Markquis Nowell Tantalizes but Raptors 905 Fall in Home Opener

It was all going somewhat according to plan. Then the third quarter hit.

College Park Sky Hawks 118, Raptors 905 101, Box Score

Despite missing five players, including two-ways Ron Harper Jr. and Javon Freeman-Liberty, it looked like the Raptors 905 had figured something out to end the first half. They closed on a 10-0 run, the ball was whizzing around the court, with corner threes and paint touches aplenty, and the defence was swarming, all leading to a one point lead at recess.

Then the third quarter transpired.

The third Raptors two-way, Markquis Nowell, who lived in the paint in the first half, had his taps shut off. Raptors Exhibit 10 Makur Maker, who went 6-for-7 from the field, including 4-for-5 from three point range in the first half, went 0-for-2 in the third, eventually fouling out. College Park forward Chris Silva‘s size started to punish the rangy but wire-thin 905 front line, scoring eight points. A five point lead to end the third quarter quickly ballooned to double digits to open the fourth and that was that.

Darryl Morsell, one of the 905’s three returning players from last season, put up career highs with 22 points and seven rebounds, also adding five assists. Silva led the Skyhawks with 27 points and 10 rebounds, while point guard Keton Wallace, younger brother of OKC Thunder guard Cason, added 19 points and five assists.

Markquis Nowell – worth the price of admission

Five-foot-seven has always been a barrier for any aspiring NBA player. But today’s era appears even more daunting. Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jordan McLaughlin stands at five-foot-nine, and the next tallest rotation player is Jose Alvarado at an even six feet.

But forget about the odds being stacked against Nowell and just turn on the 905 game the next time he plays. He was one rebound shy of a triple in his professional debut on Friday, generating 13 assists with all the panache and flare you could dream of.

On Sunday, Nowell was hitting cutters, pick-and-poppers, and fast break streakers in stride, all while infiltrating the paint with impunity and finishing nicely around the rim. Perhaps his most interesting highlight was when he caught the ball in the right corner – an unfamiliar spot for Nowell to operate – gave his man a couple jab steps, and buried a three. For a 5’7 dude to create enough airspace with just a jab step, while hemmed in the corner, is pretty neat. Though he was corralled during that critical third quarter stretch, he still finished with 16 points and seven assists, and that final tally should have been a lot higher since he created several other open shots that teammates simply missed.

Nowell is built like a running back. His defence is relentless, mixing ruthless ball pressure with lightning quick lateral movement and an immovable base. He’s got five steals in two games, and his screen navigation and toughness are truly enthralling.

“His feel for the game and intelligence is through the roof,” Raptors 905 Head Coach Eric Khoury said before the game. “He reads the game so well on both ends of the floor. It’s like having a coach on the floor. He asks all the right questions, he executes all the schemes correctly, it’s great. I love having players like that who really want to understand the game and understand all the decisions through and through. You never want somebody doing something because that’s what the coaching staff said. You really want them to question everything and make sure they understand the root of it. It’s just a blessing for us.”

“Markquis just brings a calming presence to the locker room and on the court,” Morsell said. “He’s someone that sees the floor a lot different than a lot of other guys. His hunger, his toughness. I feel like that translates throughout the team. He’s kind of been an underdog his whole life so he’s hungry, he’s competing every day, he’s trying to win every drilI. I feel like that type of stuff is making the team better. It’s great having him here.”

The 905 look to split their back-to-back with College Park on Tuesday in Mississauga.