Coach Marty Simmons set a couple rules for his players before Thursday’s Hoopfest scrimmage:
No. 1, “Have fun.” And No. 2, “Don’t get hurt.”
Senior guard Ned Cox walked a fine line with the latter.
During the Aces’ dunk exhibition that preceded their scrimmage, Cox cut his hand on the rim, albeit mildly. And later during the 10-minute, running clock scrimmage, he stepped in to take a charge as senior Colt Ryan elevated for a dunk.
Cox got the call and continued playing.
Simmons, miked up during the scrimmage, simply said, “Nice job, Ned,” and smiled (it wasn’t the only time Simmons had the Ford Center crowd of about 2,000 laughing).
Cox may not want to take a second look at the poster-type play, but he said the Aces will watch tape of their scrimmage.
“We’re going to break down the film of the scrimmage just like a normal practice,” Cox said. “We’ll try to take something away from it.”
Yes, Thursday’s scrimmage was just that. But Simmons called timeouts to sub, mixed and matched lineups and never let his players get away from playing focused basketball.
“You’re constantly cultivating mentality,” Simmons said. “Mentality is what we believe is the most important thing — the way you think, the way you approach the game, the way you approach each other. I think that’s something we’ve taken a lot of pride in for a long time.
“That comes from coach (Jim) Crews when he was here. It’s the ability to come every day and work extremely hard.”
A few other Hoopfest observations:
—Sophomore forward Ryan Sawvell often matched up against the opposing power forward rather than center. He also attempted a 3-pointer that looked good but rimmed out. Sawvell didn’t try from long range once during a game as a freshman.
—Meanwhile, Egidijus Mockevicius is also still finding his role. The recently-cleared freshman missed some screens in the Aces’ motion offense and was often the last player down the court, at one point earning a “C’mon Egidijus!” from a miked up Simmons. Mockevicius did grab at least two rebounds on the defensive end — official stats weren’t tallied — during the scrimmage.
—Ryan didn’t receive an incredible amount of touches. When he did, he quickly created shots for himself or others.
—Cox, now a senior, handled the point well and seems a candidate to become a regular starter this season. He was also the only player to score more than once in the scrimmage, which ended in an 8-8 tie.