Every season around this time, numerous college basketball programs across the country hold preseason scrimmages to give their fan base (student body, alumni, season ticket holders) a preview of what to look forward to during the season. I had the pleasure to check out George Washington Men's Basketball scrimmage and here are some takeaways from a very spirited scrimmage.
NCAA Rule Changes - Expect a transition period early in the season THROUGHOUT college basketball. The new rule changes will have an effect on the level of play, officiating and strategy early, however as with all things the adjustment will be made and you will see more consistency. During the scrimmage, I saw some confusion on charge calls due to the new restricted area being extended from 3 feet to 4 feet, officiating the new 10 second advancement to the front court and also players on defense still looking for a 5 second call defending ball handlers. Players I.Q and on court savvy will be relied on more than in past seasons which I feel is good for the game overall.
Matt Hart - was the most impressive player during the scrimmage. The transfer out of Division III Hamilton College made an impact in multiple ways. Hart is an explosive athlete which allows him to play bigger then his 6'1 frame. He can shoot it from the outside, break down defenders off the dribble at will, finish well, defend and is difficult to stop in transition. Hart should be a consistent contributor once the games start to count. Keep an eye on him.
FIBA Americas Championship - play for senior guard Patricio Garino helped his overall game tremendously, you could see it right away as he now plays with a maturity of a professional player. Garino took his time and exploited match-ups instead of just attacking and relying on his talent to make a play. In one sequence he ended up with freshman point guard Jordan Roland defending him and Garino posted him up and hit a nice turn around jumper. In another, Garino made a back door cut to the basket, and instead of driving all the way to the basket where senior center Kevin Larsen was waiting for him, Garino pulled up and knocked down a mid range jumper. His efficiency, and attention to detail now is on another level and that will of course only elevate him and ultimately the team as a whole.
BEWARE - of Yuta Watanabe off the dribble now. As a freshman, due to lack of confidence in his handle and strength, Watanbe would score off jumpers, in transition and on offensive put backs only. Now, after a summer of getting stronger (which you can clearly see he has) and working on his ball handling, Watanabe at 6'8, 6'9 is GW's most versatile playmaker. He can now break defenders down off the dribble and finish, while showing flashes of becoming a decent scorer on the block. His most underrated skill is his passing, he routinely hit cutting players on the dime for lay-ups with passes that brought oohhs from the crowd in attendance. If Watanabe puts it all together, he has All A-10 honors waiting for him.
The Preseason Buzz - surrounding Wake Forest transfer Tyler Cavanaugh has been strong and his performance during the scrimmage proved why that is so. Cavanuagh is a rugged rebounder and finisher who is pretty much automatic from mid range. His ability to stretch the floor will open things up for the rest of GW's bigs like Larsen and Cimino and make the lives of GW's guards a lot easier. He will most certainly make an impact this season.
The Most Underrated - point guard, maybe player in the country is senior point guard Joe McDonald. He's not flashy, he won't wow you will athleticism, he just gets the job done! He displayed great passing, defense and leadership during the scrimmage while most importantly hitting spot up jumpers with consistency. He also remains one of the best rebounding point guards I have ever seen, he was all over the court grabbing rebounds throughout the scrimmage and before the critics try to bring some negativity to GW bigs, Mcdonald does the same thing to EVERY team GW faces. He just has a nose for the ball. One of the top floor generals in the country in my opinion.
Kevin Larsen - should finish his career with All A-10 first team honors this season, there is simply no reason outside of injury why he shouldn't. He is a load on the block at 6'10 265, a very good rebounder, high I.Q, a very underrated passer and has 3-point range if you leave him open. During the scrimmage, Larsen and Cavanaugh matched up against one another and despite both winning their fair share of battles, Larsen got the edge overall, going to work and finishing strong on Cavanaugh in three straight possessions to end the scrimmage. Larsen should be a walking double double this season.