The first game of the year isn’t always indicative of what is to come for the season. As fans, we always tend to overreact to what we see from our team night one. Take the MLB, for example, this past season the Red Sox lost their first game to Tampa and they ended up winning the World Series, the Yankees won their first of the year and they suck! Hell the Keno Davis era started with a loss to Northeastern, well I guess that was pretty indicative of what was to come. My point is I don’t want to take too much stock in what I see out of a season-opening 77-67 victory over Siena, but here are my reactions from the game.
AJ’s Big Night
It was quite appropriate that the Friars first basket of the season was from AJ Reeves because he would make plenty of baskets in the contest. The Friar freshman from Roxbury, MA poured in a game-high 29 points including 7 three-pointers in his debut. It felt like I’ve never seen a Friar freshman do what AJ was doing in his opener, that’s because no one else has. Reeves 29 points were a Friar record for a freshman on opening night and his full offensive arsenal was on display. He showed his ability to slash to the rim and score but most of his damage was done on the perimeter. Friar teammates would find Reeves open from the permitter, feed him the rock and he was able to calmly knock them down as if no one was in the gym. While most of his threes came off the catch he had two of them where he showed off good footwork in creating space between him and his defender to rise and fire. As Reeves was lighting up the scoreboard a fellow Friar texted me “Reeves may be the best player on our team…” and there you have it an overreaction. I don’t think AJ will be our leading scorer and he may not score 29 again this season but I will say he has an advanced offensive game for a kid his age and will be much needed this season if he can continue to produce.
When the Friars took the court for the tip-off I was stunned to see neither of the Bully Bros (Watson or Holt) in the starting 5. After the game Cooley revealed that Emmitt Holt was on a bit of a minutes restriction in his return from abdominal surgery, he would only clock in for six minutes of play. When Holt came in around the eight-minute mark it was noticeable that he’s still down 15 pounds from his playing weight two seasons ago. Although a small sample size it also looked like he didn’t play with the same tenacity and force as he had before. As a Celtics fan, I’m going through the same thing watching Gordon Hayward return from serious injury. Like Holt, Hayward looks really rusty and doesn’t look like his old self. In the grand scheme of things Holt’s health is way more important than the points he scored or the minutes he’s played but from a basketball standpoint this team needs him. The attitude and presence from Holt was sorely missing from last seasons team and with a young squad, he may be more important this year. I honestly think the Friars go only as far as Holt can return to old form because I just can’t envision a guy like Kalif Young, while a great big off the bench, starters minutes.
Siena Keeping It Close
The final whistle of the first half sounded and the Friars had just pushed their lead out to 16 points. With thirteen minutes to play the Friars were up 18 points and I had an epiphany. I thought to myself this will a be the year where we have a team that can close the door on an inferior opponent. I should’ve known better, it is the Friars, after all, they never make it easy on us. In the blink of an eye and a bunch of threes from Kevin Degman and Sloan Seymour, the Friars were only up 7 points with four minutes to play. Alpha Diallo’s ensuing and-one ended up putting Siena to bed for good but it was frustrating the Friars couldn’t put these guys away earlier. Coach Cooley gave the Saints a ton of credit for making it a game but let’s face it this Siena team was picked last in the MAAC for a reason. Here’s to hoping that for my sanity the Friars will be able to bury some of these inferior non-conference opponents when they have a big lead.
It was great to finally have the Friars back in action after a long offseason. I dont think AJ will always score 29 points, or Emmitt Holt scoring 0 nor David Duke for that matter. I think the one thing I can definitely take away from the opener is that this team has options. Last night it was all Reeves, Diallo and Jackson but these guys dont have to carry the load every single night. I saw a team that was full of guys that are capable of making a positive impact on a basketball game. Friars will play their next game Friday night in Annapolis, MD agaisnt the Witchita State Shockers. The game is apart of the Veterans Classic and will air on CBS Sportsnet at 6pm.
Until then Friartown