In the doldrums of summer, the Pittsburgh Pro-Am is a reprieve for local basketball fans, but for the sake of judging those that play in the games, it can be problematic.
The games don't have much of a structure to them -- it's a step above pick-up ball, only because the guys play on the same team for the entirety of the event -- and since there's really nothing on the line, it's a lot of fast breaks, uncontested dunks, turnovers and little defense. It's basically what would happen if Mike D'Antoni or Paul Westhead could rule the world, only they didn't get a country or kingdom, just a run-down gym in suburban Pittsburgh.
But for all of the league's deficencies, there's still something to be gained from it. It's a chance to see players in a free-flowing atmosphere and while it may not be wise to break down every intricacy of their game, it gives a glimpse into what these guys have been working on and how some are developing. In the case of freshmen and transfers, it's especially helpful.
Unforunately, I was only able to stay for two of the three games last night, but here's some of what I saw.
*** If I were a Robert Morris fan, I would be very excited about Jeremiah Worthem. Particularly for someone his size (6-6, 220 pounds), he has an excellent handle on the ball and doesn't seem to be timid about taking the ball up court or even penetrating. For some bigger guys, that comes from a false sense of confidence. For Worthem, it appears to be a developed skill.
The read I've gotten on him from things I've looked at was that he's an inside-out player, and that largely held true. He's got a nice jump shot -- albeit one that can certainly improve -- and he showed signs, at least in the first half of the game, that he's not afraid to shoot and stretch out the court.
With a lot of questions surrounding the frontcourt going into the season, Worthem is definitely someone I can see getting some significant minutes as a freshman. Given his skill set, he may even emerge as a natural replacement for Russell Johnson, though there are some notable physical differences between the two inside-out big men.
*** Expect a more detailed post soon on his role on next season's team, but Ant Myers-Pate looked the part of a guy that's ready to get some more minutes. He and Worthem were late arrivals (again, these games are not very serious) and it took him a little while to get adjusted to the game.
Once he did, though, the on-court product was pretty nice. After being an almost invisible presence in his team's offense in the first half, he showed much more aggression and assertiveness in the second half on his way to scoring 11 points.
Myers-Pate also showed a little more offensive creativity than I was accustomed to seeing from him last season. Granted, that could be a product of a no-pressure summer league game, but still, it can't hurt to see that he's working to become a more dynamic point guard.
*** Mike McFadden wasn't an overpowering offensive force in his team's game, but he definitely showed some more bounce to his game than he did last season. Overall, he seemed to be jumping higher, running a bit faster and being more of a factor down low, where he would disappear at certain moments last season. Judging by some of his past stat lines in this league, that much has been evident.
Like all of these guys, the proper diagnosis on McFadden will come once he has collected some wear and tear on his body as the season rolls along, but from an RMU standpoint, it has to be at least somewhat encouraging to see him with a little bit more athleticism and movement to his game.