SHOOTER: First outing leaves as many questions as answers about South Side
If you thought that South Side was quickly going to leave behind the jekyll and hyde performances that plagued them for the last several years, think again.
Under previous coach Mike Novell, the athletic and talented squads could never quite find their footing long enough to be considered a contender. A coaching change sparked a lot of creatures (you know, people and amphibians), this frog included, to think that the times were changing. And let me start off by saying they are. Archer teams of the past would have lost Saturday night to a scrappy and intelligent Leo squad. This team won 78-69.
This is not the South Side of the past. This Archer team is a contender.
Before their season opener, I asked myself many things about South Side. How do they connect with new coach J.J. Foster? Do they have a bench? Can Trejean Didier establish himself as multi-dimensional? Do they have the mental toughness to withstand adversity in a game? Who exactly is Asher Blum and can he be a missing piece?
A South Side fan may think some of those thoughts are unfair. A basketball realist knows they were critical and valid questions about a program that has struggled and surged and back again more times than I have the ability to count. I now have answers, to some degree, about all of those things. But those answers also opened up even more questions.
I now know who Blum is. At 6-foot-8, the Warsaw transfer could be an intimidating presence in the Summit Athletic Conference — if he wants to. For almost three quarters of the game, Leo tested Blum. They trapped him and knocked the ball loose on defense and when Lane Reed was in possession of the ball for Leo, he took Blum off the dribble for an easy lay in on more than one occasion. In the fourth, it was like someone flipped a switch in Blum’s head. He had a different look in his eyes, went up for rebounds with force and used size and aggression in his favor with three fourth quarter baskets. I now know who Blum is. But there was some jekyll and some hyde and now I want to know what Blum is? Is he a weakness in the lineup or is he a force to be reckoned with? I saw both.
Do they have the mental toughness to withstand adversity? Absolutely. Because as previously noted, Archer teams under Novell would have folded. Last year’s South Side team would have lost that game. Some of the change comes with maturity, some of it comes with that question about how they would click with Foster. His style is night and day different than Novell’s in many ways. This Archer team, still showing remnants of the past, got up then gave up big shots. They pulled away, then let Leo come back on them. But this Archer team closed the game out.
And credit to Leo. Their comebacks, making it a game until very late in the fourth, had as much to do with them as it had to do with South.
The Archers always bounced back. Foster kept them balanced. Foster never let anyone get too bent out of shape without a timeout or a substitution, be it for Didier or Mikale Stephens or Cortney Shorter. He used his bench, the depth of which is still a question, but he used it. The ways of the past were there, but they were improved. Can they find that poise and composure late against the North Sides, Marions and Waynes?
And then there is Didier, playing with a chip on his shoulder. He has been looked at in the past as being one-dimensional. Trejean Didier is a shooter. He’s a very good shooter. Maybe he’s a great shooter. He has been the best player at South Side and he has been one of the best players in the city. But Didier wants to be looked at as more, as more than a shooter. Again, like the team itself, he showed flashes. He used the baseline to attack the basket and the Leo defense, making them change the way they played him. He found success and he also freed up his teammates to do some more as well.
South Side is starting to click with Foster. Didier is changing his game. There is a bench with senior experience right down to the intriguing prospect of freshman Austin Jordan. And fourth quarter Blum looked to be a missing piece to a team that hangs out on the outside more than the inside.
On Saturday, they host Jay County. Who takes the lead? Does Blume use his size all game? Will Shorter continue to exploit teams who don’t respect his range? And then comes North Side and a whole new bevy of questions about poise, concentration and mental toughness.
And Shooter wants some more answers.
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