Sunday, January 22, 2012

Anthony Myers making a name for himself

When you think of the Robert Morris Colonials team, you probably think of the players who garner the most attention, including undisputed leader and veteran guard Velton Jones, sharpshooting star in the making Coron Williams, and forward/center Lijah Thompson who is capable of throwing down some impressive dunks.  But it's time that people start paying attention to do everything guard, sophomore Anthony Myers.

Conference games on the road in college basketball are never easy. You have to factor in unfamiliarity with the environment the players are staying, hostility from opposing fans, and often times long hours of travel. It is no different for our very own Colonials who just finished up a road trip to New Jersey to take on Northeast Conference opponents Monmouth and Fairleigh Dickinson.  Never mind the fact that these two teams are bottom dwellers in the conference this season, the Colonials headed into Jersey banged up. Coron, despite showing great toughness and playing through the pain of a badly sprained ankle is still hurting, versatile swingman Russell Johnson is still out with a broken thumb, and Lijah is still recovering from the effects of his fractured foot.  They needed somebody to step up and fill that void.

After being down to FDU by as many as 6 on Thursday night, Lucky Jones, thrust into a starting role with the injury to Johnson, provided a spark and led the Colonials to a 12 point victory. However last night against the Monmouth Hawks, the Colonials were in an even bigger hole, finding themselves down 15 with 11:34 left in regulation. Enter Anthony Myers.  Myers came off the bench and knocked down back to back to back 3's.  He than drove the lane and made a layup to tie the game at 61.  The Colonials traded baskets with the Hawks and after a last second miss by the Hawks headed into overtime tied at 67. In overtime Myers was still feeling it as he scored 5 of the Colonials first 7 points and the team cruised to an 81-73 victory.  Ant finished the night a perfect with 16 points including, 5 for 5 from the field, 4 for 4 from 3 point range, 2 for 2 from the free throw line, and threw in 3 assists, 2 steals and a block for good measure.

This isn't the first time he's shined.  Earlier this season against Duquesne, Myers came off the bench for 10 points and 6 rebounds and helped lead a Colonials comeback victory over the rival Dukes. Just last week, after Velton had a couple of off nights in a row, Myers was inserted into the starting lineup and had 7 assists, helping the Colonials pick up a key victory over Sacred Heart to snap a 2 game skid.  If Robert Morris is going to contend for their 3rd conference title in 4 seasons they need to rely on Myers more down the stretch.

Competition makes everybody better.  Velton has returned to the form of the All-NEC guard he truly is during Ant's emergence. Velton deserves a lot of credit for last night's impressive comeback as well.  He delivered 35 points, 6 assists, and 3 steals.  In the process he also scored his 1,000th career point as a Colonial.  As one of Monmouth's announcers put it "tonight Velton was Superman."

Back to Ant though. This kid is humble, hardworking, energetic, and he is well liked by all of his teammates.  Last season Ant showed promise as a freshman. You could see his athleticism, his quickness, and his excellent court vision, but his shot wasn't where he would like it to be.  I saw his maturation as a shooter right before my eyes. It didn't happen overnight though. He consistently and intensely worked for it all off-season, and all summer long.  This season he has improved his field goal percentage from 34% to 44%, his 3 point percentage from 24% to 50% and his free throw percentage from 63% to 75%.  He is talented, a great team player, and versatile enough to fill any role.  But I know Ant well enough to say that he wants to let you know he's just getting started.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tim Tebow Rises to the Occasion

There comes a time in a man's life where he is faced with the opportunity he has always dreamed of.  This often comes after he has put in hours of work, paid his dues, waited for his time, and ultimately has done everything in his power to earn the opportunity he is now faced with.  How a man performs in the face of that opportunity will define him, in terms of his level of success, his character, and ultimately his legacy.  On Sunday in Denver, Tim Tebow undoubtedly made the most out of his opportunity, and earned one of the most thrilling upset victories in recent memory.

Despite his widespread popularity among fans, his number of detractors, doubters, and haters is just as large. Whether it be for his proud statement of faith, his enormous amount of hype which some believe is undeserved, the fact that some people just don't think he is a good quarterback, the fact that he's "too nice"
 or the fact that he simply "can't throw," people just don't like the guy.  I don't see what there is not to like about him. In a sport where you see players getting arrested for all types of scandals and criminals, Tebow has never had any of that associated with his name. He works extremely hard, is a captivating leader, inspires others both on and off the field, and when it comes down to it he simply wins games.  

Heading into Sunday's game there was a multitude of questions about Tebow and the Denver Broncos who as many pointed out, had collectively fallen apart down the stretch.  The team went 0-3 in their final three games and the Tebow led offense had stagnated, with Tebow himself turning the ball over seven times in that span. After winning seven of his first eight starts it seemed as though "Tebow Time" was up, and the magic had run out. The Broncos however managed to hold onto the AFC West, with an 8-8 record, and backed into the playoffs.  Rumors swirled around Denver all week with reports that Tebow was holding onto his starting job by a thread, and that the team was considering going with backup quarterback Brady Quinn if Tebow struggled in the early goings on Sunday.  This game would be Tebow's biggest test facing off against the reigning AFC Champions, a Pittsburgh Steelers team with a famed tradition of postseason success, that featured the NFL's #1 ranked pass defense, not to mention a sold out Denver crowd and a record breaking national television audience.  If Tebow failed here, this could be his last game as the starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos.

But the thing that people don't seem to understand about Tebow, is that this man has a will power, work ethic, passion, and competitive nature so strong, that he lives for these moments.  He is at his best when the pressure is on. Back him into a corner, and he will explode out of it.  Those characteristics were on full display on Sunday. Tebow completed 10 passes for 316 yards and accounted for three total touchdowns. He also chipped in 50 rushing yards on 10 carries.  Those who said he couldn't throw, and that he certainly couldn't throw deep, ate their words yesterday.  Consider this, Tebow completed five passes of 30 yards or more on Sunday, the Steelers had only given up seven passes of 30 yards or more all season! After Ben Roethlisberger led a spirited Steelers comeback tying the game at 23 and sending it into overtime, Tebow wasted little time leading his team to victory. On the first play from scrimmage with the defense biting up on a play-action fake he delivered a beautiful strike to Demaryius Thomas, who stiff armed Ike Taylor and outraced Taylor and Ryan Mundy, on his way to an 80 yard game-winning touchdown.  That play was the exclamation point on an outstanding performance from Tebow and his Denver teammates.

Now those who doubt Tebow will be quick to point out all of the injuries that the Steelers were dealing with, the fact that he only completed 10 out of 21 passes, and that this victory proves nothing long term.  What people fail to notice is that the Broncos were missing starting guard Chris Kuper, starting safety Brian Dawkins, running back Knowshon Moreno who has been out for weeks, and top receiver Eric Decker who was sidelined in the 1st quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.  But that is besides the point, Tebow can't control any of that, all he can control is his own performance, and he turned out a great one.

And so the Tebow Show goes on the road to Foxboro to take on the number one seeded New England Patriots and Tom Brady.  The Broncos might go out and get handled this weekend, but Tebow has already made his statement, and at this point are you really going to continue to doubt him? Either you love him or you hate him, and there is seemingly no in between.  But after Sunday's performance it looks like he is here to stay whether you like it or not.