1. If you were preparing a scouting report for Toros coach Brad Jones, what is one thing you’d tell him to be aware of when game-planning for the Wizards?
As far as scouting the Wizards, the one thing I would say to do is from a defensive standpoint, pack the middle and cut off lanes to the basket. Dakota is a terrible perimeter shooting team (as the numbers show), and when opposing teams have prevented Vernon Hamilton and Darren Cooper from getting into the paint and creating, their offense has been anemic. Along that same threat, taking away the high post is paramount as well. Walter Sharpe is an excellent passer for a forward, doing his damage when he can face up at the foul line, while Chris Johnson can bury jumpers all day from that same spot.
2. How has the loss of Demarre Carroll (recall by Grizzlies) affected the Wizards lately and who is stepping up into his role?
Carroll’s absence hurts simply because of his versatility and what he brings on the glass. Sharpe and Johnson can score points, but neither creates scoring chances for themselves like Carroll does, they need someone to get them the basketball, they are opportunistic scorers, not creators. He also brings a toughness rebounding the basketball that nobody else on the team possesses. In short, no one has stepped up to fill his role simply because there is no other player on the roster capable of playing like he does. That isn’t to say they can’t win without him (they’ve won 2 of 3 without him), but certainly he is a quality player.
3. What’s your early assessment of Hamady N’Diaye?
It’s really too soon to make any judgement on N’Diaye – he didn’t play with Washington so he’s rusty and working himself into game shape. Let’s also not forget he’s only played 2 games with Dakota as well. Having scouted him in college, I can tell you that his role in both the D-League and NBA isn’t going to be scoring points, but providing energy on defense. N’Diaye is an excellent shot blocker and though he isn’t an elite rebounder for his size, he hustles on the glass.
4. How do you feel the Wizards match up with the Toros as a whole amd specifically the guard pairings of Johnson and Clinch vs. Major and Hamilton?
On paper, these teams are evenly matched, with Austin being the better offensive team and the Wizards superior at the defensive end. In the frontcourt the Toros have the advantage as far as the physical battle, they should win the rebounding battle. With that said, Dakota has more versatility and if they are smart will try to draw Austin’s bigs out further than maybe they are used to. As far as the specific guard match up you reference, I’m giving the Wizards a slight edge because of Renaldo Major. He’s having an excellent season, is a notable defender, but has made himself exceedingly difficult to guard. When he puts his head down and decides he is getting to the basket, he has been doing that and getting to the line at a very high rate.
5. Time to put it all on the line. What’s your prediction for today’s game?
I may be a homer with this pick, but I’m saying the Wizards win a close one, say 6-8 points. Dakota has done well against teams that play a slower pace, ala Austin, and frankly they are just playing better basketball right now than they have in the past couple of weeks. Friday night was a 23-point win on the road at Maine and on Sunday they pulled a tremendous comeback visiting Springfield. They have momentum right now. They also managed to win back-to-back road wins without N’Diaye being a major factor, something he will develop into as he gets used to being back out on the court.
Thanks to Joey for taking the time out to give us the latest on the Dakota Wizards. The game tips off at 11 a.m. on NBA TV.