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Sunday, October 31, 2021
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The Dish: Exhibition a Chance for Verification, Exploration
Rams work out kinks in win over Adams State
By Mike Brohard, CSU Athletics Communications
FORT COLLINS, Colo. – An exhibition game is a chance for a head coach to verify what he believes to be true, but also to explore what may be different.
Colorado State men’s basketball coach Niko Medved put five starters on the floor Sunday afternoon at Moby Arena against Adams State, then he followed with three players who were part of the normal rotation for a team which placed fourth at the NIT a year ago during a 20-8 campaign. There wasn’t a whole lot new to see there as the Rams ran away with a 92-55 victory.
He and every fan in the stands expects David Roddy to be a double-double machine, which he was in scoring 12 points and collecting 15 rebounds. For Isaiah Stevens be the engine, pouring in 19 points and delivering six assists. For Kendle Moore to be a menace defensively, producing four steals and converting a few into layups. For Adam Thistlewood to be a shooter with an all-around game, for the posts – Dischon Thomas and James Moors – to do their part.
All that of that is what was seen. Same with the contributions of John Tonje.
In the end, the Rams finished with five players in double-figures, with the post pairing combining for 31 points. The team scored in the paint (44 points), off the bench (37) and on the fast break (35). All in all, a good outing.
But Medved also wanted to see what he’s seen in practice, and that’s Isaiah Rivera pushing for an expanded role, and what Chandler Jacobs and Jalen Lake really bring to the team in game action, not practice.
“I think for those guys, I think they settled into the game,” Medved said. “They were able to settle into the game and get into a little bit of a rhythm, and I thought that was really good.”
Practice has shown both can play a part, but to what degree requires game action. For the first 37 minutes of the game, Medved stuck with a rotation of 10 players – all of whom scored – but he said that’s not really a hint of what’s to come. They have yet to play in a close game, and over the course of the non-conference portion of the schedule, he’ll explore just how deep his team is and actually how deep he wants to go.
What he does know is they make practice competitive. That’s what a coach wants, even if it makes for difficult decisions down the road.
Yet the head coach wasn’t the only one curious to see how the new guys fit in.
“I was probably more so just excited for these guys to kind of experience Moby a little bit with fans in it,” Stevens said. “We’ve been talking about it for a long time now, so, just for these guys to get their feet wet a little bit. I was probably more so excited for them to get out there and embrace the moment.”
Jacobs, who joins the team with an impressive resume from Dallas Baptist, used the summer to work his way into the flow with his new teammates. Practice helps, but the exhibition allowed him to get a better feel for how he fits into a rotation which is rather familiar with each other under fire.
In his 14 minutes, he jumped into foul trouble early, eventually fouling out, but also scored six points and pulled down four rebounds and snared three steals. For him, the day was very much an exploratory mission.
“It’s cool, because you go through practice for four months, June to October, like you’re with your teammates, but you’re competing,” he said. “When you come out here and you’re all together going against another team, the camaraderie I felt today was unlike no other, so it was really cool.
“I think in practice, everybody gets reps and all that stuff. When you get into games, you get a better feel for, OK, what does this team need me to do? Where’s my role? What do I bring to the table? You get a better idea of that for sure.”
Lake, a true freshman with a smooth stroke, picked up 13 minutes on the day, and he gave a glimpse of what his future can hold, hitting a trey from the corner for his first basket, then following up with one from the wing the next trip down the floor.
What Sunday came down to was a glimpse. A peek into the ideas of what Medved has seen to this point, but nobody is ready to carve anything into stone. They worked the kinks out, having some turnover issues early, but settling into a groove which led to a comfortable outing on a Sunday afternoon, shooting 56.7 percent for the game.
The ideas they have contain a bit more clarity, but aren’t yet crystal clear. That will come. At the end, they celebrated what returned, too.
The fans. Stevens said it was a jolt to make a play or hit a basket and hear the crowed react. It wasn’t some piped-in noise, it was genuine. And so was the player’s trip around the floor to bump fists and thank those who showed up.
“Part of us wanted to make sure we kept the crowd engaged with the players and get hat personal connection,” he said. “We have to support them like they support us and thank them for coming out to the games and spending their hard- earned money to come support our program. I’m grateful for each and every last person who showed up today.”
The Rams did, as Medved expected. Picked to finish first in the Mountain West this season, their play together was once again verified. Still, there will be some changes coming, some of which haven’t fully formulated, and the exhibition gave them a look before the games start to count with Oral Roberts visiting on Nov. 9, the start of a six-game stretch in a matter of 13 days.
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