Archive for Thursday, January 18, 2007

Quiet Riot

January 18, 2007

The nonchalant demeanor is almost enough to make one wonder whether or not it's the same kid.

Andre Linzy stands unassumingly in a hallway at De Soto High School. Basketball practice has been over for five minutes, and only a few beads of sweat remain. He's a very average 6-foot-1, and though his arms ripple compared to many of the other kids in his class, he's neither big nor thick.

He's an athlete, that much is clear, but a showstopper?

He talks quietly -- confidently, but quietly -- and he answers questions with the ho-hum attitude one might expect to see him attack a social studies test with.

He laughs at a few, pauses to mull over some others, and he always responds the right way.

He talks about the team and his role on it, his favorite memory in a De Soto uniform and his progress since first donning in. All the while his arms rest behind his back, a comfortable smile splits his face and he goes on, answering questions smooth, calm.

Calm and cool.

Is this the same kid that soars through De Soto's gymnasium on game nights? The one who launches the players on the bench out of their seats and makes the fans reluctant to relinquish theirs with his dunks and his drives to the bucket?

Is this the same kid that stamped his name into the De Soto sports conciseness one year ago with a stream of 3-pointers and buzzer-beating jump shot? The same kid that upped his scoring average by 14 points over the summer and through this season's seventh game had yet to be stopped?

Calm and cool -- sounds about right, De Soto coach Jim Bonar said.

"His personality in a game is so positive. When he does dunk, he doesn't act like he did anymore than lay it up," Bonar said. "He doesn't jump around and scream. It's not in his personality to jump around, scream and thump his chest."

Andre Linzy, the junior De Soto guard who grabbed control of the team whether he wanted to or not, is the top scorer. There's plenty of reasons why.

There's his long-range shot.

Linzy made 20 3-pointers a year ago playing his first season on varsity. Half of his sophomore points came from behind the arc.

There's the tool he didn't use as often last year -- his ability to drive to the rim. With then-seniors Taylor Burnett and Scott McElvain offering a potent inside-outside scoring combination, there wasn't nearly as much room for Linzy inside the 3-point line, and he said crashing to the hoop wasn't something he focused on until last summer.

It didn't take long for observers to see that he'd learned plenty in that amount of time.

"Last year I was the sixth man coming off the bench trying to do whatever I could," Linzy said. "I worked more on driving and taking set shots over the summer."

Most of his points come from the paint now. He scored a career high 29 Jan. 5 against Eudora and followed it up with 21 against Spring Hill.

He has hardly been De Soto's only offense this season, but at times in the ugly 71-42 loss to Spring Hill, he played like he was alone.

He scored his fourth point of the game to lead off the second quarter, then he swatted his second block moments later. He drove into the lane and pulled up for a smooth 10-foot jumper on the next trip down the court, later hit a 3-pointer and highlighted a 9-point third quarter with a fast-break dunk.

Linzy said he first dunked in practice as a freshman. He first squeezed it into a game as a sophomore and the dunks -- not high-flying "Sportscenter" fare, but exciting and improving nevertheless -- are only now becoming a regular thing.

Breathing almost stops on the Wildcat bench when Linzy breaks away with a steal, and he has yet to disappoint.

"He's a universal weapon. He can go inside and outside. He can drive and he can shoot the 3. He's even rebounding well," Bonar said. "He does bring excitement to our team -- sometimes I wish he would show a little more emotion."

And in that, lies a problem, Bonar said.

Linzy, calm, cool and confident in an interview and on the court, can be that way in the huddle as well, Bonar said.

He proved last year that he was the go-to guy at the end of a game when he nailed a jumper at the buzzer to beat Osawatomie.

He proved this year that he was the go-to guy throughout the game with his array of shots, blocks, steals, and yes, passes.

His ability earned him the respect from his teammates and a role as the team's leader. Bonar said sometimes it takes a little coaxing to get Linzy to seize that title, however.

"The leadership is being thrust upon him by his coaches and his teammates," Bonar said. "He's comfortable being our go-to guy, but he's still learning what to say and when to say it.

"It's a process and he's a quiet kid."

It can't be a one-person game, and it hasn't been when De Soto's played its best ball. Linzy's third quarter was key in helping De Soto crawl out of a massive hole against Spring Hill, but it was an Erik Hill basket on a Travis Crow assist that brought the Cats close to the Broncos with six minutes to play.

Linzy was the only Wildcat to score in those remaining six minutes, and he notched two more blocks, but the Cats were on the wrong end of a 17-2 game-ending run.

He had maybe the best game of his career against Eudora and was key in helping the Cats to the 65-62 double overtime win, but Crow was equally important in the final moments.

It's a team game, and without a twinge of selfishness, and of course calm, cool and in control, Linzy said he was well aware of that.

"I'm not real comfortable in that position as a leader yet," Linzy said. "We've been running really hard in practice and we're getting better. We all need to keep working hard and it will start to show on the court."

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