The UW-Parkside Experiment, Avo Dismissed [insert opinion here], and a Peacock Invasion

The exhibition game vs. Parkside was an experiment of sorts; Rob and staff got their last chance to mix and match potential combinations of players against real opponents before going into the season. It has been a bit of a rough start this season for the Panthers- first losing Joe Allen at Panther Madness and now being forced to close the door on our best returning scorer and Preseason All-Horizon League 1st-teamer Avery “Avo” Smith (we’ll get to that in a moment).

But the Parkside game had many exciting and promising dimensions. First off- Tim Flowers; hard-core UWM’ers have been expecting big things from this guy and his teammate “KJ”, Kevin Johnson (both are from Chicago Simeon H.S.). I will be the first to boldly predict- these expectations weren’t unwarranted. Flowers especially, plays like a human pitbull, literally creating his own spaces in the post at will. Several spectators commented on his dominating presence down low (many of whom I’m sure had never seen or heard of Tim Flowers before). KJ chipped in with a great game- his one-handed jam early in the second half set the tone for the eventual Panther “W”.

Deonte Roberts showed us why he has been known as a great defender (this guy honestly looked like a preying mantis on D, thwarting his man from moving (really anywhere) up and down the floor. Deonte could cause huge matchup problems against teams with shorter guards. Roberts knows how to get to the rim with alarming (this kid is only a freshman!) ease, and can rebound with the big men like he is one.

Torre Johnson was a beast, as one would expect. An alley-oop reverse dunk attempt (when UWM was trailing or only up by a few) reminded everyone that this was, “an exhibition”. I think we will all be delighted to see the amazing athletiticim he will bring to the table (thundering dunks a la Ed McCants, Joah Tucker, or Boo Davis have returned to Milwaukee basketball).

Prepare to be entertained this year. The depth of talent, youthful optimism, and perfect team chemistry (which has been polished now that the “me-first” problem child has been informed of his permanent dismissal from Milwaukee Basketball), are sure to vault the Panthers into the upper tier of the Horizon this year.

Problem child? Could that be Avery Smith, the leading scrorer (15.5 ppg) from a year ago? The only reason UWM stayed within 10-15 points during some of there most demoralizing losses last year? Yep. One and the same. To make a long story very brief- Avery had long been a thorn in the side of a coaching staff that emphasized team chemistry and a “we” approach to their style of play.

Avery, while a terrific shooter, all-to-often willing to pass up the open man in favor of padding his stats, and worse, he was seen (even on national TV vs. the Badgers in Madison last year) criticizing his teammates and getting people out of synch on a regular basis (never once owning up to his own faults, and ignoring criticism from Jeter and Co. (whom should be directing the criticism in the first place!).

Anyhow, Avery Smith is no longer a Panther, and, (contrary to what many who don’t understand team chemistry would suppose), the team is much better off because of this ordeal. This wasn’t a one-time thing; it has been a long-term annoyance. This season however, things finally came to a head after Avo reportedly skipped several team practices and meetings. Apparently he wasn’t above this team’s criticism, and he paid the ultimate price. I’m sure Deonte Roberts, Deion James and Brad Carroll don’t mind the PG spot being freed up for their talents.

This last bit is going to be quick- I don’t have a ton of information on the Upper Iowa University “Peacocks” (and really, if you read this Blog, you will quickly find that I am much more subjective in my Panther Basketball coverage- stats are great, but it’s the underlying speculation, assumptions, observations, relations, etc. that intrigue me (and may interest you as well!). That being said all I can tell you is that in nature, the Panther wins every time (then again how could a Panther ever lose to a Bulldog!).

Look for UWM to make a statement vs. Upper Iowa- one that says we are for real; we are an even better team without our assumed best player; we are hungry for victories and a return to the top of the Horizon League. WE ARE MILWAUKEE.