By: Law Murray
A.P.N.G. came into their Week 5 matchup vs. #Juglife deep in the doldrums.
Their 0-4 start was, to be frank, embarrassing. Not only were they losing games, they were losing them ugly. They lost their first game to M.H.P. 72-44, the only game in the Drew League where a team failed to score at least 50 points. They followed that up by scoring only 54 points in a loss to the Jaguars, and 58 points in a blowout loss to Hank’s New Image.
When they faced off against Tradition in Week 4, another team that started 0-3, it was rumored that both teams were playing to keep their spot in the league. A.P.N.G. kept the game somewhat close, but they still took a 69-60 loss to drop to 0-4.
A.P.N.G. Coach Robinson was asked about what his team will try and do differently against #Juglife, and he mentioned that he would have some personnel changes. But he also was quick to add that they were a new team and that the chemistry wasn’t right just yet.
“It’s all about finding the chemistry and nucleus of the team,” Robinson said, apparently splitting his duties as a coach with that of a science instructor. “Then, we’ll build from that foundation.”
#Juglife was also off to a slow start. After winning their Week 1 matchup against Hard Times 95-90, JaVale McGee’s squad had lost three straight. Still, they had shown they could win. A.P.N.G. still hadn’t gotten to that point.
But a few minutes into the game, George announced that former USC QB and Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart was in the building. And not as a spectator. He was in a gray A.P.N.G. uniform. Leinart, according to George, became the first Heisman winner ever to suit up in the Drew League. This was Coach Robinson’s ace in the hole!
At first, Leinart didn’t stand out, and neither did A.P.N.G. They sleptwalked through another poor first quarter, finding themselves down 19-12. But Leinart started getting into a groove by the second quarter, showing that he knew his way around the court and, most importantly for A.P.N.G., around the three-point line. He scored 12 points in the first half, and A.P.N.G. scored 27 points in the 2nd quarter. George changed his tune about Leinart and praised his skills, mentioning that other football players such as Terrell Owens came through and “stunk up the joint.” At one point, DJ Free had to celebrate Leinart’s appearance during a timeout by calling up the famous Trojan Marching Band.
But A.P.N.G. still had a problem, and his name was Sek Henry. The former Nebraska guard had his way with A.P.N.G.’s defense, ripping them for 15 first-half points as #Juglife took a 42-39 halftime lead. Henry continued to slice up A.P.N.G. in the 3rd quarter, scoring eight more points to give #Juglife a 60-56 lead entering the 4th.
Leinart didn’t have the same scoring punch in the second half, but teammate Dustin Williams got himself together, leading A.P.N.G. with 16 points in what was his most confident and productive performance of the season. Lemar “Black Pearl” Gayle came through with a double-double, playing the most minutes on the team while getting 10 points and 10 rebounds.
And while Leinart didn’t score much late, he did contribute with five rebounds and a team-high four assists with no turnovers while playing good team defense. His three-pointer late in the game effectively sealed A.P.N.G.’s first victory of the season, and they held on to win 76-71 despite an incredible performance from Henry (31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists).
“That was awesome,” Leinart said following the win. “I had a blast.”
Even Henry and #Juglife head coach Olden Polynice had to acknowledge how much of a difference-maker Leinart was. Henry tweeted after the game that, “31 and 10 is not enough,” saying that Leinart went “H.A.M.” Polynice said that Leinart was the “Player of the Game.”
Leinart says that he hopes to be able to come back and help A.P.N.G. again this season. He plays in Manhattan Beach, and he was planning on making an appearance earlier. He came in just in time to possibly save A.P.N.G.’s season.
“Great time hoopin in the @DrewLeague tonight and got the W!” Leinart tweeted after the game. “Appreciate you having me!”
Law Murray is in his fourth year in Los Angeles via Philadelphia. He has been at grad school at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism since 2012, and graduated from California University of PA in 2009 with a degree in communication studies. Law has also served two years in City Year and covered the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia. He specializes in breaking down teams and players on a variety of media platforms.