Smile Politely

About that scrimmage…

Not many people saw Monday night’s Orange & Blue Scrimmage. Sports fans had a locally relevant NLCS, a locally relevant Monday Night Bears game, and a presidential debate to satisfy their baseball, football, and horse racing needs.

A few hundred stalwarts filled most the Assembly Hall’s A section and some of B. Like Deadheads and Phish Phans, a lot of these people have a good time every night, no matter the performance.

Also like Deadheads and Phish Phans, many probably assumed they were hallucinating: Ibrahima Djimde scored a lot and looked smooth on offense. Mike LaTulip was lousy at shooting, but ran an inspired floor game at the point. Myke Henry played defense.

Flower children danced in the aisles. Camden Groce, Abbie Ford, and Mason and Michael Miller exuded pure joy. Their dads (John, Dustin, and Brandon) didn’t have such a great time. There’s a lot of work to do.


Despite the 1-for-5 shooting, Mike LaTulip was highly enthusiastic after the game. He’s endured the “walk-on” tag for months, along with the assumptions it entails. You could almost see the weight lift from his shoulders. People can now make up their minds based on his actual game. His dad Gary reiterated the simple mantra “he just wants a chance to prove himself.”

His mom, Kathleen, reiterated that Mike’s choice of Illinois (bypassing schools offering basketball scholarships) was about academics, not just basketball. But she added they’re not pushing him toward any major in particular. That’s for Mike to figure out.

The thing that coaches see, apart from his (usual) ability to fill it up, is the rare combination of extreme confidence without a hint of arrogance. It’s a quality shared by all the greatest lead guards. You must be able to take orders without question, but you must be able to lead without fear.

Djimde is more of a surprise, to me at least. While he’s always had the defensive footwork you’d expect from an African soccer player, he’s also had the hands you’d expect from an African soccer player. On Monday, he kissed the ball off the glass as if he’d grown up on an asphalt playground in Peoria.

Our other African, Nnanna Egwu, has great handles. He shot seven of nine from the floor. Everybody else shot terribly. Horribly.

One item of note, especially for Assembly Hall’s renovation planners: Terri Berardini took advantage of general admission seating, avoiding the metal courtside bleachers normally peopled by players’ families. For recruiting purposes, it might make sense to keep mom and dad as comfortable as possible. Just a thought.

One other item of note: It was weird having no News-Gazette beat writer on hand. I assume Paul, Marcus, and Jim chose to stay at the Esquire after their radio show to enjoy a few final pitchers of PBR. Good for them. Beer is fun.

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