John Clay: Teague has big-league skills

Kentucky signee has guts, willingness to learn

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 12, 2011 

Ind All-Star Preview Basketball

Marquis Teague had 18 points for Indiana on Friday night, but he also missed 13 shots and had four turnovers.

DAVID LEE HARTLAGE — ASSOCIATED PRESS

LOUISVILLE — Any minute now, you expected the floor to open and Marquis Teague to shift his gears and fly by on a blow-by to the rim that would validate everything you had heard about the premier point guard.

But it never really happened Friday night at Bellarmine University in the first game of the Kentucky-Indiana All-Star basketball series.

There were Teague turnovers, a bunch. There were a couple of air balls. There was a technical foul on the Indiana guard for throwing a heat-of-the-moment elbow at Kentucky's Mr. Basketball Anthony Hickey moments after Teague had made his best cross-over move of the night.

"Sometimes you have a rough night," the UK signee would say afterward. "It was a rough night for me."

Until he stuck the landing.

Final seconds, game tied, there was Teague with the ball, motoring down the hardwood, pulling up to drain a dramatic 18-foot jumper with 0.9 seconds left, giving the Indiana stars a hard-fought 105-103 triumph.

"I just wanted to create a play," said Teague, who finished with 18 points on 7-for-20 shooting, with five assists and seven turnovers.

He's the kid who has already created some mild controversy. The Indianapolis product rejected home-state Indiana and appeared set to pledge his allegiance to Rick Pitino and Louisville.

But then along came Cal. With a strong closing kick, John Calipari and Kentucky flashed the lineage images of former Cal point guards Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, John Wall and Brandon Knight, and persuaded the Pike High School star to veto the 'Ville and bring his talents to Lexington as part of a glitz-glamour freshman class.

And Lexington is where the 6-foot-2, 170-pounder, rated as the nation's fifth overall prospect by Rivals, was last week, starting summer school. In fact, when the Indiana team bus broke down on the trip from Indy on Friday afternoon, for a time Teague was the only Indiana star in the Bellar-mine gym, having driven over from UK.

Not that he was alone. Future teammates Jon Hood, Doron Lamb, Twany Beckham and Ryan Harrow were in the Knights Hall sweatbox to cheer him on.

"That lets you know that there's a family bond there," said Teague after the game. "It was real exciting for them to get to see me play in person for the first time. It made me feel like that's home."

There was not a "home" feeling from the Bellar-mine crowd, however. Boos greeted Teague's name in the pre-game introductions.

"I could hear it when they called my name out, a little boos," he said. "I think Louisville and Indiana (fans)."

Too eager to impress, Teague collected first-half mistakes. The official stat sheet credited him with four turnovers, a figure court-side statisticians believed low.

Second half, Teague appeared to find his legs a little more. There were plays where you could see what the scouts had seen — Teague's explosiveness, his ability to change gears and reach the rim. He is smaller than Rose, not quite as quick as Wall (who is?) and not the scorer that is Knight. But he has undeniable skills. And the belief that riches come from risks.

"It took a lot of courage and guts on his part," said Indiana Coach Mike Hackett of the final shot. "He struggled a little bit tonight. And he never gave up. It takes a lot of courage to take that last shot like that."

Saturday night's return matchup in Indianapolis was Teague's last high school shot before it's back to Lexington and, summer school, basketball and more bonding.

"I want to get in better shape, keep working on my outside shot," said Teague, who had 12 points and five assists Saturday. "Get stronger and be a better leader."

Plus, one more thing.

"Be a sponge," he said. "Try to soak up everything they tell me."

Reach John Clay at 859-231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com. Check out his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/johnclayhl. Follow him on twitter @johnclayiv.

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