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E8 THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 10, 2011

HOOPS!

JOURNAL STAR, PEORIA, ILL.

It’s a total new thing for Walt. I’m not expecting him to run the team like a grizzled veteran point guard who’s done it his whole life.”
Geno Ford, Bradley men’s basketball coach, who named Walt Lemon his starting point guard

RON JOHNSON/JOURNAL STAR

Bradley point guard Walt Lemon will be responsible for running the plays and directing first-year Geno Ford’s offense.

f Bradley basketball were a circus, Walt Lemon would be the high-wire act. Or the tiger running free looking to DAVE REYNOLDS charge. JOURNAL STAR Certainly not the ringleader. So when new Bradley men’s basketball coach Geno Ford anointed Lemon as his point guard this fall, eyebrows were raised.
How in the world could this lightning-fast, risk-taking, turnover-prone, hellbent-with-theleather scorer be transformed overnight into an intellectual leader charged with making plays for others and channeling his coach on the floor instead of being chastised by him? The short answer is that until a more schooled point guard proves himself ready whether , that’s freshman Donivine Stewart or next year’s fresh-

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MAKING LEMONADE
New Bradley coach Geno Ford sees plenty of promise in his new point guard Walt Lemon
man, Ka’Darryl Bell, Lemon is the Braves’ best option at the position. Because of what he does bring. “It’s a totally new thing for Walt,” Ford said. “I’m not expecting him to run the team like a grizzled veteran point guard who’s done it his whole life. “We’re telling him to push it and attack, which are his strengths. He’s blazing fast and he’s super quick. The big stat for me is not necessarily turnovers, but turnover-to-steal ratio. If you’re getting the possession back, that takes some of the sting out of the turnovers.” For instance, in Bradley’s first exhibition game against Wisconsin-Parkside, Lemon had four turnovers. But he also
RON JOHNSON/JOURNAL STAR

Geno Ford, right, talks with point guard Walt Lemon during Bradley’s red-and-white scrimmage last month. Lemon will be starting point guard this season for the Braves.
had three steals and forced two traveling calls. “Walt had more takeaways than giveaways so that’s a positive stat,” Ford said. “We just need more assists from him, too.” That number in 27 minutes was just one, which is unacceptable for most point guards. But when you add his 13 points to his defensive work, it was a productive night for Lemon. “I thought it went all right,” Lemon said postgame. “I had a couple of turnovers (two at the point and two at the 2 guard), but nobody’s perfect. I’m bringing energy to the team and working on self-control.” Lemon made two of Bradley’s four 3-pointers in three attempts. He’s proud of his shooting progress from last year when he hit just 11 of 34 treys for 32 percent. His shot is no longer flat, but has a nice rainbow arc to it. He also scored six points on fast breaks vs. Parkside. Because of his speed and the Braves’ much faster pace under Ford, Lemon’s potential for transition points this season is a real key for this team. “I fit good into the new style,” he said. “Fast pace is the way I like to play .” But the way he needs to play is under control and with everyone else on the team in mind. BU assistant coach Willie Scott, one of the Braves’ all-time great point guards, has taken Lemon under his wing and tried to ingrain in him the kind of mentality needed for the position. “Walt’s bigger and jumps much better than I did,” Scott said. “I think those things make him faster and quicker than me, too.” That’s quite a statement considering Scott, aka The Roadrunner, is thought to be among the top couple speediest players in Bradley history . “Honestly point guard is a hard , job,” Lemon said. “I’m not going to sit around and say it’s easy . It’s hard because you’ve got to be the coach on the floor. “I think I’m doing really good as far as communicating and getting my teammates where they need to be. The thing I need to do better is be more vocal at all times and keep talking to Coach Ford on the sidelines. Just be more of a floor general.” Based on the Parkside game, he’ll have some able backup help from Stewart. While Stewart’s six assists, many on outstanding open-court passes, show his much greater experience at the position, Lemon has a big edge in athleticism. That translates into an ability to pressure defensively another , important component to Ford’s system. “Walt’s learning on the fly ,” Ford said. “As the year goes along, he will get better and better.”
Dave Reynolds can be reached at 686-3210, at dreynolds@pjstar.com or on Twitter at davereynolds2.

ADAM GERIK/JOURNAL STAR

Walt Lemon drives to the basket last season in a Missouri Valley Conference tournament game against Wichita State. in St. Louis. The 70-56 loss ended the Braves season in the MVC semifinals.