Thoughts, musings, reflections and inferences from watching the Idaho State men's and women's basketball exhibition games on Friday:
--This ain't your father's -- or Jon Newlee's -- women's basketball team. Seton Sobolewski has definitely put a stamp on the Bengals in just one exhibition game. Gone is the fun-and-gun offense of his predecessor, replaced by the "patience squared" attack. (That's as in, "Patience, patience," Coach S's frequent admonition as the Bengals walk the ball into the front court). The Bengals will certainly take some time in adjusting to Sobolewski's motion O -- there were times Friday when it seemed like there were three ISU players all bunched in the same passing lane -- but it looks like everyone is going to get their chance to score. The Bengals are going to make other teams work hard on defense, and that's not a bad thing.
--Freshman Sheila Adams (pictured above) can play a little hoop, no? As Frank Mercogliano noted to me as we watched the Utah freshman put up 16 points in her debut, "You can certainly see how Jon (Newlee) thought she might eventually replace Andrea Lightfoot." Yes, I can. In fact, I think we'll be talking about who is going to replace Sheila Adams in four years.
--The Bengal ladies may be a touch thin this year, it doesn't look like they are going to go much more than 7 or 8 deep when the games start counting. They certainly could have used Ally Sissel and Bianca Cheever, two players who chose to follow Newlee to northern Idaho. But help appears to be on the way. The early signing period for basketball begins Wednesday and runs through Nov. 19. The Journal has already reported on two players expected to sign with the Bengals, and I'm told a true post player may also be on the way.
--On to the men. You know what I love about Joe O'Brien? Picking up a technical foul in an exhibition game. The man competes. Now, after exhibition wins over Montana Tech and Rocky Mountain College, things get serious, and Coach OB is all about wins. He knows that if the Bengals play as sloppy against Eastern Oregon this Friday as they did in the first half against Rocky Mountain College, they are setting themselves up for an L. O'Brien started "coaching to win" in the second half Friday night, when you started to see a real core lineup emerge. This week against EOU, I would expect a further refining of the troops.
--Will Austin Kilpatrick and Felix Caspari be part of the "game day" rotation? We shall see. O'Brien said A-K has served sufficient time in the doghouse, but how will he fit into the rotation? I haven't heard as of Monday afternoon whether Caspari has passed the NCAA Clearinghouse yet. One thing is clear -- if both are able to play, whether it's this week or sometime soon, minutes are going to become a precious commodity on this team. Particularly at the wing positions. By my count, you have six guys who are serious contenders for playing time on the wings--Kal Bay, Kilpatrick, Matt Stucki, Amorrow Morgan, Donnie Carson and Phyllip Taylor. (And Mike Lacey was pondering whether to redshirt????) Now, somebody is going to have to play the nominal "point guard," and if Sherrod Baldwin is not the immediate answer, that will open up minutes for one of the wings. Still, that's a lot of talent to share a maximum of 120 minutes a game.
--I think it's safe to say the Sherrod Baldwin experiment is over, at least for now. Oh, I certainly am not about to write off the young freshman from Memphis -- he will be a contributor, hopefully before the end of this season. But you can't play two games without an assist and call yourself a serious candidate for the starting point guard position. Bay, playing with an ab injury and flack jacket, certainly demonstrated what he can mean to this Bengal team against Rocky Mountain. I expect to see he, Morgan and Stucki taking turns initiating the ISU offense for much of this year.
--Okay, I now know how to spell his first name -- Deividas Busma. Thanks, Frank. I still can't pronounce it, but he'll be Big D before you know it, anyway. Eleven blocks in the first two exhibition games makes me think that someone other than guard Austin Kilpatrick will lead ISU in that statistical category this year. Still, Big D is going to have to learn to play better fundamental defense as the season progresses. The "big boys" like BYU, Utah, Wisconsin and Washington State have plenty of skilled players upfront who will go right at Big D, and he won't be on the floor more than 10 minutes against any of those guys if he doesn't use his feet more. Repeat after me: big men take more time to develop than guards. By the time the Big Sky season rolls around, though, it will be awful comforting seeing Big D playing deep safety back there.
--Every year around this time, you will hear D-1 coaches talking up the various NAIA and D-II schools they are bringing in for exhibition games. Sometimes, believe it or not, this is not just BS. (See Northwestern's loss to Robert Morris, for example -- ouch!). O'Brien is not just blowing smoke when he talks about Eastern Oregon, either. The Mountaineers come into Reed on Friday with four starters back from a 26-win team, as well as newcomers Kris Groce (who averaged almost 11 points a game for Sac State two years ago), and 6-7 Jordan Gregg of Lewiston, who scored 16 points a game in EOU's first three games this year. The Mountaineers are 4-0 and coming off an overtime win over No. 22-rated Lewis-Clark State, so they will be battle tested. Don't believe anyone who tells you ISU has to win this game by double-digits in order to impress. Especially at this stage in the season, any old win will be sufficient.
And thanks for being Bengal fans. It ain't always easy, but it's always fun.