raw I'm very confident that Gregory and his staff will help him develop those skills. I do disagree with Secaur when he says Gregory doesn't do a good job of developing his players. Who ever thought that by his sophomore year Charles Little would have already become the player he is.
I've had the opportunity to watch Wright play twice and recognize that he can play at a high level. Dayton was able to get him over schools such as Michigan State and Michigan. That's quite the steal in my mind. In last year's state title game against Canton McKinley, Wright was matched up with current MSU star Raymar Morgan. While he couldn't lead his team to the win, Wright did a solid job in the half court containing Morgan. As has been said by others...getting Wright was a recruiting coup for the Flyers.
Now on to Benson who is coming off a state championship year at Dayton Dunbar (Cook's former high school). I was able to watch the title game against Upper Sandusky (or should I say Jon Diebler since I'm not sure why Sandusky even had other players on the court), and loved what I saw out of Benson. He's 6'10 with extremely long arms. He's strong footwork in the post and a quick first step. He's very long and athletic, altered a number of shots on the defensive end, and even tried to take a charge. But the best thing I saw out of him was his soft touch on the offensive end. He has the ability to step back and hit the 15 footer and is extremely good at the free throw line. Benson finished the game with 16 points and 10 boards and played some key minutes down the stretch.
While Benson is still quite raw I think his potential is unlimited. Right now his biggest flaw is his lack of strength, but he has plenty of time to work on that. Benson will also benefit from another year at Dunbar where he gets to up against Greg Oden's younger brother Anthony (just like Greg only four inches shorter and about 100 pounds heavier) everyday in practice. Dunbar has become one of the better programs in the state and there is no doubt in my mind that Benson will only get better next season.
Hopefully signing these two players is another sign of things to come for Coach Gregory. We've always known that he can recruit and now he's doing something that Coach Purnell never really came close to doing...recruiting the best players from Dayton (sorry Waleskowski doens't count). Just further reason to cut Gregory some slack and feel optimistic about the future.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Defense's Case for Brian Gregory

With all the recent bashing of Brian Gregory and the rest of the University of Dayton basketball team (present alumnus included..as far as bashing the team), I still dearly love the Flyers. I will agree with some of our authors (pretty much you Secaur) that Gregory has not achieved the level of success that we all hoped for in his first 4 years. But is it really fair to throw him under the bus, strip him of clothes, give him a blanket, some peanut butter and ship him to Texas? Not yet. I present to you the defense of Brian Gregory.

Reason 1) It hasn't been 5 years with Gregory as the captain of the Flyers ship

Now you say, cm on, it's only one year. That one year is a big difference. See the 5th year is a crucial year for any new coach, since it's the first year only his recruits will be in the program. I know the rebuttal is, well he's been using nothing but his recruits except for Monty Scott this past year. While that is true, you can see the progression in the quality of talent that Gregory is bringing in. Brian Roberts, to Charles Little to Marcus Johnson and now..Chris Wright. Slow steps to a top 50 recruit. Tell me who previous Flyer coaches have recruited that has had as much hype as Chris Wright coming in (we will not accept Sammy Smith as a valid answer).

Reason 2) The cupboard was empty

So in year 1, Gregory led Dayton to a Maui Invitational championship, the A-10 final and an NCAA berth. Since then, no postseason. Guess what, year 1 was an aberration since what good talent Dayton had graduated after that year. Goodbye Keith Waleskowski, Sean Finn and Ramod Marshall. Who was left in year 2? Mark Jones (sorry I just got the heebee jeebies thinking of him as point guard) Warren Williams, Marques Bennett and Monty Scott. Nice players, but not winners who went home and did you know what to the prom queen. Let's face it, Oliver Purnell knew what he had left, saw his chance to go back to the Carolinas and like a good prostitute, did what he had to do, took the money from the drawer and skanked his way to Clemson.

Reason 3) Scheduling is tougher

North Carolina, Pitt, Louisville, Creighton..that's a tough out of conference schedule. That will only help this team as they head into this year, when they face Pitt and Louisville again. Ok granted losses to Duquesne and SMU (what was that series about?) were Gregory's fault, but still 19 games won is pretty impressive.

We can sit here and talk about 6 guys transferring since Gregory's been here, which most of those were choices seriously made by the player (Alvarez: wanted more playing time; Big Des: Didn't want to put effort in; Chris Spears: Thief; Stafford: Graduated ; Norman Plummer: Troublemaker; Cripe: Slow & White), but when it boils down to it Gregory needs a learning curve to coach and deal with student athletes as the head coach. Look at what St. Louis did, Brad Soderberg, who had 1 losing season in 4 years and won 20 this year fired. Apparently there are stories about his mistreatment of players, bottom line it doesn't hold up for consistency in the program. Gregory has embraced Dayton, wants to recognize the past but has a vision for the future. He's a great salesman for the University.

With all that said, if we're sitting here next year this time and no postseason..I'm joining the tar and feathering.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Chris "Flyght" Wright

Today is a good day to be a Dayton Flyer basketball fan. Why? Because Chris “Flyght” Wright took the court last night in the 2007 Jordan Brand All-American Classic. The game was played in Madison Square Garden and was shown on ESPN2. In honor of an actual University of Dayton player-to-be playing in this game, I kept an abbreviated running diary of the contest. Here’s (some of) what went down…

I should mention that I was at work when the game was played, so I recorded it on the DVR and watched it later. Nonetheless, you’ll be getting my thoughts and reactions to the events as I saw them.

I’ll admit that I’m a pretty big loser, but even a high school basketball all-star game is usually beyond my limits. However, you have to realize that Chris Wright is an absolutely huge get for UD. Wright is probably the best recruit (in terms of HS ranking) Dayton has EVER had. As far as I know, no UD player has ever played in a national all-star game. Marques Bennett, however, did once drop 40-plus points in the Indiana North-South All-Star game and was named that game’s MVP. Signing Bennett was also a huge coup for Dayton, paying major dividends when Marques averaged a career-high 4.0 PPG in his junior season. All sarcasm aside, I’m jacked up that Wright is playing in this game (and that he did not change his mind and back out on his commitment to the Flyers), so the Jordan Brand Classic gets the full-on Secaur on Sports treatment.

At the top, I referred to Chris as “Flyght,” which apparently is his nickname. Here’s my question: shouldn’t it just be “Flight?” I mean, if his name was Chris Wryght, I guess I could see it. It would still be stupid, but at least I’d understand it. Until I get further answers on this, I refuse to call him “Flyght.”

Steve Lavin, Jimmy Dykes and some play-by-play guy I’ve never heard of have the call on ESPN2. The look on Lavin’s face can best be described as, “Crap, I really have to waste my Saturday night calling a high school basketball game. Is this worth firing my agent over?”

In the pre-game, we’re introduced to an awkward-looking white kid who’s headed to … Duke. What a shocker! I bet he has a 3.8 GPA and can be described as a “great character guy.”

First Half
20:00 – The announcers tell us the yellow team is loaded with talent, and Wright is wearing #34 and starting for Yellow. There is another guy named Chris Wright playing in this game. He’s a point guard headed to Georgetown next year and is on the blue team. UD finally gets a blue chip recruit, a guy ranked as high as the #8 small forward in the country by some outlets, and he’s not on even the best Chris Wright in the nation. Only the Flyers.

The good Chris Wright wins the opening tip and we’re underway.

19:38 – Wright’s man takes it right at him off the dribble, and Chris picks up an early foul. Not good. The dude he fouls misses both free throws, though.

19:09 – OH MY!!! ARE YOU SERIOUS? Sorry, that was Dick Vitale-esque, and I apologize. Wright just had a monster follow-up jam off of a teammate’s miss. On the board, he grabbed the ball at about waist level and – while still in the air – brought it all the way up for a nasty throw down. That was just sick, and I’m sure my description doesn’t even do it justice.

The dunk prompts Lavin to say Wright “may be the most electrifying athlete in this class.”

16:19 – CW blocks a 16-footer and makes it look effortless.

14:53 – Wright is subbed out of the game, so I fast forward the DVR until…

12:00 – Out of commercial break, ESPN2 interviews none other than Spike Lee. Are we sure Spike doesn’t live inside MSG? I’m picturing a cot somewhere in the back for him to sleep on, and Spike just showers and dresses in the home locker room.

There’s a player in this game by the name of Nick Calathes. I wonder if he’s any relation to current St. Joseph’s player Pat Calathes. Has to be, right? Let’s google it … and it turns out the two are brothers. Pat also has a twin named John Calathes, Jr. God bless the Internet.

10:17 – CW checks back in, meaning I can start paying attention to the actual game again. It’s 32-23 Yellow at this point.

9:55 – Wright cuts the bucket and is rewarded with another jam. This time, Lavin tells us that CW reminds him of JaRon Rush. Rush played for UCLA under Lavin as a 6-7 wing forward, so the comparison is definitely a compliment. However, my excitement is tempered by the fact that JaRon is the third best baller in the Rush family. Brother Kareem went to Missouri and had a brief NBA stint with the Lakers and Bobcats while his other brother Brandon played this past season for Kansas and is set to enter the NBA Draft this summer. Oh well, it’s still a compliment; I’ll take what I can get.

The broadcast team also points out that CW is the only “non-BCS guy in this game.” First of all, this isn’t true as a few of the players will attend Memphis, which does not play in a BCS conference. Secondly, I feel like this is a good thing because it makes people think Dayton can recruit toe-to-toe with the NCAA giants. While this isn’t true, it’s nice to have a Flyer in the same game as kids going to Duke, Texas, Syracuse, Indiana, Florida, etc.

8:26 – Wright grabs a board but immediately turns the ball over on the outlet pass. This is a staple of every UD big man. I’ve never in my life seen a team have as much trouble getting the ball from the rebounder to a guard as the Flyers. CW will fit right in next season.

7:23 – One of the players on yellow throws an alley-oop to Wright from half court, but CW can’t quite handle it. If Chris could have thrown that one down, it would have been a bigger OH MY than early in the game. He was WAY up there on that pass but just couldn’t slam it home.

6:04 – Wright scores again, this time on a lay-up.

5:46 – CW picks up his second foul of the game.

5:17 – He finishes again at the rim. That’s eight points so far this half.

4:45 – Another alley-oop attempt and another near miss. This time, the pass was just slightly behind CW, leading to a Yellow turnover.

4:21 – Wright is subbed out, likely for the rest of the half, so it’s fast forward time…

0:00 – The yellow team hits a half-courter at the buzzer to take a 64-55 lead into halftime.

Chris totaled eight points and eight rebounds in the first half. Lavin once again has nothing but good things to say about Wright. First off, I think Steve-o is falling in love with our boy. Quote: “What an electrifying athlete. I’ll tell you, if I was about ten years younger, I’d love to have his babies.” Okay I just made that up. Second, I take back what I said about Lavin in the opening. He no longer looks miserable and bored. In fact, I think he’s calling a fantastic game.

Second Half
19:38 – Chris picks up his third foul early on in the second half.

18:44 – He grabs an offensive rebound but misses badly on the put back. By my count, that’s Wright’s first shot attempt that wasn’t a dunk or a lay-up and it was waaaaay off.

17:29 – Another dunk from Wright. According to ESPN2’s graphic, he is 5-6 from the floor for ten points. I actually had him at 5-of-7, but maybe that failed alley-oop attempt early on didn’t count as a missed shot.

17:11 – CW picks up his fourth foul and heads to the bench – probably for some time to come. I wrote, “Yikes!” in my notebook when this play occurred. The reason: Wright relies far too heavily on his athleticism. For instance, he is willing to stand in the paint and jump for a rebound as soon as the ball hits the rim rather than boxing out his man and then going after the ball. He also is prone to lazy defensive habits such as leaving his feet on every pump fake to go for the blocked shot. He’ll also allow the player he’s defending to beat him off the dribble, counting on his speed to let him catch up or his leaping ability to allow him to recover by blocking/altering the shot.

7:26 – Nearly ten minutes later, our guy checks back into the game.

6:35 – CW gets the ball in transition and makes an out of control drive toward the hoop. His left-handed shot is off the mark but he’s fouled. Dykes tells us Wright is “as athletic as anyone on this floor.” More high praise for the UD-bound player. He proceeds to miss both free throws. Remember what I said before about CW fitting right in with the Flyers? Turns out he is already mastering what it means to be a Dayton basketball player. Are we sure he hasn’t been practicing with the team already? Seems like Charles Little has been wearing off on Wright.

5:00 – Yellow on top 107-105. Gotta love the titanic defensive struggle in these all-star games.

4:50 – Chris is wide open off of a pick-and-roll, but the pass is deflected out of bounds by a Blue player. Oh no, our guy gets subbed out, probably never to return.

Meanwhile, the other Chris Wright has racked up 14 points and seven assists. Not a bad night for the Wright Brothers. (HAHAHA, get it? Wright Brothers? Oh man…)

2:50 – Less than three to play and it’s 113-112 Yellow. I’m openly rooting for overtime just so CW might get back into the game.

0:00 – No overtime, unfortunately, and Wright never checked back in. CW’s yellow team wins it by a final score of 127-119.

By my count, Wright scored ten points and grabbed nine rebounds. This is unofficial and I’m still unable to find a box score or any stats online, so we’ll just go with it. I also had CW at 5-7 from the field, all on dunks and lay-ins and 0-2 from the foul line.

Overall, I’m encouraged – not ecstatic, but definitely encouraged – by Wright’s outing. He played pretty well and looked like he belonged on the same floor as some of the best high school players in the country. CW also looked extremely comfortable under the bright lights of MSG and on national television.

Five final thoughts on the kid known as “Flyght” playing in the Jordan Brand Classic:

1) The words "Dayton" and "Flyers" were just said on ESPN2 more in a two-hour span than they were in the last ten years. I really think UD's selling point has to be the "big fish, small pond" type thing. Seeing a guy like Chris play in a high school All-America game on national television might entice others in the future to do the same.

2) Someone needs to get in the gym with him and make CW shoot 1,000 jump shots and 1,000 free throws every day from now until November. Until then, he’s not much more than a taller C-Little with more potential.

3) I do not look forward to Wright getting the ball 30 feet from the hoop, taking two dribbles and handing off to B-Rob or LW as part of the weave. I also do not look forward to him standing underneath the basket, forced to get all of his offense from offensive rebounds and garbage buckets, while BG fails to run plays to get him the ball in the high post (post up at the elbow) and exploit mismatches. CW is a mismatch waiting to happen, and (in my opinion) playing CW and C-Lit at the same time could wreak havoc on opposing defenses – especially if Wright develops a serviceable 12-15 foot jumper.

4) I said it once and I’ll say it again: Just think about how good Wright will be after BG gets fired and he's coached by a guy who can actually develop talent :-).

Have a good week, homeys.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Some A-10 schools demand excellence.

Too bad UD doesn't.


Thursday, April 5, 2007

nor-MAN plum-MER

I didn't know how closely my fellow Peanut Butter bloggers (or our literally dozens of readers) were following UD basketball this off-season, but there is more news. Norman Plummer will no longer be a part of the Dayton men's basketball program, and he is expected to transfer after the academic year is over.

For those of you scoring at home, that makes the official "Transfers on BG's Watch" number now six. Plummer joins Meacham, Alvarez, Cripe, Stafford and Adedeji. Come on, people, get on the fire BG bandwagon with me. You'll feel dumb if you wait until we miss the postseason for the FOURTH straight time next season, so hop on board now.