July 23, 2011 - To use a widely known line from the movie Forrest Gump, summer basketball "is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get". The pair of games last night at D.C. Nike Pro City proved that adage correct.
Looks can be deceiving - With the game not starting on time due to a lack of DC Assault players - they initially only cobbled together five players by borrowing Tim Prowitt (Amherst) from their opponent Team Symonds and having coach Chris 'Fat Cat' Cole (formerly of New Mexico State) don a jersey - most thought DCA had no chance. It looked dire for the guys in blue, despite several players showing up late.
Though they would eventually fall 69-64, DCA had its chances, three times coming within one point in the last three minutes of play. Leading the charge was a trio of unheralded players; , Anthony Hubbard (21 points) and Raymar Watson (12 points), along with recent Rutgers student-athlete Robert Lumpkins, who also dropped 21.
Hubbard, an offensive minded guard attacked the rim consistently, while Lumpkins, a spot up shooter that can also finish through contact, did just that. Watson picked his spots, slashing to the cup where he made things happen. The trio played virtually every minute of the game.
Having graduated from New Mexico State and played for Rutgers last year Lumpkins is looking to play professionally.
Team Symonds' coach, long term DC area hoop figure Curtis Symonds is experienced - he's had a Pro City team for 11 years while also worked in the sport professionally - and as such used wholesale substitutions and his entire bench to wear down DCA. Georgetown's sophomore center, Moses Ayegba led the squad with 18 points, all scored around the rim or at the charity stripe; DCA had no answer for the strong post player. George Washington's Brian Bynes, a junior guard, ran Symonds' show while also scoring 10 points.
Cole et al tried to get the victory though: After reinforcements like former George Mason swingman Isaiah Swann and previous National Christian/collegiate guard Demetrius Landy, Cole, who had a couple of nice passes in the game returned to the bench. Down the stretch with victory possibly in hand, he could be heard saying "You guys don't know each other. You have to pass".
They almost made it happen.
Vets get it done - A. Wash/Madness is one of the most veteran teams in Pro City play, having maybe one present collegiate player in their ranks. Most of their players ball for professional teams across the globe, and the team, is a perennial Pro City title contender and defending champion.
DCX on the other hand, boasts all college players, including Georgetown's Henry Sims and Markel Starks, plus Jamal Olasawere and Andre Cornelius of Long Island U. and George Mason, respectively. Despite their relative youth, DCX is a plucky bunch, willing to challenge any and everybody.
They did so to A. Wash/Madness last night, down only four at the half. Interesting matchups were everywhere, with Starks battling Croatian league guard Brian Chase tooth and nail, while Sims took on ex-Syracuse big man Arinze Onuaku and Los Angeles Laker second round pick, Ater Majok . The competition got heated.
But in the second half experience and depth won out, as A.Wash/Madness extended their lead, eventually winning 65-56. Chase was crucial in the victory, finishing with 26 points and effectively blowing the game open with a pull up three pointer that pushed his team ahead 50-39. His squad played with a sense of purpose and calm that only experience brings.
"It was just controlling the game" said Chase of his role. "My job is to control everything going on…score if I have to. Just win the game".
He had help: recent Chinese league pro Chris Matthews finished with 12 points, Onuaku had 10, and Jeff Allen, who played four years at Virginia Tech, dropped seven.
In the second half, Chase clamped down on Starks (12 points), a sophomore guard, while Sims, the senior center, finished with 11 points - none in the second half after a first stanza in which he was a force in the paint, on the boards and scoring.
Chase, 29, who spoke highly of Starks (see the Premium Court message board) said generally of upstart competition "When you've been around a long time...people think I'm older than I am. They want to build a name against me".
He's ready for all comers.