Jerome Dyson is back. Let there be slamma-jammas.
Nearly five months to the day after tearing his lateral meniscus and sending Storrs into a tizzy, Jerome Dyson took the court again on Satruday. Not for Coach Cal and the Huskies, of course, but for Hartford Pro-Am powerhouse Next Level Training.
Against "Past, Present and Future," a team coached by Bret "The Hitman" Hart, Dyson scored 17 points in a 109-100 win and reportedly looked like his old self.
From The Courant:
"Dyson ran the floor, pulled up for jump shots, threw down dunks and even danced a little during breaks [...]
"'I was working out a lot before that so once I was allowed to really play, I just feel really good right now,' said Dyson. 'I'm really excited to be back. I feel like we can have another season like we did last year.'"
There was no mention of Dyson violently flinging himself into the lane, but I assume there was some of that as well. As soon as he takes his first hard fall to the floor, that's when we'll know he's in the clear.
But even after five months on the shelf, Dyson was still his confident self. While the P.A. announcer said UConn would've won the title had Dyson been healthy -- and also shouting "OOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHH" after each dunk -- Dyson was boasting about the potential of the Huskies' backcourt next season.
"I don't think there is a better one [in the nation]," Dyson said. "And with Stanley [Robinson at small forward], I don't think there's a better set of three than us."
It's probably not the best Big Three, but it could be one of the better ones in the country. Problem is, there's still a lot more potential than actual production.
The trio of Dyson (13.2), Kemba (8.9) and Stan (8.5) finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in scoring last season, totaling 30.6 points a game in 2008-09, so there's obviously a lot to build on. But it remains to be seen how Kemba, who disappeared at times last season, will develop in his second season, and whether Stan is the player from the tournament or the consistently inconsistent one we all know and love. Throw in that the frontcourt is essentially up in the air until Majok makes up his mind and you have a lot to be determined.
But Dyson is pretty much the one known commodity. He's been a starter the past three seasons and has pretty similar stats in each. His role on offense will likely increase without Price and Adrien and there will be some lingering questions about his recovery all season, but Dyson could perhaps be the most important player next season.
Even if players like Majok, Oriakhi and Big Chuck produce like they're capable of, they're all essentially first-year players and will likely struggle to produce consistently, especially with Stan as a role model. Dyson is now the veteran presence and the most consistent scorer on a young team, and with A.J. gone, he has to be the one cleaning up the mess -- at least until Kemba proves he can be more of a scoring threat and assert himself in clutch situations.
But even though he's played a big role on the team since his first game, Dyson has never been "The Guy." In 2006-07, there really wasn't one, but If I had to choose, I'd probably go with Adrien. In '07-08, it's Price, without a doubt. And even though there were so many big contributors last season, it was still A.J. running the show.
But even though Dyson was thought of as a scorer and a great defender, he's always been a complimentary piece, not The Guy. And even though he probably is the most likely to assume that role, I have doubts that he'll keep it. Maybe it's his easy-going personality, his reckless ways on the court or his hankerings for cognac, but I just don't know if he can ever be that go-to guy. It just seems like he doesn't have those intangible qualities that made A.J. special. Kemba seems a better fit for that role. Maybe it's a point guard thing.
But Dyson will get his shot to prove otherwise. Coach Cal has been the biggest Dyson apologist for years and his man-crush on him likely means Dyson will get every shot to become that guy.
But will he embrace it? And if he does, will the team be better off?