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The Trentonian's Full-Court Press blog is back and improved. We'll keep you updated on everything you need to know about Rider and Princeton hoops as well as the college basketball landscape.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Back from vacation

The Blog was on vacation for the past couple of months, both because I’ve been busy with a lof of non-basketball related work and because for at least some of the time, I was actually on vacation.
We’ve missed a few topics that are well worth touching on, and over the next couple of weeks I’ve got a Blog to-do list that I hope will satisfy everyone out there who thinks the best thing about coming to the end of June is that Midnight Madness is only three and a half months away.
Most recently, Jason Thompson, or as The Trentonian dubbed him on its cover, “King Jason,” became the MAAC’s first lottery pick last week when the Sacramento Kings took him with the No. 12 pick.
That’s the same spot in the draft as Dr. J, and one spot before an unproven high schooler named Kobe Bryant, if you’re scoring at home. It’s at least 12 picks earlier than most mock drafts had him going, although word had it, the Warriors were considering taking him at No. 14.
My reaction to the pick? If anyone without direct knowledge of the Kings’ plans prior to the draft tells you they weren’t surprised to see him taken that high, they’re lying. Had Sacramento not jumped, and had Golden State decided to either trade down or go in a different direction, he likely wouldn’t have gone until the 20s – still early enough for a hefty guaranteed contract and to be the highest drafted player in MAAC history, but nowhere near as high as he ended up going.
Kings coach Reggie Theus says he thinks Thompson can contribute immediately, as a low-post scoring option and a rebounding force. With the numbers he posted last year, and with his upper body strength, it’s not unreasonable for anyone to think he can play right away. And the Kings were clearly enamored with the same qualities that drew scouts to every Rider game last year: his ability to pass out of double teams in the post and run the floor like a guard.
But when you make someone a lottery pick, you’re banking on him to do more than just contribute immediately. You’re baking on him to be a major part of your franchise for the foreseeable future.
Will Thompson do that? Well, the Kings sure think so, even though, as Sam Amick writes in the Sacramento Bee, the first time one of their scouts went to see him play in a game – in the Bracket Buster game at Cal State Northridge – Thompson played what might have been his worst game of the season. Let’s face it: the odds are not in favor of Thompson becoming an All-Star. They may not even be in favor of him ever averaging a double double, which he did during his last two seasons at Rider.
But then again, this is a player who no Big East schools would take out of high school unless he went to prep school for a year, and here he is, about to cash some big-time pay checks and likely play some big-time minutes as a rookie.
So go figure.
Now, to other issues.
The biggest MAAC-related story that unfolded over the past month was Sovereign Bank Arena dropping out as the host of next year’s MAAC men’s and women’s tournaments and the MAAC subsequently deciding to award the tournament to the Times Union Center in Albany.
It was a crushing blow to Rider but a huge plus for the MAAC office and, of course, to the Siena men, who get to host the tournament – likely as the favorite to win it – for the second straight year. The tournaments will be in Albany again in 2010 (which had been previously agreed upon) and at the Arena at Harbor Yard in Bridgeport in 2011 – welcome news for Blog readers in Stag Country (can’t call it Stag Nation because of the negative connotation of the word “stagnation.)
Next spring, the MAAC will announce a new tournament agreement that will run through 2014, and what the conference should do with the bids has been a subject of intense debate in some quarters.
My take on the situation? The short answer there’s no shortage of reasons for the conference to make Albany the permanent home of the tournaments for the foreseeable future, as Siena, the city of Albany, and Albany County have been lobbying for. In recent history, that’s where they’ve gotten by far the biggest crowds and media attention.
But if it was that simple, the MAAC wouldn’t have given Bridgeport another shot at it in 2011. For a number of reasons – including the potential to host the tournaments at the Prudential Center in Newark or at the yet-to-be-built arena in Brooklyn – there’s reason to take a closer look at the situation.
So over the next week or so, The Blog will break down a few different issues
In the meantime, though, let’s get some chatter going. If off-season baseball talk is the Hot Stove League, we’ll call this the Air Conditioning League.
So pull up a chair next to the AC and chime in with your thoughts on Jason Thompson, the future of the MAAC men’s and women’s tournaments, or whatever other hoops-related matters are on your mind.