1. Christy spent much of the day with Everett today. They spent time in the morning talking, praying, and sharing devotions written by Billy Graham. Everett asked about Riley. Later in the day, Paul brought Riley by Everett's window. Everett smiled. At lunchtime, a staff member served Christy and Everett a turkey dinner for Thanksgiving. For Everett, it was a restful day.
2. As planned, a plan I was completely at peace with, I spent Thanksgiving Day by myself today. I have done this in the past, even in times of sound public health. I was happy to play it safe, enjoy friends and family through online communications, and do some things here at home I enjoy, like drinking a delicious Double IPA from Great Notion Brewing, Sub Harmonics. These days, I rarely drink beer or any other alcohol when I'm home alone. I enjoy beer and cocktails a lot more when I'm in others' company, in person or on Zoom/Facebook Live. Today, I made an exception and enjoyed the juiciness and perfect bitterness of this beer a lot.
Carol, Paul, Zoe, and Jason delivered me (and Christy next door) a turkey dinner: turkey slices, oyster cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, orange candied sweet potatoes, homemade rolls, homemade cranberry apple butter, and a relish tray.
As I served myself dinner out of the containers Carol and the others so lovingly packed my food in, I realized the gravy was the part of this dinner I had the highest hopes for. For me, this meal would be as good as the gravy, the gravy I planned to pour over the mashed potatoes, turkey pieces, and dressing. I dipped a spoon into the turkey gravy to test it. I nearly wept. The gravy was perfect: meaty, smooth, just salty enough, and beautifully seasoned. I prepared my plate and dug in, with my next focus directed to the cornbread oyster dressing. It was a briny joy, rich, flavorful, like nothing I'd ever tasted before, especially on Thanksgiving. I love "regular" dressing, but I was mildly euphoric as I experienced the surprise and uniqueness of this dressing and the way the cornbread and oysters complemented (and complimented) each other. My turkey was moist, the sweet potatoes were mildly sweet and I loved the presence of the orange, and I poured a small puddle of cranberry apple butter on my plate and dipped my rolls into my tiny, tasty pool. I had a bottle of opened Sauvignon Blanc, left over from an earlier family dinner, and poured myself a small glass of it.
This generous delivery also included three slices of pie: pecan, pumpkin, and apple.
After finishing my rich and mouthwatering turkey dinner, my aged digestive system begged me to pass on the pie tonight. I obeyed. My reward will be pie on Friday and, I'll bet, on into Saturday, too.
3. So, in writing this blog post, I saved writing about how I spent much of my day watching men's college basketball for my BT #3.
I know not everyone who reads this blog is crazy about sports (no problem) and so I thought I'd provide, to use a metaphor I see and hear all the time in news reporting, an exit ramp for some of you to pull off this freeway and find your way back to however you are spending your day after Thanksgiving.
For those of you hanging around to continue reading, I loved watching two games in particular, Gonzaga vrs Kansas and Villanova vrs Arizona State.
I'll get to those games in a little while.
First, though, while I was waiting for the Villanova/ASU tilt, I rewatched an ESPN documentary that was being shown on the ACC Network entitled, The Class That Saved Coach K. I can understand how any of you know me might be surprised that I watched this documentary for the second time because you might know that I'm not a Duke basketball fan. Yes, I admire Coach K and his program, but I almost always pull for their opponents.
But, things at Duke were rocky for Coach K in the beginning. Two of his first three teams finished with losing records, including the 1982-83 team that featuring prize recruits Jay Bilas, Mark Alarie, Johnny Dawkins, and David Henderson, among others.
I'll digress for a moment. When I was a college basketball fan in my youth, most players in college didn't enter the NBA Draft until they'd completed their college eligibility. There were exceptions, but one of the great pleasures, for me, in watching college basketball in the 1970s and 1980s was not only watching players mature from their freshman or sophomore to their senior year, but to see rivalries intensify between players of the same class on competing teams.
I bring this up because one of the things I enjoy about The Class That Saved Coach K is that the great recruiting class Coach K brought to Duke in 1982 had a lousy first season as freshmen, going 11-17. It's hard to imagine now, given Coach K's illustrious career, that in his early years at Duke, powerful donors and Blue Devil boosters were calling for Duke to fire and replace Mike Krzyzewski. Duke didn't. Gradually, Duke improved and, by the time Bilas, Alarie, Dawkins, and Henderson were seniors, they played for the NCAA title in 1986 (a game they lost, to my delight, to Louisville).
In this documentary, I loved watching these players talk about growing up together and enjoyed listening to them talk about the pains they suffered from their freshman to senior seasons.
In college basketball today, it's common for elite players to play their freshman season (the NBA mandates that U.S. players cannot be drafted until a year has passed since their high school graduation) and then leave school and turn professional. Philosophically, I have no problem with this; as a fan of college basketball, though, I'd love to see more of these players play longer in college. Now, that said, some less than elite, but superb, players play four years, and we fans get to see them develop from being boyish freshmen to becoming stronger, more mature seniors.
Three such players played today, and, I'd argue so did a fourth: Gonzaga's Corey Kisbert, Villanova's Collin Gillespie, and ASU's Remy Martin are all seniors and the Zags' Joel Ayayi is a redshirt junior -- this is his fourth year in Gonzaga's program.
Among other pleasures these two games gave me, I loved watching Kisbert, Gillespie, and Ayayi. Physically, they've all matured and time after time I noted the way they made smart plays based on their experience and savvy. Ayayi is the quietest of the three players. Although he doesn't have the ball in his hands as much as Kisbert or Gillespie, Ayayi makes great decisions, especially in the open court, and is a stout defender.
It was a bad Thanksgiving for Remy Martin. I've never seen him have such a tough game. It was a testament to Villanova's game plan defending him. Villanova crowded him, put bigger, agile defenders on him as often as possible, and made it nearly impossible for Remy Martin to get his game going. He only scored five points.
In fact, Villanova played just the way those of us who follow this team have become accustomed to. I might be nuts, but the more I watch Villanova, the more I'm reminded of the UCLA teams coached by John Wooden. It's not so much that they run similar offenses (Wooden's teams didn't have the three point shot available, for one thing) or similar defenses, per se, but it's the attention to fundamentals. The Villanova players are always in position when they receive the ball on offense, balanced, ready to shoot. The Villanova players play within themselves, almost always limit their efforts to what they can do well. Wild shots are rare. They are always aware of where their teammates are and not only look for well-chosen shots, but they are always looking for a teammate who might have a better shot.
Point guard Collin Gillespie runs their offense, sometimes in an unusual way, backing his defender into the paint, sometimes scoring from near the iron and other times making passes as if he were a low post player, not a point guard. At the same time, their offensive production comes largely from sophomore forward, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, a player who has matured remarkably from his freshman year to now He has a dead-eye jumper from 15-17 feet out from the middle of the floor, makes imaginative, fluid, and productive moves inside, and can, on occasion, bury a three-pointer.
Much of Robinson-Earl's success is related to how Villanova is so adept at scoring from beyond the three point arc. Their opponents' defenses get stretched and if they dare double team Robinson-Earl, he is skilled at finding his unguarded teammates.
Villanova is not a boring team, but they aren't flashy either. They are consistently competent. They rarely beat themselves; they are patient and often wait until deep into the shot clock to shoot; often this patience pays off with high percentage shots - whether open three pointers, drives to the basket, or a Robinson-Earl midrange jump shot.
Ultimately, Villanova's consistency and sound fundamental basketball wore down ASU. ASU would have liked to have played at a faster pace, but it's hard to rush Villanova. In addition, Villanova is a great rebounding team and when ASU missed shots, they rarely snared an offensive board. Villanova, time after time, had those errant shots covered and ate them up.
Similarly, Gonzaga is a fundamentally sound, unselfish team. Much like Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, the Zags' sophomore Drew Timme has developed his immense skills impressively since his freshman year. As I watch him, I wonder if, in a good way, he feels liberated, freer to operate with Filip Petrusev having moved on. One reason, of course, is that he's no longer a backup to Petrusev. But, last year, when Petrusev and Timme were on the floor together, Petrusev was the alpha player and he took up space -- with Petrusev having gone to Europe as a professional, Timme is the alpha player inside and doesn't have to share that real estate with anyone. Timme has very impressive footwork, a variety of shots, including the occasional outside jumper, and makes great use of the backboard on several of his shots. (I love to see players make bank shots!)
Complimenting and complementing Timme inside is Corey Kisbert outside. Kisbert, who looks about five years older than a year ago and has become much stronger, especially in the upper body, is establishing that not only is he a three point threat, he can also drive aggressively to the hoop and finish. Timme and Kisbert both benefit greatly from the play of freshman point guard Jalen Suggs who, in his first two games, has established himself as a great ball handler, a wily and physical defender, a fearless driver to the tin, and an accomplished outside shooter.
I think I'll write more about Anton Watson and return to Joel Ayayi in a future blog post. Watson's contributions are the quietest of the starting five, but I've seen plenty that I like in his contributions and I like the way he looks older and stronger than he did as a freshman.
I forgot to post the scores.
Gonzaga defeated Kansas, 102-90.
Villanova defeated Arizona State, 83-74.