Game 062: at Evansville 76, Bradley 66Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Roberts Stadium - Evansville, IN
The press box at Roberts Municipal Stadium really is
a place called vertigo. It's a series of skyboxes high above the floor, attached to the rafters, accessible only by a secret unmarked staircase. From up there, the players are truly under the microscope, floating freely on a parquet petri dish.
In press suite 4, there are a number of different types of examinations going on, scientific and otherwise. The writers share row space with radio reps and Missouri Valley Conference officials. There are also two chairs open for representatives from NBA franchises, those purveyors of high-flying and high-priced basketball-themed entertainment. The scouts are in town.
But the spots, hand-marked New York Knicks
and Miami Heat,
are empty. As the Evansville
game begins, the pregame notes sit neatly arranged and untouched at the New York station; a black and red Heat logo cap sits atop the other stack. There's a studious fellow taking careful notes to the right, but the nametag at his spot identifies him as an overseer from the conference.
There's a small buzz over in the corner - two radio men and the mid-major website writer are whispering to each other like giggling high-schoolers at a Friday dance. Where are the scouts? Did the New York guy even show up? The Heat dude - is he down at floor level or something? Did he forget his ballcap? And most importantly, who are these guys here to see?
A quick scan of the roster provides few clues. The visiting Bradley team is very young squad - no seniors at all. But it's within the realm of possibility that they could be scoping out 6'7", 230-lb. junior greyhound (and former Mid-Majority Baller of the Week
) Marcellus Sommerville. Maybe there's talk that he's thinking of declaring after the season's done. But 'Cellus has a rough first half, shooting one of seven and stifling the Braves' offensive plans - they arrive at the halftime break with just 19 points on 30% team shooting. Maybe it's a good thing the scouts are in absentia.
We check the home half of the roster sheet, maybe there's a Purple Ace that's being watched. Kyle Anslinger, a wide and pink Hoosier guard with long-range capabilities, is shooting the lights out early on. But he's just a sophomore. Wait, here we go - Evansville's leading scorer on the year is a 6'4", 185-pound charger named Lucious Wagner. Senior. How about this guy?
"Lucious?" a radio guy says. "He has too many bad shooting nights. I see him playing some Euroball, but he's not good enough to play at the next level. Actually, when it comes down to it, very few of these guys are."
Sadly, it's true. College players are having a tough time getting drafted as it is, what with the influx of raw high schoolers and swarthy mystery-men from exotic European locales hogging most of the draft slots. It's an even rarer occurrence when the Association spotlight is shone on a baller from mid-majorville, letting a kid from a small school get paid big money for doing what he loves. But last year's NBA Draft did feature a pretty good crop.
Kirk Snyder, hero of Nevada's
Sweet Sixteen run, was picked an appropriate 16th by Utah - now he's being brought off the bench whenever the Jazz need a surprise three. Big guard Kevin Martin of the SoCon's Western Carolina
went 26th and landed in Sacramento, where he shows up on the court occasionally for a few minutes. Six-ten Pepe Sow of Cal State Fullerton
and little Morehead State
guy Ricky Minard went late in the second round, but neither could hang. Minard's in the D-League
The last time a Valley player was drafted, of course, was when the New Jersey Nets picked former Creighton
Bluejay Kyle Korver
with the 51st overall selection in 2003. They quickly shuttled him off to the 76ers in return for the extremely talented Undi Sclosedamountacash. After a rookie season in which his rear end was welded to the bench, he's become a Philadelphia sex symbol with his feathery three-point touch, and he's well on his way to becoming one in a short series of late-pick success stories. He may not have built the new Qwest Center
by himself, but he's probably kicking back a little of his NBA coin to help keep CU's athletic department afloat.
When the game resumes, Bradley's make offensive adjustments - big Minnesotan freshman Pat O'Bryant and wiry junior forward Lawrence Wright step up, and both dodge deep foul trouble to hit double digits. The visitors are all over the boards, outrebounding their hosts by a decent margin (42-36), and it helps them score 47 second-half points and get back into the contest. But in the end, the hole they dug for themselves is too deep to climb up and out of. Mister Sommerville fights back from the early slump to collect a double-double: 10 points and 11 boards.
After the buzzer, the note-taking man in the Valley representative row slot comes over to me. "Are you New York?" he asks in a clean, easy drawl.
Nope, Philly. But I'm not from the Sixers, looking for another hidden gem of the Valley... I'm just a writer. I point to the Heat ballcap, which has gathered a slight sheen of dust over the past two hours. "I hope the Heat guy didn't get lost."
He picks up the hat, puts it on, grins broadly. "Nope."
Oh geez, oops, sorry. No disrespect intended. But I push my luck anyway. "This probably isn't the right question," I manage. "But who were you watching?"
"Just watching," he shoots back with a sly smile.
As he turns to go, the Miami Heat scout offers a slight wink and gives my shoulder a friendly pat. Naturally, he knows something I don't.Photo Gallery