Monarch Insider #24- CAA Awards Wrap-Up
March 4, 2011
By Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider
Seated at the CAA Tournament banquet Thursday night in Richmond, where my wife and
I enjoyed great food and good conversation with fellow basketball fans, there was one of those moments that made me so thrilled to be doing this blog.
ODU players did really well in the CAA Awards. Frank Hassell was selected to the all-CAA first team, and defensive team. Kent Bazemore was named defensive player of the year and named to the all-conference second team. Trian Iliadis was named a repeat member of the all-academic team.
With each of the award winners, they showed a short video, set to music, highlighting some of the great plays they made during the season. Hofstra's Charles Jenkins won player of the year for the second straight season, and his video featured a series of slick layups and pull-up jumpers.
Then they played Kent Bazemore's defensive player of the year video. And for me, it was a series of "Oh, I remember that block! Oh, that was a sweet steal! Wow..." murmurs from the audience. My feeling: I'm glad Kent is on OUR team.
Conference officials do a nice job with the banquet every year, but the highlights are the videos. You're reminded just how good the talent is in this conference. The opening video, which showed highlights for conference teams from the past season, couldn't help but get you pumped. Ben Finney hits a long three in the finals of the Paradise Jam. A Drexel player dunks on Lousiville during their upset win. A VCU player steals and dunks in their win over UCLA in Madison Square Garden. It's been such a great year for the conference.
CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager called the conference tournament the "start" of the Road to the Final Four. "For the college basketball fan, this is Christmas Eve. We're all just waiting for what's under the tree," he said. Joey Caruthers, a starting guard on ODU's 1975 National Division II champion team, was our "legends" selection for this season. Former UNC-Wilmington coach Jerry Wainwright spoke on behalf of the legends, and it's clear he still chafes somewhat as the designation of CAA teams as "mid-major."
"The stigma is based on size. But the teams in this conference, the players and the coaches, took on all comers, all the time. That's made the CAA a national player," Wainwright said. Now, Tournament hostilities start with four first-round games. The top four teams in the conference receive byes in the first round of the CAA Tournament.
I've been at practice three days this week, and it's been really interesting to watch the evolution of the two-hour practices as the week has gone on. Monday saw Blaine Taylor in full rage, angry with everything he saw on the court. Tuesday, the scolding was mixed with some encouragement. After a day off on Wednesday, today's practice was full of quiet instruction from Taylor, and encouragement from the other coaches. There's a method to the madness.
"I take a different tack than maybe some. Our practice yesterday was way different than our practice today. Our practice Thursday will be way different than these. Our practice Friday will be leading to a game of some sort," Taylor said. "I try to keep a little bit of variety to try and keep things fresh, but everything is for a reason. I think if you were to punch all the right buttons, at the end of this week's practice, you would hit all the buttons that you might need this weekend."
Darius James has seen every trick Taylor employs in four years as his point guard, and defacto brain on the court. James said one of his unofficial roles is to act as Blaine Taylor Translator, explaining the sometimes-offbeat analogies that coach uses.
This year's team is easy to lead, though, because everyone who'll see significant minutes this weekend has been through a CAA Tournament. "We've all been there before. Nothing's going to surprise us. We've played in every type of game up there."
That doesn't mean it won't be hotly competitive. Taylor said with six 20 win teams in the conference this season, there are a bunch of games he's love to see if he wasn't wrapped up in coaching his own team. "I think when you see a good conference race, what turns your mind a little bit is you go `That tournament's going to be pretty good,'" Taylor said. "If you were to handicap this thing, you'd be looking at a lot of games and going" (Taylor made an exaggerated motion of flipping a coin and slapping his hand on his wrist).
Brendan O'Hallarn, an employee in public relations at Old Dominion University, writes Monarch Basketball Insider. To see other stories, please see the Monarch Insider website, at http://www.odusports.com/ot/monarch-insider.html. If you would like to share your thoughts about ODU basketball, or have a story you'd like to see Brendan write, contact him at email@example.com.