For 23 minutes and change Saturday the Blue/Gold Scrimmage was as important as it was devoid of long-term meaning. As pivotal as it was for the Flying Dutchmen to play in a competitive atmosphere and in front of a crowd for the first time this season, it was also just the ninth day of practice for a team that is still, much like the other 345 Division I programs, a work in progress.
And then, with the final seconds of the scrimmage ticking away, it happened. Freshman Chaz Williams stole the ball, went the length of the court and dunked for Blue’s final basket. The few dozen fans cheered wildly for the 5-foot-9 Williams, who is viewed as the answer to the point guard problem that has plagued the Dutchmen the last two seasons.
The dunk capped an impressive afternoon by Williams, who effectively ran the point and displayed a fearless offensive approach. He twice drove the lane on the 6-foot-9 Miklos Szabo while also displaying some accuracy from outside. He made his final four attempts from the field in the first 12-minute half and missed just one shot in the second half.
“He’s a great point guard,” Charles Jenkins said. “He’s got great vision for the game. His court vision is amazing. He makes the right plays. He’s still learning how to get shots because of his size…[and] he’s going to have to learn what passes not to make, but once he polishes those things off, he’s going to be a great addition to this program.”
Williams is far from the only newcomer on the roster. There will be more players making their debut for the Dutchmen this season (six) than holdovers (five), and there’s two more additions who will sit out the season in Fordham transfer Mike Moore and freshman Paul Bilbo.
Like the practices that preceded it, the Blue/Gold Scrimmage was predictably unpredictable. “We still made a couple mistakes up there that are going to get brushed up,” Jenkins said. “We’ve got two or three more weeks to polish those up.”
“Some possessions we looked very good, some possessions we looked very young, depending on whose hands the ball was in,” Tom Pecora said. “We’ve got to get them old quickly.”
Much of the responsibility for aging the new Dutchmen will fall on the shoulders of Jenkins, who isn’t exactly old himself. But serving as a leader is nothing new to Jenkins, who was the Dutchmen captain as a sophomore last season even though he didn’t turn 20 until February and was the youngest player on the roster.
“It’s like a new environment,” Jenkins said. “Last year we had a lot of veterans on the team that were already adjusted to the program. This year, you’ve got a lot of freshmen that are going to take a little bit more time than it took the veterans to mold, just as far as the offense and the defense and how physical the nature of college basketball is. But I think as time progresses, we’re going to be a very good team.”
Some other Bits and Bytes from the scrimmage:
—One potentially encouraging sign Saturday: The smaller lineup that took the court for the Blue team in the second half of the scrimmage—in which Nathaniel Lester is the small forward in a quintet that also features Jenkins, Williams, Cornelius Vines and Greg Washington—beat the Gold 40-22. The Blue team in the first half featured 6-foot-8 freshman Halil Kanacevic instead of Vines.
“We do that all the time—we get Lester minutes at both spots,” Pecora said. “You want him to get those minutes in a live setting.”
—Lester and Jenkins seemed to find their shooting touch in the second half. According to our unofficial stat book (I’ll freely admit I didn’t capture everything between all the Tweeting and the frantic Googling of Freddy Asprilla, the sought-after transfer from Florida International who was in attendance and making an official visit to Hofstra one weekend after visiting Kansas State), Lester missed his final four shots of the first half but was 3-for-5 from the field in the second half. Jenkins missed his final five shots of the first half but was 4-of-7 from the field in the second half.
—And Life With Corny proved just as unconscious as ever (in that inimitable, he’s-fun-to-watch-when-it’s-not-your-patience-he’s-testing way) by going 1-for-7 in the first half and missing his first three shots of the second half before draining three of his final four attempts. Remarkably, none of the baskets were from beyond the arc as Vines drove the lane multiple times and tipped in a miss and hit a layup on consecutive possessions late in the second half.
Vines also, I kid you not, ran the point at times in the first half. Yes, please, make this happen. The trigger-happy Vines at the point: It’ll be the 21st century version of the cop movie about two mismatched partners.
—With a long jumper from just inside the 3-point line in the first half, a steal near midcourt in the second half and a couple buckets inside the paint, Greg Washington provided a performance reminiscent of his breakout outing in the win at Delaware in February. Understandably, he didn’t roam on the perimeter nearly as much in the second half, when he was the lone big man on the court for the Blue team.
—Other than Williams, the newcomer who made the biggest impression Saturday was Brad Kelleher, a 6-foot guard from Australia who played the last two seasons at Midland College in Texas. Kelleher, a Jeff Fox lookalike, hit three 3-pointers in the second half and scored 13 points overall in the final 12 minutes. He also effectively ran the point a few times.
—In addition to Williams and Kelleher, Pecora was also impressed with Kanacevic as well as 6-foot-2 freshman guard Yves Jules, who had a steal and a subsequent dunk early in the second half. David Imes, a 6-foot-7 freshman, had a handful of rebounds in the first half.
—Interesting to note that Miklos Szabo played with the Gold team—comprised largely of newcomers and likely reserves—in both halves. He and Kanacevic—separated by an inch and five pounds—tussled for position throughout the first half. How will Pecora distribute the minutes between Szabo, Kanacevic and Imes when he goes with the smaller lineup?
—If Saturday is any indication, the scoring drought for Dutchmen walk-ons is about to end. Matt Grogan, a 6-foot-5 guard from Middle Village, drained two 3-pointers in the second half and converted a four-point play. The last Dutchmen walk-on to score was Ryan Johnson, who hit a free throw against Dartmouth Dec. 17, 2005. David Vallins, who was a walk-on the last two seasons, missed the only attempt of his career against Longwood Jan. 28. 2008 and memorably broke our hearts by passing the ball as time expired against Northeastern Jan. 5.
—And finally, Jenkins’ take on scrimmaging at the end of the first FanFest. “[It] was just a practice where we had more viewers than usual.”