By: Law Murray
Week 1 at the Drew League was a little unusual, to say the least. For the first time, time conflicts resulted in four teams getting bye weeks, as the season officially started mid-Saturday afternoon. A major area blackout cancelled a game on Sunday, so six teams will basically be making their debut in Week 2. And considering the fact that there were many players (and at least one coach) still getting each others’ names down before taking the court, improved game play is a reasonable expectation this weekend:
- Hank’s United Ballers vs. Reapers (Sat. May 23, 10am): United Ballers Coach Don told me before his team was set to make their debut that he wasn’t sure what to expect from his new squad, except that they would adhere to a system instead of relying on one-on-one play. And then the lights went out. So now they try to make their debut for real this weekend, against a Reapers team that put a scare into NWA last week. United Ballers better make sure they keep a body on Renaldo “Swiperboy” Woolridge, who was all kinds of active with 22 points and 12 rebounds in Week 1.
- LA LOOP vs. ICEO (Sat. May 23, 11:15am): ICEO was one of two teams to score 89 points in Week 1, and 55 of those points came from two players: Charles Hinkle (33 points) and A.J. Gasporra (22 points). Hinkle and Gasporra combined to make 7-of-14 threes, so LA LOOP may want to start there if they are to slow down ICEO.
- Problems vs. I Can All-Stars (Sat. May 23, 12:30pm): The I Can All-Stars will be making their return to the Drew League after several seasons away. Is it just me, or does every team get their first rite of passage against Problems?!
- Hank’s Houdini’s All-Stars vs. Hank’s New Image (Sat. May 23, 2pm): Speaking of Problems, they won’t be getting Tim “Bugatti” Johnson any time soon. Maybe there was a concern about the ridiculous depth of ballhandlers on Houdini’s squad between Johnson, Antonio Biglow, Corey Allen, Kenny Jackson, and now Derrick O’Neal. But Johnson had a game-high 21 points on only 9 shots in the defending champs’ win last weekend, then went out of his way to clear the air on the rumors afterwards. Hank’s New Image won a tough game against The Clozers last week, but they had only four assists and 15 turnovers. They’ll need to take better care of the ball against the best pressure defense in the league.
- NWA vs. The Clozers (Sat. May 23, 3:15pm): NWA won last week, but Coach Keion Kindred couldn’t have been pleased with the relatively lackluster performance. NWA was outplayed by Reapers for much of their 66-63 win last weekend. The Clozers team that took the floor against New Image last weekend was done in by their inexperience and lack of execution in the halfcourt, but they’re long and athletic. The combo of 6’10” teenagers Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright against NWA’s Chuck Garcia will be a matchup to watch, but both teams need better point guard play.
- BB4L vs. Citi Team Blazers (Sat. May 23, 4:30pm): This is the Commissioner’s pick for Game of the Week. Baron Davis is the headliner for BB4L, and Keith Closs is ahead of everyone else in terms of making a case for the league’s best rim protector (eight blocked shots in Week 1). But it was Demetrius Walker getting the buckets, scoring a game-high 25 points on 12 shots in BB4L’s Week 1 win against Hank’s Bulldogs. Citi Team Blazers head coach Rodrick Shannon is trying out a few guys on his roster, but it helps to have the Player of the Week to lean on, Malcolm Thomas (23 points, 19 rebounds in Week 1 vs. C.A.B.C.).
- M.H.P. vs. Hank’s Panthers (Sat. May 23, 6pm): M.H.P. is back after a humbling first round loss in the playoffs and a bye week. Coach Charles Lovely faced M.H.P. last season with his Jaguars team and won in a blowout. But his Panthers team needs to take better care of the ball after turning it over 25 times last week.
- C.A.B.C. vs. Pandas (Sun. May 24, 10am): C.A.B.C. head coach Harry Wilson still has a bad taste in his mouth about how last season started (0-4). He’s not guaranteeing a roster spot to any of his players, so expect some urgent play from C.A.B.C. in what marks the first Drew League game for Pandas, featuring the Artest family.
- #Juglife vs. Sky Ryse (Sun. May 24, 11:15am): Sky Ryse didn’t exactly put a complete game together last week, but if Donovan Morris is going to produce like he did last season, then they can get another 8th seed. Morris is off to a nice start, scoring 26 points on 15 shots against LA LOOP. #Juglife got 26 points from Steven Pickens last week in a loss to the Jaguars; he says he wants to limit his turnovers after coughing up the rock five times.
- C.O.A. vs. Hard Times (Sun. May 24, 12:30pm): C.O.A. had to wait a little longer to get over their title game loss, as their game against United Ballers was blacked out. C.O.A. also didn’t have their captain, Craig “Rhino” Smith, last week. It’s unknown when Rhino will be back, but it won’t be this week: “It isn’t like they will give MVP if I start playing early, because if that was the case I would have won it four years straight.” It remains to be seen who will be available for Hard Times; their captain, 2013 co-MVP Nick Porter, lamented the absence of key players. Porter says he feels better than he did last season, but he needs some help.
- Salvatori’s Spirit vs. Jaguars (Sun. May 24th, 2pm): The Spirit make their Drew League debut in Week 2, featuring former Blazers champion Frank Robinson. They’ll get a good test from the Jaguars, who scored a Week 1 high 89 points against #Juglife, including 24 from Steve Alford.
- LAUNFD vs. Hank’s Bulldogs (Sun. May 24th, 3:15pm): No team was more disappointing in Week 1 than LAUNFD. Their long-awaited return to the Drew League was a disaster after getting blown out by Salvatori’s Nova Stars. Bobby Brown’s squad needs to lock down defensively against Hank’s Bulldogs, a revamped team that also struggled defensively in Week 1 after allowing 48 points to Baron Davis and Demetrius Walker.
- Salvatori’s No Shnacks vs. Salvatori’s Nova Stars (Sun. May 24th, 4:30pm): It’s good to see people excited about Sango Niang’s play for No Shnacks. Unfortunately, it was clear that No Shnacks missed 6’7” forward Adom Jacko, as they couldn’t slow down ICEO last week at all. The Nova Stars looked like a top-five team last week – emphasis on team. Deon Marcus is the meal ticket, but they have a handful of players who could get double figures on any given game.
- Tradition vs. Legacy (Sun. May 24th, 6pm): Tradition got a nice lift last week from Seth Curry, who scored a game-high 23 points in their win last week. Legacy was brutalized inside by Problems big man Doug Thomas last week; Legacy head coach Kevin Matthews wants to push the pace, but it’s hard to do that if you can’t get stops.
Law Murray is in his fifth year in Los Angeles via Philadelphia. He is in his second season at the Drew, and has made stops at the NFL Network, Fox Sports, and Marketplace, in addition to contributing to ESPN TrueHoop’s ClipperBlog since 2014. Law has also served two years in City Year and covered the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Russia. He graduated from California University of PA in 2009 with a B.A. in communication studies, and from University of Southern California in 2014 with a M.A. in journalism. He specializes in breaking down teams and players on a variety of media platforms.