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Monarch Insider No. 8 - Blue White Scrimmage

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: October 24, 2010
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Oct. 24, 2010

Monarch Insider No. 8

Annual Blue/White Scrimmage a "gift" for ODU basketball fans

Brendan O'Hallarn Monarch Basketball Insider

Embedded in the whirling excitement of Homecoming this past weekend was a little "gift" for ODU men's basketball fans.

After months of trading speculative emails, scouring the Internet for news about the Monarchs, and, yes, dreaming about big things ahead, die-hards got their first look at this year's team in a game setting. The annual Blue/White Scrimmage drew a small but appreciative crowd to the Ted Center.

The premise is simple: Divide the team in two. Play. But as someone who's watched four practices already, there's something special about seeing teammates and friends go at it hard on the Monarchs' home court.

White "won" 53-51 when Trian Iliadis' leaning, 30-foot heave at the buzzer hit the backboard, the rim and then bounced out. But the score couldn't have mattered less for anyone except the 13 hypercompetitive Monarchs and the team's coaches.

Instead, ODU fans were on their own scouting mission. Nick Wright looks bigger. Josh Hicks looks like he'll fire away from anywhere. How's Anton Larsen adjusting to the speed of the game? Is Chris Cooper ready for big minutes if his size is needed under the basket?

And the starters - can Keyon Carter, Frank Hassell, Darius James, Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore take ODU basketball further than it's ever gone? Boy it's fun when everyone's undefeated, and all you want to do is dream about conference championships and deep runs in the NCAA Tournament.

Here are a few random observations from Saturday: My favorite part was watching players of the same position guard each other. Playing small forward, buddies Ben Finney and Kent Bazemore wouldn't give each other an inch, fighting through screens and doing their best job at shutdown defense on each other. Finney, giving up speed and elevation to his younger teammate, still scratched and clawed his way to 14 points. Bazemore opened the game with a three, then found Carter for a layup, dunked the ball three times and looked every part the blossoming star Monarch fans hope he'll be this season.

The other big performer on Saturday was Hassell. After a bit of a slow start, the big man inserted his wide body into cracks in the defense, using his long arms to get off high percentage shots. Hassell scored 21, high for the game, and added 10 rebounds.

In fact no one looked out of place. Even the freshman contributed. Dimitri Batten had a nice chemistry with Bazemore, throwing him an alley-oop pass, and getting one in return later in the scrimmage. Richard Ross had the difficult job of guarding Bazemore, but held his own, and made his mark on the game with a block, a dunk, and a thunderous missed dunk off a rebound that bounced clear out to half-court. He's usually good for one of those in every practice as well. Just a hint of what's to come.

The game was competitive in part because head coach Blaine Taylor had a "draft" for his assistants who'd direct the Blue and White squads. The assistant coaches thought hard about who they'd want, so picking teams took some time.

Taylor stalked the sidelines throughout the two, 16-minute halves. In breaks in the action he shook hands with many of the people he's gotten to know in nine-plus years running ODU's team. He also dialed in on the action on the court, occasionally barking out instructions mid-play, and frowning or shaking his head at possessions that didn't go as planned. All in all, however, Taylor was pleased with the first live action for his squad.

"We had a good competition, I thought we did a pretty good job. We wanted an even game, and we've got enough depth that we can put two pretty good teams out there," Taylor said.

"We had a lot of miscues. Guys might not have gotten as good a shot as we wanted, or we might have turned it over, missed a block-off. But all in all, I'm fairly pleased. The kids were poised, the kids made some nice plays."

Taylor said his seniors showed their experience during the game, but he was pleased in the progression of his junior class as well.

"The thing that I noticed was the second tier of players, the Nick Wrights, the Chris Coopers, the (Marquel) Delanceys, Iliadis -- those guys are starting to show that they've been here for a year or two and they're ready to help us."

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 brendanwork@hotmail.com.

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