In my post the other day about the “What if Players,” Richard Valentin from West was one of the biggest question marks on that list. But folks, let me be the first to tell you, he’s on the team, and he’s one of the state’s best players.
I was at the scrimmage this morning between West and Bedford. Not only did Valentin play for the Blue Knights, but he was the best player in the gym...by a lot.
I just really like this kid's game. Considering it is the first week of practice, and he hasn't seen game action since last winter, he is in exceptional shape. He's very strong for a 5'10" kid, and plays bigger than his height. He is extremely quick off the dribble, and can get to the basket at will. Plus he can shoot it very well, with good range. And he's an excellent defender, plays his butt off and hustles for loose balls. Watching him today, I thought I was watching a college player, not a high-schooler. And he is also one of the state’s better ball handlers, as he broke the Bedford press all by himself, dribbling through three players, while putting the ball behind his back, and maintaining complete control of ball and his body the whole time. He’s constantly pushing the ball, putting pressure on the opposing defense, and plays with a ton of energy.
And I know what you’re thinking, he was ONLY playing Bedford. But Bedford is actually pretty good. They’re still a work in progress offensively, but they’re very tough on defense, with some good size. Every time Valentin took it to the rim, Bedford’s help defense was quick getting there. He was met by one or two players at the hoop each time, and these were players that were much bigger than him. And he still was able to either finish it or get fouled every time.
Valentin is better at the two guard spot, but he is also a good passer, especially when driving and dishing, and he has the ability to play either guard position. His only weakness is that when driving, he goes right every time. Teams have to adjust and force him left to have a chance at stopping him.
West is a different team with him in the lineup. They don’t have a lot of size, but they’re very fast and very athletic. Their best lineup is when Valentin, Sammy Abdalla and Quentin Hunter are all out there together. Hunter is also extremely quick off the dribble. Some of their players are still very raw and unpolished. This is a team that will get better as the season goes on, especially with Coach Carey leading the way.
Only thing that could hold Valentin back is himself. He has to keep his nose clean off the court. He’s on the team for now, but he has to behave himself off the court and in the classroom to stay on the court. If he does that he is in for a HUGE senior season, and West will surprise a lot of people.