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Hawk frosh fly high in Prime Time

BY KYLE MANN | JULY 13, 2015 5:00 AM

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The nightcap between Brendan Unkrich’s Pelling/Comfort Care and Jess Settles’ Marion Iron had all the makings of an up-and-down barnburner leading into Sunday’s matchup, with the two most dangerous perimeter teams squaring off.

With such players as Mike Gesell, Matt Bohannon, and Matt Gatens on the floor, it was a pleasant surprise for Hawkeye fans to see the game dominated by a pair of Iowa incoming freshmen. 

Marion’s Andrew Fleming had been impressive in his initial appearances before the Iowa faithful, to the point that his talent is no longer in question. He can shoot with the best in the league, and all he’s got left to show is that he can do so on a consistent basis. 

Despite a breakout performance from fellow incoming freshman Christian Williams of Unkrich’s team, Fleming again distinguished himself as the lead man in his squad’s 105-86 victory. 

He scored the game’s first points on a deep 3, perhaps the deepest made field goal of the evening, kick-starting a dominant opening run for both him and his team. 

Fleming and Northern Iowa guard Wes Washpun set the pace for the game early, and a Brady Ellingson 3 put them ahead, 20-6, prompting a time-out by Unkrich. 

In a hole early, he rallied his players to cut the deficit to 51-44 at halftime.

Out of the break, Williams began to take over the game. The 6-5 guard has played well, but prior to Sunday, he had simply shown that he was a smart, fluid athlete who could run the floor. In the second half, however, he found a level of assertiveness that showcased a more expanded skills.

“I’ve got my outside shot where it needs to be,” Williams said. “Once the first one goes through, I get heated up.” 

Much like his summer in general — Williams started slowly, scoring only 4 points in the first half — but he said conversations with Mike Gesell and Unkrich at halftime gave him the confidence to assert himself. “Mike, every time I get the ball, he tells me to be aggressive: ‘Don’t worry what you do, just stay aggressive,’ ” Williams said. “I wasn’t really comfortable yet, but I’m starting to get the hang of it.”

Indeed, Williams broke out of his shell in the second half and finished the game with 26 points, 14 rebounds, and 3 assists on 11-of-19 shooting. He also unveiled a smooth 3-point shot, going 4-of-5. 

Williams did his best to keep his team in it, but with Gesell and Bohannon having relatively subpar performances, the team was never able to catch up to the opposing offense, led by Fleming. 

He finished with 27 points and showed his physical maturity by grabbing 16 rebounds. He has proven himself as a shooter, but what is beginning to stand out about the 6-4 guard is his poise and general sense of engagement, for which he largely credits his time at Oak Hill Academy. 

“Nobody got more publicity than that team last year, and you just have to keep a level head,” Fleming said. “Going into college I’m just going to worry about winning games, putting the ball in the basket, and having fun.”

After being thoroughly frustrated by Fleming, Unkrich conceded following the loss that he and Williams could vie for early playing time for Iowa but Fleming is in a special place mentally. 

“That confidence he plays with is hard to find in a freshman,” Unkrich said. “He really understands the game.”

Follow @KyleFMann for news, updates, and analysis of Prime Time League basketball.


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