Thursday, November 6, 2008

UT San Antonio 78 Mary Hardin Baylor 64

UMHB Senior 6'5" F David Ray
Tonight I popped in to the UT-San Antonio Convocation Center to catch the exhibition basketball game between the Roadrunners and Divsion III Mary-Hardin Baylor. I was motivated to spend my Thursday evening there for several reasons. First, I wanted to see what our local D-1 school would look like this year under Coach Brooks Thompson. Secondly, I figured driving 30 minutes to support my son's new team mates was the thing to do. After all, I made 8 trips to Mobile, AL last season driving 1400 miles round trip to watch my boy chase his hoop dreams. Thirdly, I wanted to watch four different former Texas D-1 Ambassadors players compete in the same game. (UTSA's Jr. Leslie Jackson and Chip Ivany (redshirt sophomore) & UMHB's Frosh Andrew Graves and Soph Ryan Clark.)
As I settled in to watch the game, the story I quickly decided to concentrate on was the Mary Hardin Baylor kids. There'll be plenty of other opportunities to concentrate on the D-1 Roadrunners as the season progresses. I sat next to San Antonio Spurs legend Johnny Moore and chatted hoops. In front of me was long time basketball friend Joe Phillips and his family who were there to cheer on his UMHB freshman son, Sterling Phillips. To the left of me were two delightful people who turned out to be the parents of the hardest working kid on the floor tonight, UMHB Senior David Ray.
The game was close for 3/4 of the game, with UMHB holding a 1 point halftime lead. As should be, the Roadrunners pulled away in the last 8 minutes. Devin Gibson of UTSA was clearly the most talented player on the floor and he proved it by dropping 22 points. UTSA heads to Stillwater, Ok next week to open their season v. Oklahoma State. They will have their hands full with the Cowboys.
The singular key difference between D-1 and D-3 players is OVERALL atleticism, and length and 13 scholarship athletes. Having said that, I was impressed by UMHB's desire to compete and the commitment by kids who get little notoriety and play purely for the love of the game. (For those of you not familiar, there are no athletic scholarships at the D-3 level, only grant money and reward for academic proficiency.)
You might ask why a D-3 could compete to a great degree with a D-1 program? In my opinion the answer is simple. There are a huge number of gifted basketball players and only so many D-1 scollies to go around. Sure, the 6'10" blue chippers are easy to find but trust me folks the difference is minimal when it comes to the last couple of kids on a D-1 bench and the first few off the D-3 bench. As most coaches will tell you, the world is full of 6'0" guards.
I believe there are 3 factors that affect how these more "marginal" guys are chosen to get the coveted D-1 "free ride"?
1. Did the player suit up for a high quality, well connected summer program? 60%
2. Is the player being "marketed" by a reputable company that assists in recruiting? 20%
3. Is the player's high school coach going the extra mile to get his player's recruited? 20%
Not always, but USUALLY one or more of the above factors (or a lack thereof) will decide what collegiate level the player eventually rises to.
As mentioned earlier the hardest working player on the floor was San Antonio Churchill grad, Senior David Ray. A little undersized at 6'5" he battled inside all night against the bigger UTSA squad and came away with the only double-double of the night for either side. 10 points and 10 boards. After the game, I caught up with him for a minute, congratulated him on a nice game and asked how his academics were going. He politely responded that he was a double major (finance & economics) and would likely pursue an MBA after his career at UMHB ends. Education players, that's what it's REALLY all about!
Kudos also go out to UMHB Frosh PG Sterling Phillips who played 15 minutes and scored 9 points. He was aggressive going to the hole as was witnessed by his going 7-9 from the charity stripe.