I went missing in action like Pitino’s assistants with their bags of Adidas money.
(In actuality, I’ve been swamped by school stuff. I’ve said it before, but engineering is no joke. My back to back tests earlier today went about as well as that Tulane game…)
Anyways, I’m back. At least for this article. Hey guys.
Saturday, October 14th was the date of the Homecoming triumph over Houston. But earlier in the day, hours before the Brewer and Brooks induced nightmares entered Cougars’ fans heads, before the Chad President salutes after scrambles into the endzone, before both quarterbacks led the band in the fight song, before ALL THAT FOOTBALL AWESOMENESS—there was an open basketball scrimmage.
For those new to the website, basketball is my favorite sport (and I like the way they dribble up and down the court. Sorry, had to.)
It was a basic intra-squad scrimmage with 16 minute halves. I didn’t go to make eagle-eyed observations for the analytical crowd. There will not be incomprehensible stats in this post. However, I did notice a few things, and these are those things.
- Junior Etou looked like Carmelo Anthony
Ok, not exactly. But there were similarities! Like the newest member of the Thunder, Etou was hitting jumpers everywhere on the floor. Catch and shoots after making V-cuts, or coming off a down screen, or kick outs following a guard’s drive. Everything was going in. He was hitting quick releases, face up iso shots, and turn arounds. Of course it remains to be seen if this can continue into regular season play, but seeing a myriad shots going in for our 6’8 forward was very encouraging.
- Sterling Taplin was aggressive
Those who have watched any number of games the Hurricane have played over the past two years know Sterling Taplin has talent. In my opinion, he has the highest realistic upside of anyone on the team. On Saturday, he was unveiling the full range of his abilities. He was driving cleanly into the lane almost at will. He was hitting shots, and letting them go with much more confidence than years past. He showcased the same calm control of the offense he always has. I’m hoping he continues into the season with this newfound confidence in his offensive abilities, which will only add to his repertoire of skills. Surely after this season NBC Sports will get his name right.
- Freshman Elijah Joiner will likely see the floor sooner rather than later
Called “Eli” by just about everyone on the court Saturday, the 6’3 combo guard from Chicago turned down offers from Missouri, Iowa State, and Illinois State to join the Golden Hurricane. This looks to be the right decision for both parties, as he “started” for one of the teams during the scrimmage. He looked well-conditioned, and has great size and strength for a freshman guard. He made a few mistakes that were understandable with his lack of experience, but he was tenacious, intense, and only needed to make a mistake once before correcting his play. He seemed to soak up every word coaches spoke to him, and, unlike most players (myself included, when I used to play!) relished the defensive side of the floor. He kept pace with the ballhandler, talked on defense (very hard for young players), and was generally a source of energy. On the offensive side, he was not afraid to shoot, and made a decent 3 pointer off the dribble with a slight contest, again a very hard shot for most young players to make. Overall, I was very impressed with Joiner and expect to see him in spots this season.
- Curran Scott and DaQuan Jeffries are welcome additions
Curran Scott sat last year after transferring in from Charlotte. DaQuan Jeffries transferred in from JuCo Western Texas Community College after playing for crosstown rival Oral Roberts his freshman year. Oh yeah, and they’re both from Oklahoma, and both played for Edmond Santa Fe. Scott showed he had D1 experience during the scrimmage with his play; he attacked appropriate spots, drifted to the offside corner when someone drove baseline, and generally moved well through the offense. Admittedly, I didn’t notice Jeffries much, but that also means he didn’t make any glaring mistakes that I could notice. Scott is a 40%+ 3 point shooter, and Jeffries brings in a 66%(!) shooting percentage from the floor while at Western Texas. For some comparison, if Jeffries did that in the NBA, he would have the 2nd best field goal percentage of all time. I expect both to start a large number of games and see both being great additions to the team.
- Overall, things are looking up
Simply put, this team looked better than last year’s team. It’s unfortunate that the recently graduated Pat Birt could not be on this roster, because it really is a unique collection of talent. I expect Taplin and Etou to start almost every game, but the other spots afford Coach Haith lots of room to play around.
Depending on what style he would like to play, what size or speed he may need, or if he needs to account for star players on the opposing squad, he has a multitude of options. The speed, decision making, and spacing was much better than last year’s team. I was impressed with what I saw this past weekend.
The team has added shooting, talented freshmen, immediate contributors with Division I experience, and another year of Haith’s system being in place. I don’t think this team will win the regular season title, because Cincinnati (my pick) and Wichita State are very good, but I would not be shocked if Tulsa makes a run in the American Athletic Conference tournament this year. In fact, this team seems deep enough with such a variety of ways to play that winning the tournament wouldn’t be a big surprise, either.
This is a big year for Coach Haith. Patience is starting to run thin with the lack of performance. He has had legitimate reasons in the past to not achieve the high hopes of Tulsa Basketball, but this year he has his players, they’re not all young and inexperienced, and he has a relatively easy schedule. The AAC should be a tougher conference this season, but I expect big things from this team.
The team tips off against Northwestern Oklahoma State Monday, October 30th, and I cannot wait.