I returned to the Smith Center on Monday night for another Pro Am game. I arrived before anyone on either team, but the smell of fried chicken and catfish was thick in the air as I entered the lobby. Admittedly, I was overwhelmed and sought refuge in the gym. The scorer’s table and bench chairs were assembled, but the court was overrun by 40 or so kids running sideline 17’s. I posted up against the bleacher’s and VCU’s Joey Rodriguez was the first to arrive. He said, “I hear Big Baby is playing with us tonight.” This being the Pro Am, it rated as a mild surprise. We moved on chatting about fatherhood (he’s new to it and I am old), playing ball overseas and surviving in the thriving metropolis if Istanbul without speaking the native tongue.
Within ten minutes Chandler Parsons, Mo Speights and Glen “Big Baby” Davis walked through the door. Chandler made his now usual request for additional warm up time, and the circus began. Irwin Hudson, czar of OHoops, joined us on the bench tonight, and Brighthouse sports anchor, David Baumann interviewed the three NBA guys for a TV spot. Big Baby engaged in some spirited banter with a few kids behind the bench who wanted to take a picture with him. Former NBA player and new Evans coach, Chucky Atkins, came by the bench and threatened to suit of for the opposition. A few minutes past 6pm, we had enough to play, three NBA players, two Rollins players, a Final Four point guard and Pausha.
The game started well. The Posse jumped out to a 23-11 lead. The ball was moving, and we were moving our feet on the defensive end. It was too good to last as the other team cut the lead to 7 at the quarter and lingered around in the second. Irwin Hudson shot video of the first half that’s likely to be featured on OHoops.com. My highlights involved Joey Rodriguez making some terrific Joey plays pushing the ball, grabbing a few long rebounds and a couple of steals as well as Big Baby berating Alex Castillo for having the audacity to set a ball screen for him as he was preparing to back down a defender that conceded 4 inches and 100 lbs to him.
The second half was a victory parade of dunks interspesed with the time-honored dilemma of subsituting an established NBA player. As the half wore on, it was apparent Mo Speights was getting tired. His standing to running ratio badly favored the sedentary option. I suggested to Juan that we get him. Juan pondered this for a moment and retorted, “I’ll let him go, he’s playing to get in shape.” Fair enough. A few moments passed and it was time to get him. Thankfully, the “media” timeout occured, and Mo was given the news he was gonna rest. He took it in good spirit. As the team went back on to the floor, his face formed a question mark and he said generally, “your gettin him too, right”, as he gazed out at Big Baby preparing to log his 25th consecutive minute in the game. A couple minutes later, Big Baby sat for four minutes and all was right with the Posse.
We rolled to a 18-20 point win. Pausha turned down some garbage time minutes over the protests of the entire roster. Smart move. Don’t seem too eager. Let the game, and the moment come to you my friend.
On a purely basketball note, the opposing team featured UCF star Kieth Clanton. I first watched Keith in the Pro Am three summers ago, and I am fairly certain he has the tools to be a solid NBA player. He’s about 6′ 8″ and lacks explosive athleticism, but he knows how to play. He defends, rebounds and has a terrific sense of how and where to exploit his advantages. If matched with a smaller player, he will quickly take them to the block and call for the ball. If guarded by a big, he will pull them away from the basket and run the game from there. While he doesn’t always give the impression of playing extremely hard, he is all over the floor receiving the ball with his excellent hands and making plays. A very good player.