A little late on this, but Khem Birch exacted a measure of revenge for all of the talk about his poor dunk contest showing by having a nice McDonald's All-American Game effort this week. Birch went for 15 points and 10 rebounds and added four blocks. Birch was none too pleased about all the negativity about him during the week.
That negativity was due in part to his poor showing in the dunk contest. What wasn't mentioned during the broadcast was that Birch was recovering from an injury sustained in practice. So Birch went out and wanted to play well in the All-Star Game:
"That’s what happens when people are doubting me," Birch said after the game.
"They were saying I was doing nothing. I told them it was because of my eye (he was poked in the eye in practice), but they still didn’t believe me. That just made me play even more hard."
Birch made a legit case for team MVP, collecting 15 points, 10 rebounds - an incredible nine offensive - and six blocked shots.
Birch also made it clear he made it happen by himself. As in almost all all-star games, the guards paid little attention to feeding big men inside.
"I did all my scoring without getting the ball or nothing. I got everything myself," Birch said.
He did just that and was one of only two players to register a double-double.
That's all well and good and for Birch to put up those numbers (even while in an All-Star game setting) against elite talent showed that he's the real deal.
Still, I couldn't get over that last line. I don't know - it's probably just me, but that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Almost sounded borderline selfish to me and kind of like 'Look, I don't even need any help.'
Birch also added:
Quiet all week, Birch came out of his shell big-time afterwards, talking about major plans for his career at Pitt.
Such as: "To become like a saviour, basically to lead the team to the championship," he said.
"I’m going to work so hard this summer, you don’t even understand. I’m going to be a better player."
Hard to criticize a kind not even yet in college, so I'll abstain from that. I love the attitude about working harder than anyone can imagine, but 'To become like a saviour?' I don't know - like I said, I'm sure it's probably just me. But hopefully Khem realizes he's going to need some help along the way.
The thing I'll say is that any talk about Pitt not being able to adjust their style of play to accommodate a superstar is nonsense. Pitt did it when they had Blair and Young, allowing those guys to dominate at times while still maintaining their style of play.
And to be honest, in my opinion, Birch isn't going to be the huge scorer that a lot of people think he will be - not in the first year, anyway. Whenever you hear about him, the things talked about most are his defense and rebounding - not his offensive prowess. I think he can provide Pitt with some definite scoring punch, but the bulk of contribution, at least immediately, anyway, will be at the defensive end.
And that's just fine.