NATIONAL TOURNEY PREVIEW: Chicago ready to make an impact at Las Vegas National Tournament
One of the more notable franchises in Chicago this team was basically created in anticipation for the Vegas Invitational. Named after a very unique combination of one the most storied baseball teams the Dodgers as well as one of the top hotel establishments in Las Vegas the Aria City Center, this team will certainly be a popular among the local fans.
Strengths- This team is full of high basketball IQ talent. They have a roster of some of the biggest hearts in Chicago so you will have to earn everything. Offensively they have some exceptional shooters as well as some fantastic scorers. They will look to push the pace and make every game a scoring contest as putting the ball in the basket will not be an issue. This is a very unselfish unit made up of players who like to share the basketball. Opposing defenses will have a hard time trying to keep this club off the scoreboard.
Weaknesses- This is going to be a very undersized squad really lacking a real center. The tallest player on the roster is maybe 6'3. On the perimeter they are not really noted for there defense either as the guards are not the quickest of foot speed. Rebounding will be a major concern. They will be looking to get out and run, but you can’t do that until you have secured the rebound.
Guard-Pat Keller 5’11 185(13.7pts, 4.6ass, 3.6rebs, 89.0%)
- The veteran guard has played in 60 UH games and his most noted for his ability to shoot the basketball. He has made 45% of his 3pt field goal attempts and a very impressive 89% of his free throw opportunities. He also an underrated passer who excels at advancing the ball with the pass. Defensively he is considered a liability. He has definitely lost a step and his foot speed can be challenged at times against quicker guards.
Guard-Mike Brix 5’11 160(7.8pts, 5.1ass, 4.1rebs)
-Just an exceptional guard who’s contribution cannot be measured by what he puts up in the stats column. He has been the point guard for the two-time defending Chicago city champion Franchise. He constantly puts pressure on the defensive pushing the pace and finding open shooters in transition. If you leave him he has the ability to knock down shots as well. He only averages 6 shot attempts a game so defenses have been known to play off of him and make him make shots.
Guard-Eric Garth 6'1 185(9.7pts, 2.2rebs, 2.0ass)
-An excellent defender who can be relied on to stop the oppositions top offensive threat. Very quick player who excels in transition. Has a very nice looking stroke from the perimeter, but definitely could look for his shot more.
Guard- Robert Sutton 6'0 210(13.5pts, 3.4rebs, 3.2ass)
-An Ultimate Hoops legend he has been the mastermind to one of the most prestigious franchises in UH history, Balln. Sutton does most of his damage shooting the basketball where he has made 368 three point field goals throughout his 132 game UH career. He brings with him a high basketball IQ and is an underrated passer as well. His foot speed is questionable at times and guarding quicker players on the perimeter could be a concern.
Forward-Ryan Brown 6-2 175(21.5pts, 10.0rebs, 66.0fg%)
-All Brown has accomplished in three UH seasons is 3 club championships, 2 city championships, 3 first team all-area selections and 2 Chicago MVPs. Clearly he has been the most dominate player in Chicago during his 42 game Ultimate Hoops tenure. The left handed wing player is an exceptional finisher around the rim and has an uncanny ability to get to the rim. His blistering 66.0% field goal percentage is beyond exceptional. Defenses need to force Brown to be a perimeter shooter as he has only attempted 41 three pointers in his career
Forward-Dave Melby 6'0 200(15.7pts, 4.9rebs, 2.4ass)
-Another seasoned UH veteran Melby has the ability to heat up and put up big numbers. One of the nicest looking jump shots you will find Melby excels behind the three point line where has made almost 150 career three point field goals. He is a streak shooter and you don't want to see him get going. He does a quality job of guarding bigger more athletic players night after night. At 40 years+ age stamina and nagging injuries are a concern. How his body holds up over a long weekend could be an issue.
Forward-Lafayette Bell 6'2 200(18.1pts, 6.8rebs, 49.0fg%)
-A big powerful player who can be a problem on the block. His ability to get buckets is definitely the highlight of his game. He is an underrated shooter who has no problem knocking down the long range shot if you leave him. His strength is definitely the key to his game. After several knee injuries his speed could be his biggest setback.
FROM THE TOURNAMENT DIRECTOR
Contributed by Joe Neuenfeldt
One of my favorite things that took place during the Chicago National Tournament last August is when Quincy Young and I would be in the middle of talking about something for the live broadcast on UHTV, with Alan Arlt sitting next to us, and Pat Keller would wander over. Pat would sometimes walk right across half court during the game and would always begin like this:
I just wanna say: (Insert most obvious comment ever that Q and I had already talked about several minutes or hours earlier).
It got to the point where we started laughing as soon as Pat started walking over. And even though we would tease him about his obvious statements, it made him want to get his voice on air even more. Here is an actual conversation that took place between he and I on Sunday of the tournament:
Oh boy, Q. Here comes Keller again. I wonder what he’s got for us this time. What’s up Pat?
I just wanna say that this Saints + team plays really good team basketball. They’re a good squad.
Oh really, Pat. You realize they just beat the #1 seed Balln, are 4-0 and will be playing for the title in an hour. You just figured this out?
Well, no. (Chuckles a little and then disappears across the court for another 10 minutes, when he’ll want to be heard again.)
As great an event as the Chicago Invitational Tournament was, who was it really great for? The one Minnesota team. Chicago teams have played in both the Midwest Regional and National tournaments and have come up empty. Pat Keller stated that his Aria Dodgers going 0-2 (they were the first team eliminated as well) in the Chicago tournament was by design. Well, Mr. Keller also went 0-2 in the Midwest Regional Tournament. Was that by design too?
Let’s face it. Chicago has a lot to prove in two weeks. They didn’t have a top three team out of the eight in the Midwest Regional. And they couldn’t even get one of their 11 host teams to win their own. I am a little surprised that they were only able to put together one team of guys for the Vegas tournament when they have been so well represented at the other two. Is Vegas just too far a place to travel to? Or has Chicago lost the confidence in their ability to win one of these things?
TALENT – I generally believe that if your team captain says you won’t be very strong defensively, then you will be really bad on that end of the floor. Will they have enough offensive firepower to make up for their defense? Also, Chicago clearly has athletes. They even broke two backboards in one season. But can they get guys from four different teams to quickly learn to play together and figure out how to best utilize their talent?
TITLES – It’s definitely a positive thing that guys like Robert Sutton, Ryan Brown and Michael Brix are on this team. The closest that the Aria Dodgers franchise has gotten to a title is City Playoffs Round 2. And since the Chicago Invitational, Balln (Sutton) and Franchise (Brown and Brix) are responsible for all of the titles in the Windy City. In fact, after bowing out of the Chicago Invitational on day 1, Franchise has only lost two games since, and one was a 1 point loss in the summer title game to Balln. They have completely dominated Chicago since the fall season.
MOMENTUM – Clearly, the two Franchise guys have it. And Keller, who is always the optimist, claims that the Dodgers’ most recent win is one of the best they have ever had. I am skeptical, however. Six starters for the Dodgers and YMBS 10 minutes short? Also, when did Young Money Brick Squad become a powerhouse? I am actually somewhat concerned about the momentum of Ultimate Hoops legend, Robert Sutton. Balln is 1-2 this season and hasn’t played for the City Championship since the summer. His team took on a totally new dynamic after the Chicago Invitational. And his team has come up short in the two full seasons since. It makes me wonder what would have happened if Balln had beaten Saints + instead of lost to them. I have a hard time believing that they would have split up and not played for a title since the summer.
LEVEL OF COMPETITION – Another question mark. Ultimate Hoops Chicago definitely has some athletes. But they have a lot of talented guys who don’t have the best basketball sense. It makes a big difference when you’re playing a super talent and smart player like Zack Ramey as opposed to a guy like T. Roots, a great talent but someone who is temperamental and will make bad decisions that will hurt the team. Minnesota has exposed this weakness in both National tournaments. There is a lot of great talent and players to go against in Chicago. But we haven’t seen a lot of great basketball teams from there yet.
EXPERIENCE – Sutton, Brown and Brix clearly have experience in the biggest of Ultimate Hoops games. Another thing that will really help this team in Vegas is that we play with the college three point line. The Chicago players are used to launching from NBA range. So if they can make what should be an easy adjustment to the college line, they could really dominate from behind the arc.
DEPTH – I keep saying it. Seven is not enough. When guys get tired, they start to take breaks while on the floor. And that is almost always on the defensive end. With the way the Aria Dodgers are built, they just need one bad shooting game and they could be done. I think if things don’t go well for this team, they will get angry with each other. And that’s a team that can be beaten no matter how much talent they have. I know Keller is working on possibly another guy. But just two weeks from game time, I don’t know how likely that is to happen.
I still don’t get the team name. Why the Dodgers? The Dodgers are a baseball team. We’re playing basketball here. I know Keller is also a big Warriors fan. Why not the Aria Warriors? Especially if he insists on using one of his favorite Vegas spots.
And I have to call him out on something in his video. There is a Vegas team in the National Tournament called the Hickory Huskers. How are you going to steal the music from Hoosiers and put it in your video before they have a chance to make their own? That’s dirty.
It’s weird. I feel like this Chicago team is coming in as an underdog with nothing to lose. Yet I also feel like they have something to prove based on the past two tournaments. If I were to offer them one piece of friendly advice, it would be to keep quiet with the Vegas refs. They will T you up much faster than the Chicago refs, who sure do take a lot from the players.
I don’t know how bold my prediction is. I actually feel like it’s kind of weak. But here goes:
Pat Keller finally gets his first win in an Ultimate Hoops National Tournament. Unfortunately, he’ll need a lot of good fortune to make it out of the weekend with more than one.