Sublime

J.J. Redick is easily the most hated player in college basketball. He’s the most hated player in years. In fact, you probably have to go back to another pair of Dukies, Christian Laettner and Bobby Hurley, to find someone who generates so much ill will. But for whatever reasons you have for not liking the guy (he’s cocky, he’s good, he plays for Duke, he’s white), if you’re a basketball fan at all, you had to love the performance Redick put on Saturday against Texas.
Here was a big game, #1 versus #2, and a game that many people thought Duke would lose. The Blue Devils simply hadn’t looked that good so far this year and Texas is very talented. Most people, myself included, thought the Longhorns would be able to lock down on Redick and Shelden Williams, the only two Blue Devils who seem capable of scoring this year, and win the game.
But it didn’t happen that way. Redick turned in one of the finest regular season performances I’ve ever seen in scoring 41 points. He hit all kinds of shots – runners, leaners, quick hitters, shots off of pump fakes. You name it, he did it. But he didn’t do it courtesy of a zone defense or some lax man-to-man. No, Texas played him pretty tightly. I can remember only one wide-open look and that was off of a set out-of-bounds play. It wasn’t like J.J. was running around curling off of screens like Reggie Miller; most of his points came off the dribble when he’d create space with jab step or utilize a ball screen. And there was always a hand in his face.
I don’t think Texas did anything wrong (in regards to guarding J.J.); they just had nothing for him.
As I’ve watched Redick over the past four years, like a lot of people, I’ve wondered how his game will translate to the next level. Most people think he’ll fail, because college jump shooters don’t usually pan out in the League. Ralph Wiley once wrote an article on espn.com about this. He called the shots of those college stars “counterfeit.” What he meant was while those jumpers looked great, they wouldn’t be legal tender in the NBA, because the open looks just aren’t there. Guys are bigger and faster at the next level, and they close in on open shooters frighteningly fast.
When I watched J.J. tear up Texas and their three NBA-caliber players, I had to wonder if maybe he would make it in the NBA. His game had all the look of an NBA shooter on a roll. Watch how Allen Iverson gets his points – he zigs and zags and uses screens and jab steps to create just that tiny little crack that he needs to get his shot off. If he has that little bit of space, he can hit the shot whether his feet are set or not. That’s exactly what J.J. did on Saturday.
I may not love the guy, but I loved that game.

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