NBA-style basketball payed a visit to Briggs Cage last night.
There were backboard-moving slam dunks by a guy named Wilkins, there were in-your-face, there were in-your-face back-to-halfcourt rejections, there were mouthing-off technical fouls, there were lots-o-shots and lots-o-points and there was even a scout from the Boston Celtics.
It was FAN-tastic, even though there were only 350 fans, and most of them were...Norwegian?
The Harvard men's basketball team made its first public appearance of the 1990-91 season with an entertaining but less-than-impressive 106-84 victory over Asker, a Norwegian team that plays Division I European basketball. Variety was the keyword of the night--this was not Ivy League basketball.
"The fact that you're seeing something different is really helpful," Harvard Coach Peter Roby said. "When you go against each other all the time, how much can you run that people don't know ahead of time. You're not sure the reason you're not running the play right is that you're not executing or because they know the play already. From that standpoint, these games are good."
The first five minutes of the game was very NBA-ish. Harvard scored on two slam dunks, one layup, one tip-in follow and a baseline jumper. Asker answered with a pair of layups and two three-point jumpers.
Leading the slamfest was Asker's Ellington Wilkins, whose 10 field goals included five slam dunks. Wilkins, who graduated from Houston Baptist University, finished the game with 26 points on 10-for-13 from the field, if you want to call one foot above the rim the field.
"We're tired from travelling, but it's fun playing these games," Wilkins said. "Your guys have a lot of talent, especially inside."
Harvard was getting in on the act too. Mitchell got the two early slams, Tarik Campbell added a dunk off the break and Tyler Rullman got a not-so-emphatic slam later in the first half to bring the partisan crowd to its feet. Even in Norwegian, a "slam dunk" is still a slam dunk--a crowd-raising, arena-rattling display of emphatic domination.
But the story of the night was Wilkins, who wowed the crowd with his above-the-rim play and his defensive exploits. Wilkins snared 11 defensive boards (14 overall) and rejected four Harvard shots, including an overwhelming rejection of a Crimson superstar Ralph James shot in the second half.
"It's a good lesson for Ralph to learn that he's got to get people up off their feet," Roby said about his All-Ivy forward who was the reason the Celtics scout attended the game. "He's got to shot fake. If he does that, he'll be able to score anytime he wants."
James finished with 18 points on 7-for-18 shooting from the field. However, Asker couldn't stop Rullman, who tallied 16 first-half points in leading the Crimson to a 56-36 halftime lead. Rullman finished with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Classmate Campbell drove the lane quicker-than-the-eye and dished off for numerous baskets en route to a nine-assist, 12-point effort.
Outside of Wilkins' dunking, Asker was led by guard Martin Sjotun, who gave James an offensive clinic by tallying 29 points on 6-for-9 shooting from beyond the three-point stripe. Sjotun also led Asker with four assists and three steals in causing the Crimson numerous defensive matchup problems.
"This game was good because it high-lighted what we still have to work on," Roby said. "We are not rebounding well enough and we are not playing defense well enough."
Despite the pro-style of play, the Crimson wasn't playing a pro team, but a club team on which people have to pay dues just to join and compete in the league. Wilkins played basketball in Sweden after graduating from Houston Baptist and before playing on Asker. He met and married his Norwegian wife and has been studying engineering for the last two years.