It was pretty much a foregone conclusion the Zags would easily handle West Georgia, but fans weren’t worried about a contest tonight. They wanted to see the newcomers, many for the first time. We weren’t disappointed as Mark Few played everyone giving us a taste of the season to come.
Before the tip-off, we were given some welcome news when Heister announced Josh Perkins would only be suspended for two games, tonight’s exhibition and the season opener against Utah Valley State. It was a lesser amount than most surmised and makes you wonder if taking a kick against Georgia two years ago and losing a season factored into the equation.
Probably the most important question for GU fans this year was how would big Karno look and could he get back to some semblance of his prior form. The answers were pretty good and yes with 14 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Karno always seemed to start the season slowly, but he looked in pretty good form tonight. He regained the substantial weight he’s lost, looked rock solid in post defense and is still deadly with the left-handed hook. Most importantly of all, the hub of the offensive wheel returned and the team looked steadier when he was there to kick entry passes back to the perimeter and play the high/low with JWIII. Karno was also showing a lot of vocal leadership, stay healthy big guy.
Second most important question was what would NWG bring to the table and the answer was a little bit of everything, 20 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Hitting threes, great assists, aggressive but smooth drives to the rim. He showed some rust early, then his incredible ability took over and he played great.
Same with JWIII who’s 14 points and 14 rebounds were everything we could have wanted. Smart and smooth, he looks to be a Sabonis-like beast on the boards whose length and athleticism will bother opponents who venture into the lane.
Zach Collins with 16 points and 5 rebounds verified he’ll be the first big off the bench and will be called upon to play early and often. He showed a few freshman jitters but had many more instances of purely great basketball.
Heister has a new man crush and his name is Killian Tillie. He only had 4 points to go with his 6 rebounds and 3 assists, but his nose for the ball and freakish athleticism were on display every moment he was on the floor. His early entrance into the game and his play once he was there implied he probably won’t be burning the season with a redshirt this year.
Speaking of guys who won’t redshirt, Zack Norvell is the real deal. Poised and potent, he scored 18 points combining NBA range threes with strong drives to the rim. He showed no ill-effects of his knee problems and demonstrated the potential to be the starter at the three spot later in the season.
Someone will have to redshirt and unfortunately or fortunately depending on your perspective that may be Rui Hachimura. The young man with the NBA ready body had a couple monster dunks, rained a three and had a coast-to-coast steal in garbage time. Sadly, the crowded backcourt may make tonight the only time this year we get to see him play, but we sure have something to look forward too next year.
Jordan Matthews provided 18 points and will be the three-point specialist we all expected. Melson and Alberts played significant minutes with Silas looking tough on D to go with 5 points and 5 rebounds. On the other hand, Alberts was a non-factor and may have been already overtaken in the rotation by Norvell. Ryan Edwards entered the game after Dustin Triano. Ryan looked like he’d put on a few pounds and probably won’t see much floor time this year barring injury.
Overall, this year’s team looks like everything we could have hoped for and possibly more. The moment I loved happened midway in the 2nd half when Tillie and Collins seemed to play volleyball trying to tip-in an offensive rebound. This team looks primed to dominate the glass and will be loaded with offensive weapons. Oh yeah, Josh Perkins will be added to the mix after another game.