Saturday, August 4, 2012

Desert Reign: Impressions of UNLV’s Talent - Part II

This is part II of Jason Taylor's impressions from the Desert Reign tournament held recently. The first part, released this past Wednesday, had impressions of Anthony Marshall, Justin Hawkins, and Daquan Cook. The article continues here:

Savon Goodman dunking ally-oop from Daquan Cook

Savon Goodman - The first impression of Goodman as he stepped on to the court, is that all competitors might need to spend time running back and forth between the dorm buffet line and the weight room.  Okay, maybe that is a stretch for my “first impression”, but the assertion is entirely safe having watched him play.  Let me just say this… UNLV fans are going to LOVE this kid.  You know, like, a few years ago, how much we complained about needing toughness - guys that could scrap, scuffle and rebound by sheer physical domination?  Remember, especially before getting Moser, how a high-in-the-air rebound almost always went to SDSU, or UNM?  Remember how much we’ve complained about big guys that can’t drive from 18 to 22 feet out and just cram it down somebody’s throat, or finish on the break?  Rebel fans - have no fear, Savon Goodman is here!  That’s right, I’m sayin’ it with confidence.  We’re gonna’ Love This Guy.  Not only can the thick-bodied 6’6” 210lb forward pound, he can fly!  You saw the dunk in the video.  He was easily a good foot over the rim.  Then, “Oh, ya.  I forgot to mention, he’s got a soft touch.”  He can bull his way in, get knocked in the air, and still balance out a nice touch to put the ball in the basket.  The down side?  He needs to work on form in his jumper, and he looks to me to be a less than 60% free throw shooter.  That’s okay, though.  I’ll take all the “and-nones” he can dish out.  If you remember J.J. O’Brien, who transferred from Utah and almost came here last year but went to SDSU after Bryce Jones committed, Goodman is his ultimate replacement.  He scored around 30 points in the game I watched, almost all of them coming at the rim.  Nice!

Moving on to Katin Reinhardt - Flash, ah-ah.  Katin is the guy, who whenever he has the ball, we’ll be drawing breath, anticipating - something.  We’re not always going to get exactly what we hope for, especially as he “freshmans” out of the gates, but this kid is a showman, he loves UNLV, and we’ll love him back.  He can seriously break ankles with his cross-overs, and he has great form on his pull-up jumpers, which he’s very confident in using - maybe overly so at times???  He can drive, dunk, pass, and shoot.  Consistency and balance will be his biggest questions.  Anything can happen, but I definitely see him as a shooting guard, vs. point guard, to start off as a Rebel.  I believe he’ll be an early season contributor.

Demetris Morant - I saw Morant play last year in the Addidas 64 tournament, and then, of course, in the Desert Reign game as well.  To give background, this kid just won state in the triple jump and the high jump.  He cleared 6’10” to win.  That’s insane!  To give perspective, according to my sports-expert friend, Pete, the great Wilt Chamberlin set a record way back in the day with a 6’11” jump.  The kid is athletic!  However, he’s the “quiet kid” on the court.  He does fine, retrieving rebounds for put-back dunks, and he gets a share of blocked shots, but as I’m sure he would admit, he’s a few years away from making an impact as a Rebel.  I hope he has a great work ethic, because he has all the potential in the world if he’s driven.

Bryce Jones - When I mentally insert him into a line-up, I think, “How big and athletic can we get?”  Marshall, Jones, Moser, Bennett and Birch…  6’3”, 6’6”, 6’8”, 6’7”, and 6’9 - average vertical, atmospheric.  I predict stretches of time - say 3-minute blocks - this season that the other team simply doesn’t get a rebound!  Jones will be difficult to defend.  He has supreme confidence, and can score from anywhere.  Turn-around 15-foot jumpers, 3-pointers, finishing dunks - he has the full repertoire.  However, he may have a switch.  He’ll change some games for us, much like Chase did last year, and then, he may go absent at times.  Overall, he’s a tremendous recruiting ‘get’; he’ll bring attitude and toughness, and he’ll be contributing right away, I believe.  Stylistically, he’s more Kobe/Jordan-esque than anybody else on the team.  Whether he can perform similarly… well, that’s almost impossible.  More than anything, though, this kid is a high-level competitor

And finally, Khem Birch - Khem is a game changer even if he never sees the offensive end of the court.  His defense is crazy good.  He has Joel Anthony’s timing, but can probably out jump him by a good 6 inches.  Like Joel, he doesn’t need time to get off the floor - for rebounds, or blocks.  I’ll make some early predictions: Khem is ineligible to play until December, but he’ll still lead the MWC in blocked shots on the year.  How’s that for steppin’ out?  Then, rebounds - He will outrebound Mike Moser on a per game basis.  So while he may not have more total rebounds at the end of the season than Mike, I’m predicting that he’ll have more rebounds per game than anybody on the team, and conference.  He has a similar style and ability to Mike, but he rebounds from the inside out, vs. Moser, who rebounds from the outside in.  In other words, he starts his efforts near the basket.  He looks like he can guard out to the perimeter as well.  These facts, assuming they hold true, definitely make him strong NBA material in my mind.  Then, yes, he has offense.  He can grab an offensive rebound six feet on the side, and put it right back up without needing the backboard.  He’s active and talented.  He may not be the leading overall point per game scorer on the team, but he’ll definitely have games where he’ll be the leading scorer.  Like Moser, he just has too much that can’t be taken away. 

So that’s it.  This all sounds pretty exciting as I write it.  Every position is stacked.  Thomas and Lopez, I believe will still be contributors.  They’ll have their chance to play some good minutes early in the season.  The rest of the season will depend on how well they establish themselves, because it’s entirely possible that one of them will get very few minutes once Birch comes on. 

Another exciting element is the fact that the supposed “best player on the court”, Anthony Bennett, isn’t even mentioned yet.  He didn’t play in the Desert Reign tournament, and I haven’t seen him play, other than highlights.  He has been nominated by some national media to be the second most NBA eligible player in the 2012 class next to Shabazz Mohammed.  I’m hoping that Bennett will finally fill the shoes of the great Larry Johnson.  They seem to have similar builds and styles.  Fingers crossed on that one too!

Speaking of Bazz, I’m actually glad he didn’t choose UNLV.  We needed a power forward so much more than a shooting guard, or small forward.  There are those that wonder if we can manage all our talent.  I believe we have a very good chance of doing that as the team stands right now.  This, however, would have been much more difficult had Bazz come.  We would have been lighter in the frontcourt, and doubled up in the backcourt, possibly giving rise to some unhappy bench minutes for top talent.  The balance just wouldn’t have been there.

I only watched a few games, but these impressions, based on limited viewing minutes, helped push me into the T & M last week to grab season tickets.  That’s another story.  See you there, I’m sure!

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