BAY CITY, Michigan — In years gone by, Steve Schmidt has taken his teams to the NJCAA national tournament on the strength of a superstar and the perfect mix of talented and complementary players. There was fanfare, awards from the NJCAA and no shortage of name recognition.
There are no superstars in 2013. After Saturday’s 85-76 win over Oakland, Schmidt and company will have to do the introductions themselves in less than two weeks.
Starting with 6-7 sophomore Fred Mattison.
“He may not have the fanfare of many of our players from the past, but Danville is about to find out who he is … we’re coming back,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt described the play of Mattison, the state’s top JUCO player, as on another level. In the first half, Mattison dominated the game on both ends of the floor. He finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and two assists en route to being named to the all-tournament team.
“Fred brings it every day … from start to finish,” he said. “He gets double-teamed and he gets a lot of attention. He looked like a first team All-American today.”
Meanwhile, freshman Malik Albert was quietly doing his best Brad Redford impression. The freshman from Detroit poured in 29 points including 18-for-18 from the charity stripe. The Bears (29-3) shot 84 percent from the line as a team.
Leading by 14 points at the half, Mott did just enough to shrug off a small handful of mini-runs by the Raiders, who once again struggled with foul trouble (their top two players, Aaron Hayes and Kallante Miller, both had four fouls in the game’s final five minutes).
The play, (or more precisely the plays) of the game came at the five-minute mark of the first half when Albert picked Hayes for a one-handed slam and then pulled up on a break for a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession.
“Malik played today like the player I recruited out of Detroit,” Schmidt said. “I’ve been after him; I challenged him and he responded. But, it wasn’t just Malik and Fred; I think all of our guys contributed.”
Mott’s players called a players only meeting this morning after Friday’s less-than-stellar performance in a win over Henry Ford. Schmidt said he didn’t know what was said, but that it’s a sign of his team growing up.
Oakland (23-9) was led by Hayes and Miller, who scored 18 and 17 points, respectively. All in all, what cost Oakland the most in the game was a decided lack of discipline. The Raiders committed careless fouls including one flagrant and two technicals.
The turning points of the season for Mott may well have been the emergence of sophomore small forward Kory Billups. An outstanding high school player in Chicago, Billups had only shown quick glimpses of greatness during most of his time at Mott. Over the last dozen or so games, Billups has been a warrior. On Saturday, he scored 15 points with eight rebounds, three assists and three steals. He’s the top defender in the conference and a great teammate.
Then national tournament will be held on the campus of Danville Area Community College March 19-23.