FITCHBURG, Mass. – Ryan Hurd will shoot you straight about his team. If they’re not playing well, he’ll tell you as much, just like he’ll tell a player he needs to get off the court if the effort is lacking. And he wasn’t afraid to admit that his team’s workout on Thursday was not up to par, although he also figures it will prove to be an aberration.
Hurd will have two good guards to hang his hat on in Sam Cassell, Jr. (6’3″ Sr. PG-SG, Baltimore (MD)) and Myles Davis (6’2″ Sr. SG, Plainfield (NJ)). Both return for their second season at the school and give the Crusaders two dangerous shooters from behind the arc. While Davis’ credentials doing that have long been established, Cassell had a jumper that had to be respected but was far from deadly last season. Since returning to campus, Cassell has been playing about as well as any Crusader, and that remained the case on Thursday. While the Xavier-bound Davis still shot it well on the day, he also continues to be better off the dribble, although he’ll never be as good a scorer as he is a shooter.
Another guard who impressed on the day is Adonis Filer (6’3″ Sr. SG, Chicago (IL)). A well-built guard, he attacked the hoop often and finished well. He figures to be a key at the offensive end. Shaquille Jones (6’5″ Jr. SG-SF, Providence (RI)) came off the bench and instantly made an impact, scoring a couple of quick driving baskets. He looks like he may have put on some bad weight, but he has tools to help this team as a complementary player. Mandell Thomas (6’2″ Sr. SG, Rochester (NY)) has talent and a good body, but at times his effort can be a question mark and he didn’t make a big impact at this workout. From the same area as Thomas, Lawrence Johnson (6’1″ Sr. PG, Rochester (NY)) penetrated often to make things happen, looking more like a scorer than a shooter. While he doesn’t have the best body, he had no problem driving inside and creating contact.
Aaron Clark (6’2″ Sr. SG, Middletown (DE)) didn’t play major minutes on the day, but showed some promise trying to score the ball. Jamie Holder (6’1″ Sr. PG-SG, Milford (NH)) acquitted himself well on the day, as his body can get better but he’s hard-nosed and has some speed with the ball in his hands. Chase Cullen (6’3″ Sr. SG, Lynville-Sully (IA)) looks like a complementary player, and at one point he scored a couple of layups in a row just playing off his teammates.
On this guard-dominated team, there is one big man at the moment in Brandon Bilbija (6’10” Sr. C, Burlington (Ont.)). He could stand to get in better shape, but effort doesn’t look like a concern with him.
Thursday’s lineup isn’t what the team will look like at the end of the season. In January, the Crusaders will add New Zealand big man Steven Adams, who has committed to Pittsburgh. There is already a buzz about him from his play at the Adidas Nations Global Experience, and with this team not having much size at the moment, he’ll help just from bringing more of that in addition to his potential.
Notre Dame Prep has another set of talented guards, with a couple of holdovers having made significant improvement since last year. If they get some production and a defensive presence up front, including from Adams once he arrives, they should win more than their fair share of games once again this season.