Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Texas A&M-Chicago?

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will come into Wednesday’s game at Welsh-Ryan with a record of 1-1. They defeated Texas A&M-Kingsville 83-64, but lost to Illinois 72-53 on Sunday. The games against Illinois and the ‘Cats have special significance to the six players on the Islanders who hail from the Chicago area. Guard Lamarr Drake (Carver), Center Jawan Nelson (Bloom), guard Tim Green (Simeon), guard Jacob Warnell (Bloom), forward Demond Watt (T.F. North), and guard Antonio Topps (Leo) all played their high school ball in the area. Admittedly, two of the six made their way to Corpus Christi, Texas via the junior college route, but it is still interesting to note Islander boss Perry Clark and his predecessor Ronnie Arrow clearly target the Chicago area for recruits. They aren’t the only mid-major school to do so either. My seats at Welsh-Ryan are in the section near the visiting bench. As a result, over the years I’ve met a great many friends and family of visiting players from the area around Chicago who are thrilled that their relative/friend is playing in a game so close to home. I always enjoy meeting these people and it is a great education on how many college basketball programs have players from Chicago. Interestingly, though, for the first time in many years the Wildcats have a core collection of players from Chicago who will out number any visiting squad. I remember times in the past when teams from states like Texas, North Carolina, and Delaware had more Chicago area players than NU. That won’t be the case this year, but the Islanders do come close.

Of the six Chicago area players on the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi the most notable to NU fans is forward Demond Watt. Watt scored seven points and had a team high 11 rebounds against Illinois on Sunday. Those numbers followed a seven point eight rebound game against Texas A&M-Kingsville. He starts at power forward for the Islanders. During his senior year at T.F. North, he was rumored to have actually drawn some late recruiting interest from Northwestern and Notre Dame. I don’t think NU ever actually offered Watt a scholarship, but it will be interesting to see and evaluate him in person.

The other Islanders starter from Chicago is guard Lamarr Drake. After playing high school ball at Carver, Drake attended Mott Community College in Flint, Michigan. At Mott he shot nearly 45% from three point range and his team won two straight NJCAA Division II National Championships. This is his first year with the Islanders. Against Illinois he started and played 26 minutes and scored 4 points going 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 from beyond the arc (he did hit two threes vs Kingsville in their opener). A positive against Illinois was that he did have five assists, but he also turned the ball over four times.

The other Chicago area guy who played well against Illinois was Antonio Topps. Topps hit two three pointers to score six points in 15 minutes. Chicago guys Tim Green and Jawan Nelson also saw time vs Illinois.

With all these guys expected to play against the ‘Cats you can bet on having a pretty raucous section of Islanders supporters in section 111 or section 112 of Welsh-Ryan Arena. As a result I’m encouraging the few NU students who showed up for Sunday’s game to bring all their friends and acquaintances. With this many players from Chicago I guarantee the Islanders fans will make noise. Now, it won’t be as bad as the infamous day when the fans of Wheaton College took over Welsh-Ryan, but the visiting crowd could still make an impact if more NU fans don’t show up. Now, I’d love to think all those people across the way in the purple seats or next to me in the bleachers who passed on Sunday will show up, but a lot of those seats belong to various corporations and individuals who aren’t going to show until Big Ten season. As a result, the best way for NU to have a home court advantage is from the student section. So, I urge all NU students to show up. Basketball games are great fun and they are short. You can get back to whatever else you need to do in two hours. Plus, if Eric Peterman can juggle a demanding engineering curriculum with football practice and team meetings effectively enough to show up and every basketball game, no other NU student has an excuse not to show up. So please students show up and wear purple.

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