Live at the Jimmy V Classic

by December 06, 2006

By Ben Osborne

It’s a crazy day at the SLAM offices so I don’t have much time for a flowery intro like AppleSon might pull off. Let’s just say I was eager to be at the Garden last night for a good early-season doubleheader and get right to the notes…

-Khalid and I arrive at the Garden last night just in time for tip-off. First game is 9-0, #24-ranked Oklahoma State against 7-1, #21 Syracuse. Cuse is favored in a sign of the lack of buzz surrounding Ok State; it was literally be hard to play in a power conference and open 9-0 and get less attention than the Cowboys have thus far this season.

-Cuse fans stand and clap til they score. Heart-warming in concept, it’s pretty tedious in practice, especially when the standing/clapping routine lasts through missed free throws, a missed shots from the floor, an OSU made bucket and nearly three minutes of game time.

-With all the talk of Cuse’s stud freshman Paul Harris (avg. 13 points and 7 rebounds on 53% shooting from the field) I assumed he was a starter. Wrong! Dude will get plenty of minutes tonight but he is definitely a 6th Man for the Orange.

-OSU’s point guard, Byron Eaton, goes 5-11, 221 and rocks a headband. Khalid disagrees, but I say Eaton is El-Amin-esque. I also wonder too myself how many times he’s been subjected to jokes along the lines of “what you been eatin’, Eaton?”

-Seeing the youngish fans absolutely pound beers early on (and hearing the obnoxious result of said pounding) reminds me of my annual rant (skip to next bullet point if you don’t care): NBA games at the Garden —played by well-paid professionals and attended primarily by well-paid professionals—take 2 hours. Beer sales are halted before the 4th quarter. College doubleheaders at the Garden—played by amateurs and attended primarily by dubiously-of-age and low-paid college students—take five hours and the alcohol flows all night. Does anything in that above paragraph strike you as odd or is it just me?

-Harris checks in to huge applause at the 15:11 mark.

-Louis Orr is right behind the Syracuse bench, supporting his alma mater. I know Louie’s not the most dynamic guy but I still say he got a raw deal when Seton Hall fired him last spring.

-Josh Wright throws Darryl Watkins a perfect alley-oop. Has any program ever been as proficient as the Cuse at throwing ’oops?

-OSU’s efficient PF, Mario Boggan, just looks right in an Ok State uniform. I know they’ve had success with more athletic three men like Derrick Mason and Tony Allen, but Boggan—a burly PF who is good around the basket but also has a sweet shooting touch—just feels like an Ok Stater. Like of the Byron Houston variety for the old schoolers amongst you.

-One-time UNC signee JamesOn Curry nails a 3 to put Ok State up 17-14.

-The latest Mike Jones checks in for Syracuse. This Mike Jones, out of South Carolina, was my favorite player at the 2005 Nike All-American Camp. He’ll do nothing tonight, but I think he has a bright future.

-Ok State takes a 19-18 lead into the second TV timeout. All the Cuse fans make for a pretty good environment, though Khalid and I are bummed by the lack of pep bands, typically a staple at college games. Maybe they’re absent cause it’s finals time? In any event, their classic sound is missed.

-Boggan hits an 18 footer for a 21-20 Ok State lead. Dude has 11 points already and between him and Curry I’m trying to figure out why no one has been talking about this team.

-Former SLAM diarist and skilled playmaker Eric Devendorf is getting next to no burn this half. He won’t get off the bench in the second half at all. Some sort of sickness, and Cuse’s offense is the worse because of it.

-OSU’s Terrel Harris gets a sweet tip dunk to cap the first-half scoring; 39-34, Cowboys.

-It can be easy to forget the cause of the night, but then the classic Jimmy V clip when he spoke at the ESPYs starts playing on screen. I’ve been to this event at least six times and that clip gets me every time. Say what you want about Jim Valvano, but that inspirational speech he gave as he faced down the cancer that would take his life is a hell of a legacy.

-SLAM publisher Dennis Page in the house. Why am I not surprised he has such better seats than me? In any event, DP’s college basketball expertise should not be ignored. Tonight he’s geeked up more for the second game so he can see Marcus Williams of Arizona and Derrick Caracter of Louisville.

-Mid-second half and Harris tries a spinning, one-handed no-look pass that sort of works but doesn’t lead to a basket. Curry comes down to the other end and tries a harder, 360-degree no-look pass that doesn’t work at all. In a related incident, John Wooden just turned off his TV.

-Both teams are shooting well, but the scoring flow is slow because of what Khalid accurately refers to as a “turnover fest.”

-The SLAM representation grows again as the great Jake Appleman arrives and takes his seat in the press section alongside Khalid and I. Jake is later than he expected because he got stuck behind the teams playing in game two while waiting for the elevator. Shortly after Arizona marches through the crowd to kill time til its game. Super freshman Chase Budinger gets the most autograph requests and seems happy to oblige all requests.

-58-52 Ok State when there’s a timeout with 7:45 left. Time for the dress-and-shoot contest, which is panned by a disgusted Khalid. Frankly, Aeropostale doesn’t do too well in our row either, as I admit to not having any idea where or why one would buy Aeropostale clothes.

-Ok State’s reserve forward Marcus Dove catches high-flying, violent dunks on two straight possessions, capped by he and his teams doing a birdman-style gesture with their hands. We assume that it is inspired by his last name.

-Cuse continues to turn the ball over without Devendorf available.

-Harris has his play of the game with a soaring one-hand jam to keep Cuse within striking distance at 67-60, and later hits a lay-up to make it 67-66 in the final two minutes.

-Curry answers with a huge three and OSU hangs on for a 72-68 win. I’m guessing the Cowboys won’t stay under the radar for long.

-Post-game sightings in the crowd include 60 Minutes Steve Croft, perhaps a Syracuse grad, and NBA player/social critic/Slamonline contributor Etan Thomas, definitely a Syracuse grad.

-Highlight of the post-game press conference comes on the very first question, posed by a reporter to Curry, who’s at the podium alongside Boggan and Dove. “JamesOn, how do you feel”—the reporter starts, pronouncing the name like Antawn does. “It’s James-On, sir,” says Curry firmly from beneath his badly clashing baby-blue headband. Consider the pronunciation noted.

-A visibly happy Ok State coach Sean Sutton finally shows up and gives a decent breakdown of the game and his team.

-Cuse coach Jim Boeheim comes in next, complaining about all the “mistakes” on offense and looking miserable like only he can. Issues a great soundbite about Harris. “Paul over dribbles too much. He could do that in high school but he can’t do it here. I laugh when I hear people say he’s our best player—he’s not even good enough to start for us. He’s certainly not a point guard—I think that was evident tonight. He’s a 2/3 who can hit the boards. He also isn’t a great shooter. He’s 1 of 13 on three pointers this year. I like the confidence, but I’m not sure I’d keep shooting if I was 1 for 13.” The whole thing might just sound like Boeheim is campaigning to keep Harris on campus after this year, but I take it that he’s simply campaigning for Harris to get better. Boeheim has never seemed like one to keep his players from turning pro as long as he feels they’re ready. Paul Harris is not ready. Yet.

-In the locker room, Harris is despondent, telling a reporter, “I honestly can’t remember ever losing two games in a row in my life.”

-All my “coverage” of game one and its commentary causes me to miss the first few minutes of #16 Arizona versus Louisville. I walk out the tunnel and the first thing I see is Caracter. Wow! Dude has lost what looks like 75 pounds off his overweight high school frame. Now listed at 6-8, 275, the ballyhooed frosh out of Jersey actually looks great on offense. He’ll go on to score 6 points and grab 7 rebounds but he only plays 11 minutes because that’s how little it takes for him to foul out.

-Budinger is balling, hitting jumpers, a sweet lefty drive and a finishing a perfect alley-oop from PG Mustafa Shakur. Budinger is so smooth, with a beautiful J. I’m impressed.

-Danny Ferry in the building, and with good reason; the Cavs’ GM is surely focusing on Arizona, which has a starting lineup that could pass for a bad pro team’s. Besides Budinger and Shakur, there’s off guard Jawann McClellan, small forward Marcus Williams and big man Ivan Radenovic, all of whom average in double figures and all of whom are nice.

-Louisville freshman PG Edgar Sosa needs to work on his shot, but he’s quick and fun to watch. Always like to see the NYC PGs do their thing, word to Levance Fields.

-A McClellan three makes it 38-26 Arizona late in first half. Jake says the Wildcat starting five could work out with the Suns and fit right in. He may be right.

-The half ends with AZ up 44-35. Jake and Khalid bounce. I try to go visit a Louisville-rooting friend but have to alter my route so as not to disrupt the ESPN crew who is broadcasting from the stands. This reminds me that I really hate Digger Phelps as an announcer.

-Young, seemingly out-talented and playing just its fourth game of the season, unranked Louisville nonetheless makes a run in the second half. Sitting with my friend for a bit in the Louisville section, I get to hear Sosa’s cousin exhort the Cardinals in Español, which makes sense given the presence of Sosa and Colombia native Juan Palacios on the floor for Louisville.

-Another guy on the floor for Louisville, Terrence Williams (like Marcus from Seattle and related by friendship if not blood), scores on a drive to make it just 50-49 Louisville.

-Arizona has hit one of its last 15 shots!

-Radenovic (being called “Kukoc” by some relatively on-point fans) finally scores, as does Shakur, and AZ retakes control.

-Hassan Adams comes bounding down the stands and takes a seat in the front row behind the Arizona bench. This is pretty cool considering Adams’ Nets finished playing the Mavericks in New Jersey less than 100 minutes ago.

-Speaking of the Arizona bench, in Miles Simon and Josh Pastner it has two of the most energetic assistant coaches in the country.

-It’s 62-58, Arizona with five minutes left. It’s also 11:45 PM and the Garden is sagging. Even the real drunk fans have lost their gusto.

-Arizona wins 72-65 as the remaining fans chant “U of A!, U of A!” Lots of talent on this team. Louisville, too, although the latter’s bunch may not be really good until next season.

-Pitino, looking older than I envisioned, is pretty good in the post-game presser. Of Caracter’s first game, he says, “I told the coaches, ‘they can’t stop him from scoring but we’ll never get to see that because of the fouls.’ Once he can stay on the floor he’ll be as good of a weapon as a coach can have.”

-He wraps up his time by classily discussing how honored he and his team are to have played in the Jimmy V Classic, the only coach to say such a thing tonight.

-Lute Olson comes in next. Almost sedate in his affect, but on point in his analysis. Loves being in New York and shares a pretty funny story that dates him. “I remember coaching here in a game that I’m sure no one who was at ever wants to remember. I was at Long Beach State and we were playing LIU; they stalled and we were down 8-6 at the half. I also remember that it was a doubleheader and Seton Hall—coached by Bill Raftery—was playing in the other game. He lost. Of course, now he never loses.” Cue laughter from the straggling press corps.

-I hit the AZ locker room on my way out to check in on Marcus Williams, who is covered in our current issue. Marcus is very grateful for the pub, telling me the story was “clean, real clean.” He’s also still hyped about having played his boy Terrence; “We’d never played against each other before,” he says.

-Out in the hallway Adams and his Net teammate and fellow AZ product Richard Jefferson are rapping with their replacements. A lot of love in that program, apparently.