Westchester Knicks forward Kenny Wooten has distinguished himself as a candidate for NBA promotion and more observations from White Plains.
WHITE PLAINS, NY — Off to a 10-13 start, the Westchester Knicks haven’t enjoyed as much success as years past. During the offseason, Mike Miller left the DubKnicks to take over as an assistant under David Fizdale in the Big Apple, who was subsequently fired. Miller now is at the helm and has shown his good coaching ability, with the Knicks playing somewhat respectable ball recently relative to their 4-18 start.
Former professional player and DubKnicks assistant Derrick Alston has taken over and is still in the process of getting his feet wet as the head coach of a basketball team. Alston, 47, admittedly has a lot of learning to do, saying the following after a 122-109 loss to the Delaware Blue Coats on Tuesday:
“Each day whether it’s practice or a game, one of my main focuses is learning more about my players, what they do well and how I can put them in the best position to succeed. There is a big learning curve and with that comes many ups and downs.”
After jumping out to a 13-point lead in the second quarter, the DubKnicks faltered in the second half and were outscored 64-43. Delaware drilled 17 threes, and Westchester had no answer for former Virginia Cavalier and Iowa State Cyclone Marial Shayok, who hit five triples of his own and poured in 25 points.
Opposite Ends of the Spectrum
Though the DubKnicks have thrived on the offensive end over the past few seasons, it has been a weak point this year. Westchester ranks 23rd in the G League in scoring, and finds themselves 15th in field goal percentage, per NBA G League Stats.
Based on what I’ve seen this season, the pace and intensity is definitely there; the talent execution is just lagging behind.
The DubKnicks just don’t have the perimeter playmakers this year like they did in years past like John Jenkins and Trey Burke, and that is hurting them offensively. Guys like Andrew White III, Zak Irvin, and Tyler Hall are serviceable, but don’t move the needle enough from an offensive standpoint. The one guy who can become a great offensive contributor is Amir Hinton, who led all of Division II in scoring last season at Shaw University. Hinton is still developing and not ready to contribute big numbers just yet. In the frontcourt, Ivan Rabb, one of New York’s two-way players, and Kenny Wooten are soaking up most of the big man minutes and have been solid thus far, but neither are considered bona fide offensive threats.
The lack of offensive creativity and playmaking ability makes it difficult for the DubKnicks to score at times, which has hurt them at points all year.
On the other hand, defensively they have been stout. Westchester ranks fourth in the league in points allowed and are third in blocks. Watching the team play on Tuesday, it is clear that they care on this end of the floor. They are constantly getting deflections and are usually in proper positions. They gave up a lot of points against the Blue Coats, but I saw the effort and grit that makes them one of the better guarding teams in the league.
Having a human shot eraser in Kenny Wooten definitely helps, as well as big guards like White III (6’7″) and Zak Irvin (6’6″) who contest perimeter shots and limit the visions of opposing smaller guards.
A unique and sometimes difficult aspect of the G League for a coach is the constant reshuffling of rosters during the year, as well as season-to-season turnover.
Westchester’s roster looks nothing like it did last year when the DubKnicks won 29 of their 50 regular season games. The aforementioned John Jenkins moved on to the Chinese Basketball Association; Isaiah Hicks now plays overseas; and many other key pieces have departed.
Mike Miller did an excellent job during his tenure as head coach of adapting to frequent roster transactions and constant player movement. Miller was able to plug in guys and work through losing key players for periods of time. Derrick Alston is going to have to learn how to do that, because there has already been a bunch of movement on Westchester’s roster; this will be a theme week in and week out.
The Kenny Wooten Show
Kenny Wooten has been undoubtedly the most exciting and promising player. Watching Wooten in college at the University of Oregon and during his time in the Summer League, it was evident that his athleticism is off the charts. But seeing him play in person is a whole different experience.
The 21-year-old was flying through the air, soaring for emphatic, jaw dropping put-back dunks and blocks, most notably his two-handed rejection that was all over social media and SportsCenter’s “Top 10 Plays of the Day.” Even when Wooten missed a block or just went up for a rebound, his elevation left the Westchester County Center crowd and myself in awe. Wooten finished with an impressive 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in 32 minutes, per NBA G League Stats, and has consistently impacted the game much further than the stat sheet would indicate.
Bouncy WOOT ? Here’s a look at his top dunks from the season ?#WatchUsRise (@kennywootenjr) pic.twitter.com/0Klxgt6bF4
— Westchester Knicks (@wcknicks) January 10, 2020
Wooten plays the game above the rim with tremendous energy, but he gets himself into foul trouble too often. Kenny is averaging 2.7 personal fouls per game, which he needs to work on going forward. The forward isn’t always disciplined when he goes to block a shot or attack the glass; a similar criticism of Mitchell Robinson, who shares a lot in common with Wooten.
Observing Wooten for an entire game, I thought he did an excellent job of avoiding foul trouble, committing only two personals in his time on the floor. The 6’9″ forward was able to make huge contributions and effectively use freakish athletic presence without hacking or losing control of his body. Coach Derrick Alston was in his ear throughout the game, telling Wooten to keep his hands straight up and to make sure he’s always in control.
Since Wooten’s highlight reel game on Tuesday against the Delaware Blue Coats, there has been reported interest in his services from many teams around the league. Many organizations are looking to ink Wooten to a 10-day contract, and the Knicks should be the team who pounces on the opportunity to call the big man up. Wooten has shown enough to deserve a shot on a Knicks team that could always use some electricity and athleticism on the roster. Whatever New York has to do to clear a roster spot for Wooten, they should do it.
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