Tonight’s summer league games felt…sorta flat to me. Although that is to be somewhat expected I guess. Hard to get up for a game after bearing witness to the epic double OT thriller last saturday night. In any case, there was still some interesting things to be gleaned from the action on the court. Mainly? That it was a coming out party of sorts for Aaron Valdes, who put up 37 in a blowout loss to the now-juggernaut Solar Universe.
I don’t really feel compelled to touch on anything SU related, mostly because they are just dominant (like we all knew they’d be), particularly now that Derrick is back and playing for them. It felt like they were going at 50% tonight and still won with ease. One thing though if you’re reading this, please send positive thoughts Negus’ way (he hurt his hand on a dunk attempt in the first half.) He’s pretty active on social media so shoot him a follow and say what’s up: @TheOfficialNWC.
Anyway, back to the game. As a fairly unsophisticated fan of basketball, I like pretty much one thing and one thing only: dunking. I mean really, at the end of the day that is what sets apart high level basketball from…everything else. You could conceivably throw any schmuck out onto the court and he could hurl the ball at the basket. Sometimes it might even go in. What you cannot do, is pluck someone from the stands and ask them to dunk. Hell you probably couldn’t even get them to do it if you had one of those cool looking trampolines (believe me I’ve tried…it’s significantly harder than the mascots who jump through the flaming hoops make it look.) So color me excited when tonight’s second game between Solar Universe and Grantco Pacific turned into a dunkathon (with the star of the show being the aforementioned Valdes.) He had about 9 dunks by my count, all thrown down in different ways. Off the backboard. Off a missed shot. On a fast break. On a 360. And it was contagious. Spearman threw down. Negus threw down. Kona Makaula threw down. Dyrbe Enos threw down! (just kidding. Drybe played great though.)
After the game, Brian McInnis sent out a tweet calling Aaron’s 37 “explosive”. But to me that didn’t really do it justice. See, “explosive” can be used to describe many things. Speed. Rebounding. Jumping. Hell, even talking. What Aaron did on some of his dunks was something different. And the thing that popped into my mind immediately was Nuclear. Which is exactly what he is. Nuclear energy is raw and limitless and can be used to power cities, or as a weapon of catastrophic destruction. Which again, is exactly what Valdes is. Although markedly improved from last year, his game is still developing. He’s got a nice three point shot and is basically unstoppable going to the rim. And in the summer league? He’s Dikembe.
To wit: Probably the best moment of the night happened late in the game when Valdes drove on Dyrbe, crossed him up then passing him on a nifty spin move towards the basket, eventually ending the sequence with an emphatic dunk. Then, on the other end, Dyrbe tried to take it right back at him. Which was both courageous and fantastically foolhardy. What do you think happened next? After a few dribbles, and an attempt to create space, Dyrbe’s fadeaway was eviscerated by a Valdes block. Which happened in slow motion and which was wonderful. (Super underrated moment in all of this? Keith Shamburger calling out the play before it happened. As soon as Aaron dunked it, he leaned over and told me “watch, Dyrbe’s gonna try to get him back now.” And try he did.)
I put this out on Twitter and Facebook afterwards, trying to figure out the last time we had a dunker of Aaron’s caliber. Erin “Helicopter” Galloway? Artie Wilson in his prime? Someone on twitter suggested Justice Sueing? Anyway, as far back as my memory goes, Valdes might be the best of them all. And the best part? Some of his teammates aren’t all that far behind. UH Dunk City! If I can somehow be involved in the midnight madness dunk contest, it has to happen. Has to. Aaron, I’m willing to be a prop!
All of this ends, as usual, ends up with me being super excited for the season to start. Coach Selitto told me after the game that the next two seasons will probably make up the best teams that UH has ever had. And I’d be hard pressed to say that he isn’t right. Hooray Basketball!
As always, be sure to check out Warrior Insider for the latest news on Hawaii Basketball. Dayton and Co. always do a really fantastic job (and, have great access to the players.)
Also, all the images and the video here are courtesy of Basketball Summer League Blogspot. Thanks for the great pictures guys!