One of my all-time favorite Golden Knights is Mitchell Smith, an impact player on Gannon's best-ever teams who was regularly described as "high flying" and "spectacular." The guy could jump out of the gym, hit from long distance -- I adored his one-handed release -- and occasionally would connect on mid-range jumpers with his opposite hand. But when Gannon fans reminisce about Smith, we often whitewash his career by forgetting about his defense. Or his lack thereof. During long possessions, Smitty would often drift away from his man, locating him only when he finished an uncontested layup.
of my favorite players on this Gannon team is junior guard Kevin
Kuteyi. Despite being Gannon's most consistent outside threat -- his 36
threes are the most on the team and he ranks second on the club at 11.0
ppg -- Kuteyi's time has been limited recently. In Gannon's 71-56 home win Wednesday vs. Clarion,
he didn't see one second of action, receiving an all-too-familiar-to-me
DNP-CD (Did Not Play - Coach's Decision). Three games before that
against Slippery Rock, he started but played only three minutes. Guys
who start and lock themselves in the bathroom during halftime still see
more than three minutes of play.
Why the limited PT?
Let's just say he's a lot like Mitchell Smith. If you watch closely,
Kuteyi will occasionally trail his opponent when he's supposed to cut
through the middle and then cut through the middle when he's supposed to
be trailing. When you have a defensive-oriented coach like John Reilly
calling the shots, those actions will earn you a spot on the pine no
matter how many baskets you score.
Kuteyi was in
the doghouse again Saturday afternoon at Pitt-Johnstown. He played just
one minute during regulation time -- during which he committed two
first-half turnovers -- before re-entering the game early in overtime
when Tony Boykins fouled out. Despite all Kuteyi has accomplished this
season (he made the Gary Miller Classic all-tournament team), you
couldn't expect a kid who played just one minute the entire week to
positively impact the team at this juncture. In fact, less than 90
seconds after Kuteyi took the floor, the Knights were trailing UPJ in OT
by six, 74-68.
But after baskets by Ian Gardener and
C.J. Asuncion-Byrd, the Knights trailed by only three with under two
minutes to play. That's when Kuteyi stepped up, burying a left-wing trey to tie the game at 76. Just 30 seconds later, Kuteyi caught the ball on the right side -- in front of the coaches who played him only because they had to --
and without hesitation drilled a three that gave Gannon a lead it would
never relinquish. Kuteyi screamed, the Gannon bench erupted, and, after
surviving a Kuteyi turnover that nearly gave the game away, an imperfect
team celebrated a perfect week with an 80-79 overtime victory.
I know standings-wise this game is
meaningless and the win only really means we probably won't lose 20
games, but I still savor moments like this. Despite his reduced floor
time, Kuteyi has remained enthusiastic and supportive of his teammates.
It's great to see a kid like that get rewarded.