Cardinal vs. White - A Breakdown by Kevo

Kevin "Kevo" Danna brings his insights and observations from this weekend's Cardinal vs. White scrimmage at Maples Pavilion!

The Cardinal-White Scrimmage and Midday Madness that preceded it showed the fans a few things: this is the most athletic team in the last few years, Stefan Nastic will be welcomed back into the rotation with wide open arms, Chasson Randle is the real deal, and the team still has room to grow.

We all knew Josh Owens could jump out the gym and Dwight Powell possessed freakish abilities, but it was Josh Huestis who stole the show in the pre-game festivities by winning the slam dunk competition.  His finishing move?  A behind-the-back half-windmill slam so nice my words can't do it justice.  Huestis has always been known for his athleticism and showed  a lot of promise in the minutes he did play last year, but today's festivities really gave him the chance to shine in the dunk contest.  He also had a dunk where he started on the left block with his back to the basket, turned to the hoop, took one step in and elevated with a windmill jam.  A very understated-but-impressive dunk.

When it came time for the scrimmage, Huestis did much of what made him valuable last year- a garbage man on the glass.  The sophomore from Montana, who donned a Cardinal jersey Sunday afternoon, gobbled up a couple of nice offensive rebounds and put one of them right back up and in.  Another time, he simply skied for the rebound and dunked it home all in one motion.  What Huestis does so well is go up with two hands to secure off-target shots.  His length, combined with his hops, gave him an advantage over just about everyone else on the court Sunday and will be a significant edge over most Pac-12 players his size.  Montana Josh can be to the 2011-12 Stanford Cardinal what Landry Fields was to the 2010-11 New York Knicks: a swingman who can jump in the paint and grab boards and put-backs. His shot isn't where Landry's is, but if he can develop that to a Fields-like level, watch out.

Ideally Huestis would play a little more inside, but minutes at the "4" and "5" positions will be tough to come by with guys like Josh Owens, Dwight Powell, and Stefan Nastic up front.  Stefan, who like Huestis was a member of the Cardinal squad, only played in a handful of games last year and was awarded a medical redshirt, but he is healthy now and was looking good on Sunday.  He has very nice footwork on the low block with a solid back-to-the-basket game to boot.  He also showed off a nice shooting touch by hitting all four of his free throw attempts.  I really like watching this kid do work down low and hope he can stay healthy this year, because he can be a big asset off the bench for Johnny Dawkins.

While Mr. Montana and the Serbian Sensation were impressive on the Cardinal side, it was the Rock Island Rookie who was most intriguing to watch on the "road" team.  At first, he seemed to be just a little too excited to get to play in his first collegiate scrimmage in front of the home fans, as he made a couple of turnovers early on.  However, when he settled in, he showed why he was a top-60 recruit out of high school.  He distributed the ball nicely, knew how to find the open man, and perhaps most importantly, knew how to convincingly take it to the rack.

By far the most exciting play of the game came at the end of the first 12-minute half.  Randle had it at beyond the three-point line with Aaron Bright defending him as the clock wore thin.  As soon as Randle got it, you just knew something special was about to happen; not perhaps that he would do something spectacular with the ball, but that it was going to be a play to remember.  Randle vs. Bright.  The most intriguing position battle this year.  And here they were: one-on-one, knowing that it would probably break down to Randle trying to beat Bright off the dribble.

At first, Bright was unwilling to concede any ground, staying with the freshman step for step.  Finally, Randle made his finishing move, taking it left, getting past Bright (who defended it pretty well overall) and taking it hard into the body of the help-side defender before finishing off with his left hand.  After that play, you realized that both Bright and Randle are going to have some great battles in the coming practices leading up to the Ryerson exhibition game on November 5th.  And you also found out that Chasson Randle has the makings of a stud.  He might not be the flashiest player (though he did compete in the dunk contest), but he is a steadfast guy who has a thirst for victory.

He would pull that move once more, this time in the second half, again showing any aspiring point guard how to finish in traffic.  The kid has great body control and knows how to mitigate the height of opposing bigs as he takes it to the rim.  I absolutely cannot wait to see him play in a real game.  That's not to take anything away from Aaron Bright, who is a tireless worker and can be a dead-eye three-point shooter.  He really got after it defensively on Sunday and also hit an open three in the first half.  And by the way, his handles are pretty legit too.

Yes, this scrimmage had its early-season jitters.  The game started out a little sloppy on both sides with a couple of missed opportunities at the rim, open jumpers not knocked down and turnovers.  Guys as a whole were probably over-excited at the start to get back into a quasi-game situation.  As the game went on, guys started knocking down more jumpers and the offenses grew crisper.  Perhaps the most promising stat from the scrimmage?  That in a 24-minute game that had a combined 60 points (the Cardinal won the scrimmage 35-25, but the result doesn't really matter), no individual player scored more than six points.  Rather, a multitude of guys found ways to score, including new walk-on lefty Wade Morgan, who drilled a three late in the second half (and thanks to one Bootie who posted his Linkedin page, I now know that this kid will probably own my soul before he turns 40).  Everyone who played besides Jack Ryan (another walk-on) scored at least one bucket.  I know it's just an intra-squad scrimmage, but hopefully this can translate into multiple scoring options against other teams.

The Farm Boys are still a young side, even if they do return just about everybody besides Jeremy Green.  This team will still need to grow into itself, but I suspect they will do so at a much quicker pace, and the results will be visible this year.
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