Thought I’d pass along a quick rundown of Wednesday’s action at the Northwest College Collegiate Summer League.
There was just one game, but from a Washington perspective, it was probably the best game of the year because five Huskies were on the floor. A Suns team comprised of Jernard Jarreau, Darin Johnson and Jahmel Taylor claimed a 71-63 win over a squad led by Hikeem Stewart and Gilles Dierickx.
Each of the UW players scored in double figures and had an impact on the game. And it was difficult to determine who was the best player because each one had several moments when they shined.
It seems as if we always have to put a disclaimer on making observations on summer league performances due to the competition and structure of the league. However, the games can provide some insights into each player’s development.
Here’s a few observations from Wednesday:
— Taylor, who finished with 11 points, just might be a better perimeter shooter than initially reported. He seemed hesitant to take a three-point shot in the first couple of summer league games, but lately he’s been more aggressive looking for opportunities. He’s also making them with a little bit of consistency. On Wednesday he was generally a positive for his team.
— Still impressed with Johnson, who I believe can earn a significant spot in the rotation next season because of his offensive talents. Generally he’s smooth and composed on the floor, but on the offensive end he puts a lot of pressure on the defense because he attacks the basket and looks for fouls. And it’s not as if he drives to the rim, flails his arms and looks at the referees for a call. Johnson’s on-court demeanor rarely changes. He’s stoic. Hardly says a peep. Stone faced. Johnson runs the floor. Moves without the ball. Makes good cuts. He’s constantly around the rim. And the ball just seems to find him. On Wednesday he had 15 points.
— I was very interested to watch Dierickx because I hadn’t seen much of the 6-11 redshirt sophomore center who transferred from Florida International and sat out last season. On Wednesday he paired against Jerreau, who said he enjoys playing the Belgium because they have similar talents. It’s usually difficult for big men to shine in summer league games, but they affected the outcome and made plays on both ends of the court. Dierickx runs the floor well for a big man. He had two dunks in transition in which he caught the ball on the move, maneuvered around smaller players and flushed the ball through the rim in traffic. And he looked fluid doing it. He also has good awareness around the rim. It’s difficult to tell after just one game, but Dierickx looks like he’s got good hands. When the ball is near him, he catches it cleanly. He didn’t shy away from contact offensively and he was an adequate rim protector on the defensive end. He was better the closer he was to the rim and missed a few open mid-range jumpers. Dierickx finished with 15 points.
— Dierickx was able to shine offensively partly because of Stewart, he set him up with some nice passes that led to easy baskets. In the first half they worked the pick n’ roll for layup. Minutes later, they executed the pick n’ pop to perfection. I’ve watched Stewart 3-4 times this summer and this was his best overall performance. He’s shot the ball better, but this time he played like a point guard who was in control of the team. Stewart said he’s been working this offseason on the pick n’ roll play and it looks as if the practice is paying off. On Wednesday, he did a nice job reading the defense and understood when to shoot and when to pass. He was engaged with teammates and tried to win the game at the end. Trailing 65-63 with less than minute left, Stewart demanded the ball. Isolated against Johnson on the right wing, Stewart darted to the middle and missed a layup. On the next possession his team was down four points, when Stewart tried a similar maneuver, but drew a traveling call. And that was game. Stewart was unable to deliver the win, but he realized the ball needed to be in his hands and he had to take the shots. He finished with 16 points.
— And then there’s Jarreau. He just might be the X-factor for the Huskies next season. The 6-11 point-forward could be the key to a return to the NCAA tournament. His diverse talents appear to be perfect for UW’s high-post offense and the redshirt sophomore said he’s ready to “make an impact on the league.” On Wednesday, Jarreau did a little bit of everything. He defended Dierickx. Jarreau was also a solid help defender who had at least two blocks. Late in the first half, he snagged a rebound and dribbled to the other end where he hammered in a dunk. It was the best play of the night. Not sure if anyone else on the floor could have done that. Jarreau also led a fast break in traffic and whipped a no-look pass to a teammate in the corner. At 6-11, he has amazing handles. Several times in the second half, he drew Dierickx to the perimeter where he used a crossover maneuver and a spin move to create space for a mid-range jumpers that were off target. However, Jarreau will hit an open 15-footer on the baseline. He’s also trying to expand his range and attempted a couple of three-pointers. If there’s an area of concern it’s his post game. Jarreau still doesn’t seem comfortable when he receives physical contact on the block. He’s much better in space where he can see the floor and he’s making better decisions as a playmaker. Jarreau, who enters his third season, is like a expanding basketball buffet. His arsenal is growing. Not sure if he excels at one thing, but he gives opposing players a lot to deal with because of his versatility. On Wednesday he had a game-high 17 points.