USC point guard Jio Fontan doesn’t need a scouting report on UCLA freshman guard Kyle Anderson. The two are like brothers.
Back when Fontan was 10 years old, Anderson’s father, Kyle Sr., coached him in AAU. Running around was Kyle Jr. When Fontan was 11, Kyle Jr. was good enough to join him in AAU, just six years old, but playing with the 11-year-old kids.
“It was crazy,” Fontan said. “We always had him around. We would go to camps and his dad would put me in charge of watching him. He was like my little man. Always kept him around me. To this day, we talk all the time.”
Here’s Fontan’s scouting report on the UCLA freshman:
“Great passer. Unbelievable IQ of the game and grew up playing the point guard position. His size (6-9) allows him to do a lot of things. Big mismatch. Huge mismatch. Brings bigger guys out, puts smaller guys in the post.”
Fontan’s no slouch himself. Trojans head coach Kevin O’Neill said Fontan is the best point guard in the conference. Fontan tore his ACL last season and needed surgery. He told the TNT he is 100 percent back mentally and almost there physically.
He watched Washington point guard Abdul Gaddy comeback after surgery and drew some inspiration from it, despite the devastation of the day he learned he lost last season.
“I just couldn’t believe it,” Fontan said. “I remember they wanted to start the rehab process that day. I remembered I just wanted to go home, wanted to call my dad, and it was just an emotional day for me and my family and even the coaches. I remember speaking to KO’s wife Roberta and she was crying. It was a tough day.”
Fontan had a tough opening night. He scored just four points and committed five fouls. Coming off the injury, it will take him some time to get back in sync. Fontan and Anderson will face off Jan. 30 when the Trojans head to Pauley Pavilion.
AIR UP THERE
We’ve heard about the altitude in Boulder. Big deal, not a big deal. Some coaches play it up, others say it doesn’t matter.
Players will admit privately that it’s a hindrance, especially at the start of games. Colorado coach Tad Boyle will tell you from the start it’s an issue for the opposition and a benefit to the Buffs.
“The USC Olympics training facility is in Colorado Springs, Colo. Now, they didn’t get there because they threw a dart on the map. It’s there for a reason, because when you train at altitude, it helps you. I don’t care if you’re a basketball player, a football player, a swimmer, a distance runner, it helps.
“Because there’s less oxygen the higher you go. That’s a fact. We know that. Anybody who’s come to Denver, whether it’s for business or pleasure and has gone out for a jog at a mile high, understands there’s not as much oxygen in the air it affects your body. Your body gets tired your mind gets tired; fatigue is a factor. It’s a fact. It’s not something we make up. It’s a fact.
“What’s interesting is to see coaches who come in. Some address it, some don’t address it, some play it up, some play it down, some ignore it. Bottom line is, it is what it is. We’re playing at 5,200 feet.”
WILL WE HEAR LYONS ROAR?
As compelling as Arizona’s recruiting class is, transfer Mark Lyons is likely to have the biggest impact.
Lyons has scored almost 1,200 points in his prior three years at Xavier. He was also well known for his participation in and comments following the Xavier/Cincinnati brawl. Let’s say neither were flattering.
So, he joins Sean Miller, the former coach of Xavier who is very familiar with Lyons, at Arizona this year. The best part about Lyons is the assassin’s approach he plays with on the court. It can also be the worst part about him.
“We can’t change who he is,” Miller said. “I think part of what I want him to do is to be creative and feel like he can go with the ball, but there is a responsibility that you have to as a point guard get your teammates involved. But, he knows that.
“Sometimes with your greatest competitor, there’s another side to them that makes them such great competitors. That’s what we’re talking to Mark about. He’s older now He has to channel his emotions in a positive light. He’s done that remarkably well to this point. I think his heart is in the right place where he wants to do what we want him to do. He’s at Arizona to prove that he can be a good teammate and a good player.”
DOUBLE VISION FOR MOTUM
After leading the conference by scoring 18.0 points per game last season, Cougars forward Brock Motum is awaiting double teams this year. Washington State coach Ken Bone said teams doubled Motum, tried to push him around and force him right last season.
“I thought he handled it real well,” Bone said. “He didn’t seem to get too flustered. He’s a mature kid. After he experienced a couple games with different looks, I think he was prepared for it mentality.”
Opponents will force Mike Ladd and Tacoma’s DaVonte Lacy to prove they can be capable scoring help. Until then, Motum can expect to be swarmed.
CRABBE HAPPY TO BE A JUMP SHOOTER
Since we’re always worried about what players can’t do, we often overlook how good they are at things they can do. That’s the case with Cal’s Allen Crabbe, arguably the best shooter in the conference. After averaging 15.2 points per game last season, he could well challenge for the conference scoring title this year. And, he doesn’t mind his rep as a “shooter.”
“A lot of people say I’m not an off the dribble kind of guy,” Crabbe said. “I just feel like if the defense is going to give me shots, why not take them? I’m 6-6. If the guy guarding me is 6-3 and he’s got his hands down, why not shoot it? I shoot the ball well. If they’re going to give me that, why not take it?”
Why not, indeed.
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