Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Brinson and Gordon lead Aquinas to a non-region win over Glenn Hills

San Antonio Brinson is our area's best "prospect."
Twenty-five days is too long, especially during the heart of the high school season, for a hoops junkie like me to not take the opportunity to see Aquinas's San Antonio Brinson play.  In our area, his qualities are truly unique.  I recently told friend and Augusta hoops legend Keenan Mann the case for Brinson becoming a contributor on a major college basketball team is straightforward and compelling:  He is 6'7" and he shoots, dribbles, moves and jumps very well.

More importantly, Brinson is a good student and a better person.  He possesses those old fashioned and endearing qualities that make me cheer for his on and off the court success.  Take his reaction to adversity Saturday in the most tense moments of Aquinas's overtime win at home over non region rival Glenn Hills.  After missing a couple free throws and failing to convert a fast break layup, San Antonio was visibly shaken.  This is not a criticism.  Anyone interpreting it that way is badly missing my point.  His reaction revealed a genuine concern for his teammates and his own execution on the court.  Caring matters.  It leads to relationships and experiences that matter.  Brinson, who is abnormally young for an elite 11th grade basketball player (he only recently turned 16) will soon learn that he has built up so much goodwill with Aquinas's players, coaches, and fans that no amount of mistakes will disappoint them.  And as he grows even more comfortable in his role as our area's best player, those people, and more importantly San Antonio himself, will be in for a treat.

All of this is not to say Brinson played poorly in Saturday's win.  Far from it.  As usual, he did it all, leading all scorers with 18 points.  When 6'4" Maurice O'Bannon guarded him, Brinson beat him off the dribble and drew fouls.  When smaller players defended him, he patiently worked his way into the paint, both from the wing and the post, shooting over the defense and getting to the foul line.  There have been times this season when the scoring opportunities he took have been mostly of the catch-and-shoot three pointer variety.  But during the last two Aquinas games I've seen, in December versus Midland Valley and Saturday, Brinson has imposed his will on defenses.  His teammates and he will all benefit as his confidence grows and he continues to push that envelope.

Speaking of confidence, one Aquinas player who has never lacked it is junior Kham Gordon, who played better Saturday than I had seen him play at any time prior.  Gordon used his strength and ball handling skills to get high percentage shots.  And none were more important than the bank shot he made after a baseline drive in overtime that provided the Fighting Irish's final lead.

I have commented on Aquinas's youth and potential and expressed optimism that this group will improve enough during the regular season to make a deep post season run.  Hancock Central has been the only region team to slow down this group.  I hope Saturday's win over a fine Glenn Hills group gives the guys confidence heading into the final weeks of the regular season before region tournament and state tournament action begins.

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