April 26, 2008
Video: Nix, Kirk, and Riley on Friday Night in Akron
AKRON - In each of the first three years of the King James Shooting Stars Classic, The Family has faced Midwest rival the Illinois Wolves in the opening game of pool play. And in the first two years of the Classic, the games between the Family and The Wolves have lived up to the name of the tournament.
But the third meeting between the two summer basketball powers did not live up to its billing as the Illinois Wolves took advantage of the Family's backcourt struggles to post a 58-41 win against their rivals from the Motor City.
"We wanted to beat them badly," said Michigan State commitment Derrick Nix, "but we didn't play good defensively and we didn't deserve to win."
Trailing by 20 points with 10 minutes
remaining, Family coach Speedy Walker was forced to send his talented bevy of the big men to the bench in order to pressure play pressure defense and to gear the offense to the perimeter.
With Michigan State commitment Derrick Nix and family big men DaShonte Riley on the bench, The Family cut the Wolves' lead to 15 points briefly but saw that lead grow to 20 again before the buzzer sounded.
Walker would have liked to have seen his team perform better in a game against the Wolves. but he chalked much of his team's ineffectiveness to being out-of-sync from arriving at tip-off without the benefit of the hour-long shoot around that the Wolves enjoyed before opening pool play on Friday night.
The rust was apparent with Nix, who did everything but finish around the basket. Even though he struggled to find the bottom of the net, Nix was a force in the post. He was the most aggressive big man for either team. He called for the ball, put himself in position to receive post entry passes, and was aggressive with his back to the basket.
Aside from a spin dribble lay-up in the game's final minutes, Riley struggled to get into the flow of the game as did Donnovan Kirk, who was at his best when Riley was feeding him in the post. Riley's best attribute against the Wolves was his passing. With the ball in his hands Riley made a consistent effort to set up his teammates. He rarely looked for his own shot.
Nix, Kirk, and Riley accounted for 19 points, but played sparingly down in the second half.
"We have to get our big boys playing good," said Walker. "It felt like we had a lid on the basket tonight."
With the Wolves featuring a guard-heavy line-up, Walker felt heading into the game that his bigs would have to play well from start to finish. Nix believes that his team's bigs will begin to flourish as its guards gain experience. Experience should lead to better defense for The Family's guards and that should take some pressure off Nix, Riley, and Kirk.
Traditionally, The Family has features some of the best guard and wing play in the Midwest. This year Walker's ballclub is adjusting to playing from the inside out.
"I don't have the traditional wings or the aggressive defensive players that I've had in the past," said Walker whose team as recently as two summers ago included Durrell Summers, Manny Harris, Paul Williams, Jordan Crawford, and Kalin Lucas in the backcourt. "I have to get my guards to understand that. And this is a team that will get better and these guards will get better. Each tournament we will get a little bit better and these guards are getting better. They are not as talented as the guards that we used to have but it is also easier to get them to do what you want them to do.
"We have to get better guard play, at least get some consistency from them on the defensive end so our big fellas can get a chance to do their thing because they are pretty tough to guard."
The Family will get a chance to bounce back tomorrow morning against the Carolina Celtics. After that game The Family will enter bracket play.
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