Wednesday, November 26, 2008

K's Korner: Blogging Through a Mid-Major's Season Pt. II

Welcome to K's Korner!! Scott Klatzkin is the voice of the Delaware State University basketball and football teams. The Hornets play in the MEAC, but also play one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. Scott will be checking in with us periodically throughout the season as he follows DSU all over the country.

The first weekend of the Delaware State Hornets basketball season is in the books and I just feel compelled to pronounce my love for the game of college basketball. I broadcasted University of Delaware hoops for four years from 2003-04 to 2006-07 and last season, after graduating, was my first year not sitting courtside 30 times from November to March. I think I may have actually forgot just how much I loved watching the game, and my appreciation for the sport has once again been replenished. I feel like Seth in "Superbad" right now.

I feel like I don't say it enough, I'm not embarrassed. It's like why don't I say it every day? Why don't I say it more often? I just love college basketball. I want to go to the rooftops and scream: "I love my best friend basketball." BOOP!
Okay enough with the love fest let's get to the details of the first few games. With my work schedule and the broadcasting of DSU football, I had not gotten the chance to see much of the basketball team prior to their season opener against Wilmington University. In fact, despite being a Delaware native for 20 years, I can't recall ever seeing a DSU Hornets basketball game, so this was a officially a first. I walked into Memorial Hall (which is a great name and gives off the impression of a large arena, but realistically is smaller than my high school gym and seats 2,000 at max capacity) and watched the end of the DSU women's game (MEAC schools play women-men doubleheaders) before the Hornets came on the floor to warm up.

The team does not look like a Division 1 basketball squad. The tallest player is 6 foot 7, and only about 2 of the guys have the muscle tone and body of a player you would find in a higher ranked conference. One of those guys is Arturo Dubois, a two-time 2nd Team All-MAAC selection at Manhattan College, the other is Marcus Neal, a 6'5 shooting guard that led the team with 40% 3-point shooting a season ago. But looks can be deceiving, and they do return their point guard, Trevor Welcher, from last season and a few JUCO transfers are joining the team to replace 2008 All-MEAC 1st teamer, Roy Bright.

The game begins and it becomes evidently clear to me that the title of this blog is extremely misleading. The Delaware State basketball team has been very successful in recent years, Head Coach Greg Jackson is probably the best coach in the conference, and I hope they make the post season for the 4th time in 5 years this season – but this is not a mid-major team I'll be covering this season. The quality of play in the MEAC is that of a Low-Major.

In any case, the game was what one would expect from a season opener between a low-major and a Division II team. Sloppy at times, nothing too exciting, but the Hornets got the W, 71-59, and start their season off 1-0. My favorite part of the game, though, was the 1,167 DSU fans that came out. As mentioned, it's a very small gym, so I could hear a lot of what was going on behind me and I found it hard at times not to start laughing out loud on press row. Late in the 2nd half, Will Alton, a Wilmington freshman guard from Pennington, NJ checked in and the crowd went wild. It was clear from Will's skinny frame, floppy Seth Rogan hairdo and 4 fouls in 5 minutes of action that he had no business being on the court, and the Hornets fans probably made him wish he had stayed in his cozy seat on the bench. Every time he touched the ball on offense, or guarded a player with the ball on defense, heckles of "Yo, Justin Timberlake," "Give JT the ball," and my personal favorite "Timberlake, get Sexy-Back on the bench" rang out. I don't know what was funnier, the heckling, or the fact that all white people apparently look like Justin Timberlake, even when sporting an entirely different haircut and a basketball jersey.

Game 2 of the Hornet Classic (which is intended on being a warm-up against Division II teams so that the Hornets can pick up 2 wins before losing 12 straight) did not go as planned, and Del State dropped a game to D-II Cheyney. I was in Norfolk, VA for a football broadcast at Norfolk State (Hornets trailed 28-7, and came back to win 34-28), so I didn't see the game, which is probably a good thing. Despite the loss, the team's second leading scorer from 07-08 (10.0ppg), Donald Johnson, bounced back from an 0-7 shooting night on Friday and scored a career high 26 on 4 of 8 from beyond the arc.

Sunday was a day for laundry, packing, typing up game notes, running errands and getting mentally prepared for the road trip. Then Monday came and it was finally here. You look at the schedule and get excited for all the teams you'll face this season, but you don't realize just how much travel and preparation it takes until the time to pack up and leave finally comes. So Monday I headed to Bethlehem, PA for stop 1 of 12 of this non-conference schedule.

I got to Stabler Arena around 4:30 and started setting up my radio equipment when I spotted Manhattan transfer, Arturo Dubois sitting in a chair near the entrance to the locker room. The Bronx native was wearing a fresh Yankee fitted and sweatpants, instead of the normal DSU warm-ups. I asked him what was up and he smiled, not because he was happy he'd be missing the game, but to show off the new gap in his mouth after having one of his front teeth knocked out as the result of an elbow to the mouth in Saturday's game. "I got surgery today," he told me, looking like Michael Strahan but speaking without the All-Pro's lisp. Just great. The Hornets are without their only big man for the night and facing a team that has a pair of 7-footers. Closer to tip-off, I spoke with a few members of the Lehigh staff and expressed my concern about the big fellas. I was reminded that if these guys were any good they wouldn't be playing at Lehigh. Good point. They barely played and didn't affect the game's outcome.

The Hornets stuck with the Mountain Hawks in the first half despite playing without their only big man and with Marcus Neal not attempting a field goal the entire night. DSU led 29-26 with 1:43 to go in the first half and then potential Patriot League Player of the Year, Marques Hall, decided to start playing. Hall was held to 2 points on a pair of free throws up to that point, but hit 3 three pointers before the half, each from an increasingly difficult angle and further distance from the basket. As Hall's final 3 point shot of the half fell from about 28 feet, so did any DSU momentum. The second half was all Lehigh, and the Hornets didn't help themselves from the line, shooting 4 of 14 in the final 20 minutes. Final score 76-58. Time for sleep, it's on to Ohio in the morning.

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