Game #9-254: Pennsylvania Quakers at Butler BulldogsJanuary 2, 2013 7:00 pm
Growing up in Indiana, it was an annual ritual to try to identify, whether by reading magazines or newspapers or by listening to some wise old sage, The Next Great One. The Next Great One referred to the state's next great high school basketball star. While the talents of relative giants and freakish athletes were respected, The Next Great One was always more of an everyman type, usually a slender fellow who each of us might have become if only our genes had been a little bit better and we'd have been willing to work a little bit harder. In fact, our natural ability and work ethic would have needed to be a lot better rather than just a little bit better, but we chose to not totally deny ourselves our dreams. The primary and common characteristic of The Next Great One was an uncanny ability to shoot the basketball. As you heard the stories, you could visualize The Next Great One out well before dawn and well past dusk at his local gymnasium (or driveway, playground, or barn), time after time squaring up perfectly to the basket and shooting the ball until his wrists ached and his fingers bled. Whether he be black or white, rural or urban, short or tall, The Next Great One was a semi-mythical figure who you could easily visualize even though you most likely never saw him in person. His teammates inevitably would defer to The Next Great One, setting screens for him, passing him the ball, and doing the dirty work defensively; in return, they'd get to ride along as The Next Great One led them on a significant run through the state tournament. Eventually, The Next Great One would go on to attend college within the state of Indiana and thereby continue to be idolized; for the rare Ones who would leave the state, the general populace would largely lose interest with them and focus on the Next One.
Though he came around long before I was aware of such things, my idea of the prototype of The Next Great One always has been Rick Mount of Lebanon, due mainly to tales of wonder passed on by some of my relatives. In 1966, Mount was featured in a cover article of Sports Illustrated, the first high-school athlete ever covered in that capacity. Nearly half a century later, this story continues to brilliantly reflect the public wonderment associated with The Next Great One. The most cogent analysis reflecting the difference between The Next Great One and the state's then-most recent superstar was provided by local pool hall proprietor Pistol Sheets (and aren't we all worse off that current sportswriting does not feature interviews with such local celebrities?), who opined that Mount was every bit the shooter as was Oscar Robertson, but Mount lacked "the better maneuverability." Even sans superior maneuverability, Mount went on to star at Purdue, leading them to the national championship game in his junior year in 1969, before going on to an injury-shortened career in the ABA.
In subsequent years, The Next Great Ones would include players like Larry Bird (Springs Valley High School/Indiana State University via Indiana), Steve Alford (New Castle/Indiana), Troy Lewis (Anderson/Purdue), Jay Edwards (Marion/Indiana), and Bryce Drew (Valparaiso/Valparaiso). Another One that remains prominent in my mind, though he's been largely forgotten since he left the state to play in college, also hailed from Valparaiso High School. When I was in the eighth grade, my coach called me from the end of the bench to go in and guard Roger Harden. That experience did not go particularly well, I was soon relieved of the duty, and our respective paths diverged from that moment in time. Four years later, a string of events led to Harden being honored as Mr. Basketball of the state; four years later, a string of events led to me being honored as Crewmember of the Month of the local McDonald's.
This background has led me to expect that good college teams from the state of Indiana will have, if not a Great One, a Really Good One. Butler has had a number of Really Good Ones from in-state in recent years, and this year's team has a couple of guys who fit that mold, Rotnei Clarke and Kellen Dunham, even though Clarke is an Oklahoma native. As I've watched Butler play over the course of this season though, it has occurred to me that their best player may be the complete antithesis of The Next Great One.
Roosevelt Jones is a sophomore swingman, and he is not a slender fellow, instead possessing the build of a linebacker. He has a shooting touch that would make Mount (who, in his mid-60s, still runs shooting clinics throughout the Midwest) cringe; when Jones arrived at Butler last year, I wondered how he could get through high school and AAU programs with such an ineffective shooting form. But Jones does possess a considerable amount of toughness, and he takes great pride in being able to shut down opponents with his defensive skills - that alone has earned him significant playing time throughout his Butler career. This year, Roosevelt has become more confident on the offensive end, almost exclusively through the use of a powerful drive to the bucket. I can rarely figure out what he's planning to do until after he's done it, but he has been able to drive the ball into the lane, then either go through, duck around, or lean away from his opponent, and get a pretty good look at the basket. Jones really is the antitype to what I've learned to be a successful offensive player, but he battles every moment on the floor and makes good things happen for his team. In this game, he had dominant stretches on both ends of the floor, leading the team in scoring (a career high 24), assists, steals, and blocked shots, and was second on the team in rebounding, all while serving as Butler's defensive stopper. His shooting touch is far different from that used by The Next Great One, which is taking some time for many of us to get used to, but he has learned to take advantage of his strengths and has made himself into a very productive player.
As for the game itself, it was a rather lethargic effort by the home team, not withstanding the performance delivered by Jones. With the students away on break, the Dawg Pound student section was filled by a combination of local students and veteran alumni, which always makes for an interesting visual, although usually a less-than-imposing presence for the opponent.
Penn, who brought with them a distinguished visitor, left this evening with a 2-10 record. Plagued by turnovers and dominated on the boards, they'll need to improve in those two areas when Ivy League play begins. If they can do so, I think they'll be a formidable foe in conference play. Time will tell if the home team will be able to contend for a championship in its new league, although they'll no doubt benefit by having the skills of The Antitype on their side.
at BUTLER 70, PENNSYLVANIA 57
PENNSYLVANIA 2-10 (0-0) -- M. Cartwright 5-14 2-2 15; J. Lewis 3-5 0-0 7; G. Louis 2-9 0-0 4; T. Hicks 4-12 0-0 10; S. Rennard 1-1 0-0 3; H. Brooks 3-4 2-2 8; C. Gunter 1-1 0-0 2; D. Nelson-Henry 2-3 1-2 5; D. Jok 0-1 0-0 0; P. Lucas-Perry 1-1 0-0 3; C. Crocker 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 5-6 57.
BUTLER 11-2 (0-0) -- R. Jones 10-15 4-7 24; A. Smith 1-7 7-8 9; R. Clarke 2-11 1-1 6; A. Barlow 1-2 0-0 3; K. Dunham 3-7 2-2 10; K. Marshall 7-10 0-1 14; K. Woods 1-4 0-0 2; J. Aldridge 0-0 0-0 0; E. Fromm 0-1 2-2 2; C. Stigall 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; E. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0; D. Morgan 0-0 0-0 0; A. Smeathers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 16-21 70.
Three-point goals: PENN 8-15 (M. Cartwright 3-4; D. Jok 0-1; S. Rennard 1-1; G. Louis 0-1; P. Lucas-Perry 1-1; T. Hicks 2-5; J. Lewis 1-2), BUTL 4-19 (R. Clarke 1-9; A. Smith 0-3; A. Barlow 1-2; K. Dunham 2-5); Rebounds: PENN 19 (G. Louis 5), BUTL 35 (K. Woods 8); Assists: PENN 11 (J. Lewis 6), BUTL 9 (R. Jones 3); Total Fouls -- PENN 19, BUTL 12; Fouled Out: PENN-H. Brooks; BUTL-None.