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July 28, 2001Yesterday was the championship game of the AAU Junior Olympics for the 19-and-under boys basketball team. The game was played at the Churchland H.S. gymnasium in the suburbs of Portsmouth, VA. I drove from Hampton with my son, William (9) and his friend, Cody, to watch the game, and possibly meet JJ Redick.
We drove through the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel and arrived at the gym just before tip-off at 4 p.m. JJ was playing on the Hampton Roads team coached by Boo Williams. Their opponents were Martin Brother Select, an all-star team from Iowa. The Hampton Roads team wore "home" white uniforms and Martin Bros. was in dark blue. JJ wore jersey #4.
The Hampton Roads team built a quick opening lead, leading by as much as 18 in the early part of the first half, but ended trailing at the half by one point. JJ scored the third basket of the game for his team, and was fouled on the play, converting the three-point play. The shot came after a baseline screen and pass to JJ on the left wing. He gave a ball fake and easily drove by his man into the lane, past 2 more defenders, for an acrobatic lay-up.
The Martin Bros. team clawed its way back into the lead with good outside shooting and by exploiting defensive lapses on the interior defense of the Hampton Roads team, mainly Elton Brown (who will be playing at UVa.). Brown will remind some of a poor-man's Elton Brand. He is big and long-armed, with good hands and a an arsenal of low-post moves. However, he became upset with the rough play inside and the officiating several times during the game and let this take his head out of the game.
JJ was frequently open for outside shots, but was not receiving the ball from his teammates often. He missed a couple of threes, and made several nice drives through traffic for lay-ups, usually getting fouled. When fouls were called, he converted all of his free throw attempts, showing beautiful form and rotation on his shot. The officials allowed a lot of pushing and banging in the lane.
The second half found Martin Bros. hanging tough and actually leading by 3 with 26 seconds left in the game. A "Hail Mary" bank shot from the left corner by Kiah Thomas (headed to ODU) tied the game at 78, sending it into overtime. In the final 5 minutes, JJ's team took over the game. JJ scored a 3 and a nice medium-range jumper from the right wing during the overtime. He also had some key rebounds. The final score was 91-82.
JJ scored 18 points for the game. The Martin Bros. team did a good job of focusing on limiting open looks on the perimeter. JJ did a nice job feeding Elton Brown in the post throughout the game. He also displayed a god handle and excellent court awareness. He always managed to be in the right position to receive a pass or get a rebound or tip. His passing was crisp and he was very smooth with the ball. His game reminds me of Rex Chapman's or Reggie Miller's. Of all the players I saw, he had the best all-around game. The only weakness I noticed was defensive quickness, but this will probably improve at Duke and he was rarely out of position defensively.
After the game was over, I left the bleachers and walked across the court to talk with JJ I was still wearing my suit and tie from the office, but had my Duke cap on. I introduced myself to him and told him I was from Salem, so I was very familiar with his school, Cave Spring High. Obviously, I was also a Duke fan. I asked JJ if he had any comments about the game for TDD, observing that he had been shoved over the baseline and off the court at one point during the first half. He said, "Yeah, it was pretty rough, and I didn't shoot that well. But Elton and Jason [Clark, also headed to UVa.] played a great game."
JJ signed my cap "JJ Redick #4" with a black marker I brought for the occasion and shook hands with William. I wished him well and told him I was looking forward to seeing him play at Duke. He said he enjoyed meeting me, and we parted company. I drove the boys home and put the cap safely on a shelf. I don't want to wash the autograph off, so I plan to buy a new cap to wear and keep the signed cap as a souvenir.
Although yesterday's game was probably not one of JJ's best performances, I feel he will be a solid player at the next level and a tremendous asset at Duke. His game has a great deal of polish for a junior in high school, and he is only going to get better. I got the impression he was forcing the action at times; driving all the way to the basket instead of pulling up for the easy jumper. He certainly demonstrated that he is not a one-dimensional player.
One thing that stood out during the game was that JJ always kept his composure. The defense was obviously keyed on shutting down his perimeter game, so he fed the post and used ball fakes and dribble penetration to take what was available. Even when he was shoved out of bounds to the ground without a foul being called, he never once complained to an official or pouted. Elton could take a lesson from him.
Best regards to everyone at TDD from Hampton, VA.