I’ve never been a huge believer in what you can glean from the Black and Gold game. Make no mistake—it’s fun, and you can see certain things, but the value of statistics and percentages is largely a fool’s errand.
It’s like heading to your favorite restaurant, Chez EJ Wade. Yesterday’s Black and Gold game was like reading the menu. You see the food, the sauce (a Samir Reduction looks promising), wine pairing (JeQuan and a big in the pick-and-roll offense), and price (Mo says no is a high price for driving the lane).
But that’s really it. We didn’t get to taste the food, sample the wine. We learned a lot, but at the same time we learned nothing. However in the cadence that will make up the 2016-17 basketball season, this was the necessary step. Who goes to a nice restaurant and just says “bring me something?”
Here’s what we did learn: Will Wade is not a liar. And not that Wade would lie; rather, you know how coaches are during the summer. Every kid is working hard. Every kid is vastly improved. Every kid is going to have a breakout season.
Not Wade. He had mentioned that Hamdy was in much better shape, and that was true. Hamdy is noticeably slimmer, and fought Mo Alie-Cox for longer stretches. Wade had said he wants the kids to develop additional moves, and both the big guys went to their left hand on more than one occasion.
Wade’s other August call out was a certain point guard who likes to roll up his pants’ waistband and play with shorter-shorts. Jonny Williams looked like February Jonny Williams, not January Jonny Williams. Again stats aside, the Eyeball Test—always a fun measure for VCU fans—showed me that Williams is better.
The freshmen were freshmen. De’riante Jenkins opened both halves by hitting a smooth three and you can see he oozes talent, but he struggled when the game got physical. Marquell Fraser has no idea what’s going on, but when he’s in position he makes plays. Samir Doughty is a true bucketmaker, but he made plays for both teams by forcing the ball too much.
But Malik Crowfield caught my eye. This is a kid that’s going to make some plays and shoots an effortless three. He made every correct pass, didn’t force things, and looked comfortable playing out of the short corner. I feel like he has the mind of a junior. Now, he didn’t seem to want to mix it up too much, but that will come.
I feel like Crowfield is the kind of guy that may play two minutes one night; 18 minutes the next; 22 minutes the next; and four minutes after that. He has the ability to heat up, and as Robby mentioned yesterday the ability to have an opposing player go back to their bench as complain to the coach that “that guy wasn’t even on the scouting report” after Crowfield buries three-threes.
But summa cum laude honors are saved for one guy. If he did anything, Wade underplayed his hand with Jordan Burgess.
Forget the stats. Forget the added arc to his shot. This is simple: I’ve not seen, and neither have you, Burgess play with such freedom, such ease, such grace, on the offensive end. For three seasons when Burgess had the ball in his hands in an attacking position, upper teeth met lower teeth and gritting commenced.
Not yesterday. Jordan Burgess has us all picking our favorite cliché—game comes easy, not overthinking, flowing, clear head, not forcing. Whatever. The point is that Burgess looks like he enjoyed being on offense, in a stress-free environment. It isn’t the what; it’s the how. That, my friends, is a marker.
Side note: No need to torture an already-too-long post with words about Lewis, Alie-Cox, and Brooks. We know what to expect from them, especially having no idea what to expect from the Doug Brooks Experience.
So now we’ve ordered up the season. The appetizer comes on November 4, and the meal will be served November 11. I didn’t think we’d ever get here, but now we have. Savor it, savor every single bite, because we will wonder what happened to our winter soon enough.