UT hoops: The week belongs to ShunnarWritten by Matt Sussman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
The joy of watching a team stricken with underclassmen can be difficult to find, especially when youth shows itself during the most inopportune times. (Such as losing an exhibition game.)
But after nine games, the Toledo Rockets are 3-7, and after a wild win over IPFW, a few safe conclusions can be drawn:
• Jake Barnett is the closer. Before the season I imagined Justin Anyijong and/or Mouhamed Lo being the go-to players, since they were the only two juniors on a team with no seniors. But Barnett, a 6-5 true freshman, has become the guy the Rockets turn to whenever they need points. What more proof do you need: he scored the winning layup against IPFW Thursday night with seconds left on the clock. Along with Anyijong and sophomore point guard Larry Bastfield, Barnett was named a co-captain prior to the season, the first time in school history a freshman has been bestowed that title. He leads the team in points, steals, rebounds, 3-point accuracy, and free throw percentage. Yeah, I’d say he’s earned the captain badge.
• Jay Shunnar is the fan favorite. You don’t even need to measure decibels in the audience to know this. The story sells itself. Tried out for the team. Rode the pine as a walk-on. Overlooked to the point that he had his name misspelled on his video scoreboard player graphic (“Sunnar”). And finally … slowly worked himself into the rotation. Prior to this week’s games against Wright State and IPFW, Shunnar saw 28 total minutes in his career (24 this season, four last). In two games, he averaged 28 minutes, establishing himself as the current sixth man. Against IPFW, Shunnar tied the previously lauded Barnett with 16 points. To go along with five assists, a couple rebounds, and a key steal, the Ann Arbor native turned the ball over exactly zero times — which is as many times as he did Tuesday.
• I was absolutely wrong about Frosty coupons. It takes a big man to admit mistakes. Earlier I chided UT for giving away a coupon for a free small Wendy’s Frosty to everyone in attendance if the team scored at least 60 points. I was deathly afraid this young team would struggle to reach it with regularity. But only once in five regular season games have they fallen below the coupon line (only 56 points against Wright State). My punishment, sadly, has been free ice cream, something my gut is telling me I don’t really need. (Remind me to potentially rescind this mea culpa when MAC play begins and aggravating teams like Miami come in and slow the tempo down.)