Freshman players shine in preseason victory

In any truly tangible way, preseason games do not count. Their outcomes are not reflected in the columns tallying wins and losses; their statistics are exempt from any season-ending sums or means.

Yet for a team such as this year’s men’s basketball squad, about which so little is known, an exhibition such as Saturday’s is far from insignificant. The final result – a 78-44 GW victory over West Georgia – renders no verdict on team nor program, but may, in time, be evidence of the first step of what has been openly acknowledged as a rebuilding process.

And so let the record show: The freshmen on whom so many long-term hopes rest appeared undaunted in their first foray into collegiate competition.

Nearly nine minutes into the action, having already dribbled off his leg and out of bounds, newcomer Lasan Kromah allowed a three-pointer to be shot and scored almost directly in his face. But on the ensuing possession, he collected the ball near the perimeter and blew past his defender to coolly, but aggressively, roll the ball off of his fingers and into the basket for the fourth and fifth of what would become a game-high 14 points.

“Obviously Lasan has a terrific and high basketball IQ,” head coach Karl Hobbs said. “He really has a great feel for the game; he understands the moments and he’s gonna be a terrific scorer for us.”

And let the record also show: When the two shared the backcourt, it was often freshman Bryan Bynes, not fourth-year junior Travis King, who handled point guard duties, and that he only turned the ball over one time while playing more minutes – 26 – than any of his teammates, new or old.

“I thought he was the most composed guy. I thought he played with a little bit more maturity throughout the game,” Hobbs said. “I really want to get him into creating more plays. I think he’s great at that.”

Let the record show: Other freshmen, too, had moments of brightness. David Pellom swatted an inbound pass and stopped it cold, picking it up and rolling off a defender for an early layup. Tim Johnson, still scoreless shortly after halftime, came screaming through traffic to collect an offensive rebound, was fouled while attempting a put-back, and hit both free throws. Dwayne Smith, who started at forward, blocked a shot within the game’s first 33 seconds.

And let the record also show: Redshirt sophomore Jabari Edwards, whose banged-up body has caused him one missed season and allowed only 47 minutes of action the next, scored six points in a three-minute span, and threw down an alley-oop from King with so much vigor it offended an official and prompted a technical foul.

“I thought he raised his level of intensity,” Hobbs said of Edwards. “He’s got to contain his emotions a little bit, particularly on a dunk and not taunt – and I don’t think that was his intent – but overall, I thought he did a pretty good job today.”

And let the record show: Edwards was but one part of a three-pronged attack aimed at filling the vacancy left in the post by departed standout Rob Diggs; and the three-pronged attack, at least Saturday, showed an ability to do so. Junior Joseph Katuka started and played 18 minutes; senior Hermann Opoku came off the bench to play 14; Edwards played 11.

“I look at that position collectively,” Hobbs said. “What we like to get from that position is double-figure rebounds, four or five blocks, and obviously we’ve got to be able to get eight to 12 points out of that position. I think if we to do that, we’re gonna have some success.”

Let the record show: The trio amassed 22 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks.

Next weekend, when the Colonials travel to North Carolina for their season-opener against UNC-Wilmington, the record will begin anew. In time, as the record grows, as trends emerge, as the team evolves, perhaps none of this will matter.

But for now, let the record show zero wins, zero losses, and one step – whatever its significance – in the right direction.

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