Jon Teitel had an opportunity to visit the BB&T Classic. Here are his observations in part one of a two part series.
Pregame: I ran into my old friend Chris Shinkman and his grandson outside the Verizon Center before the game. Chris told me that the entire George Washington contingent had traveled the 15 blocks from campus to the Verizon Center via the subway: the players, the band, the cheerleaders, everyone! Once I got inside I noticed a special guest TV color commentator, John Feinstein. Feinstein is the author of “A Season on the Brink”, the story of the 1986 Indiana men’s basketball team, which became one of the bestselling sports books ever.
12:15 PM: Game one of the doubleheader (Manhattan-George Washington) tips off with maybe 1,000 people in the stands. It might have been a little early for the players as well, as Manhattan’s first possession concluded with a pass being thrown five feet over a player’s head that bounced off of an empty chair in the fourth row. Manhattan likes to full-court press, and proved that it was effective after causing a 10-second violation early on. George Washington used four international players (Canada, Argentina, Denmark, Serbia), so their focus on foreign recruiting seems to be paying dividends. Some George Mason players came out from their locker room late in the first half to watch a few minutes of the game, then returned to get ready for their own game later that day. Free throw shooting made the difference in the Colonials’ 67-55 win. Manhattan was 12-20 from the line (60%), while George Washington converted 24-29 (83%). The five players who caught my eye:
Manhattan senior shooting guard George Beamon, the MAAC’s leading returning scorer from last season had scored in double figures in 51-straight games…until this one. He had a great drive for a layup for the Jaspers’ first basket of the game, and he was consistently able to get into the paint on the fast break and get to the foul line. However, when you are the focus of offense, you need to show up every night for your team to win. Beamon’s night quickly went downhill: forcing a bad three from the top of the key with a man on him, air-balling a three on a fast break, missing a layup inside, and ending his miserable night by missing an open dunk. He ended up with just nine points (3-13 FG, 3-6 FT), but to his credit he was able to help his team out leading in rebounds (7) and steals (4).
Manhattan senior point guard RaShawn Stores did a little of everything despite standing only 5’11”. He led the team with 11 points and was somehow able to pull down six rebounds. When your point guard can run the offense for 23 minutes while only committing one turnover, good things will often follow.
Jasper junior power forward Rhamel Brown is his teams tallest starter at only 6’7”, but he uses his 230 pounds effectively down low. He had a pair of nice blocks and was very active on the boards. However, he fouled out after only 10 minutes of action, showing poor body control.
George Washington senior shooting guard Lasan Kromah starred in a classic tale of two halves. He had two points and not much else in the first 14 minutes of play. He finished strong with 18 points in 18 second half minutes. He did not have many memorable plays, but seven made free throws and only one turnover allowed his team to take control of a game that was tied at halftime.
George Washington senior power forward Isaiah Armwood is mentioned last because his performance was the best. He spent his first two years of college at Villanova, then sat out last year after transferring into the DC area. He is very skinny (6’9”, 210 pounds), but for a big man he is a very good interior passer who has a nice touch at the charity stripe. He made a pretty lefty hook down low for the Colonials first basket of the game, then made a great block at the rim over Emmy Andujar. He later had back-to-back blocks on Shane Richards, and then had a big dunk and an athletic circus shot (that led to a three point play) on consecutive possessions. He took over at the end of the first half and finished with arguably the best all-around game of his college tenure: career-high 23 points, 8-12 from the floor, 7-7 from the line topped off with nine rebounds and six blocks.