Thursday, June 07, 2007

Player Profiles: #5 Boris Meno

There have not been many Davidson players in the last few years that have had their own cheers, complete with hand motions. It has been even longer since the Wildcats had a player for whom they could call a baseline OB alley-oop play. Despite his notoriously low percentage of hits, the dunks and high-flying blocks of Boris Meno have become a constant point of excitement for Davidson fans everywhere.

Meno came to Davidson with high expectations after turning down the likes of Tom Izzo and Michigan State. Although Meno’s talent was still very raw throughout his first year, his propensity for making big plays made him an immediate celebrity. It didn’t hurt that his name was also very chant-able. In one of the Wildcats’ key home games against the College of Charleston, Meno came in to spell Logan Kosmalski and picked up two huge back-to-back blocks on CofC big man, Stanley Jackson. Belk Arena erupted and the Wildcats pushed their momentum to an all-new level.

“Baww-rrriss” was born.

Entering his senior year at Davidson, Meno can look back and see an excellent career filled with incredible moments. He led the team in rebounds over the last two seasons, averaging 8.2 a game last year. Meno has had several signature dunks including an alley-oop in the waning minutes of Davidson’s 2006 SoCon championship, and an in-bounds alley-oop slam in the first half of Davidson’s emotional victory over rival Charlotte. Meno’s double-double in the 2007 SoCon championship game helped pushed Davidson over the top against College of Charleston.

And yet, Meno still has endured three years of talk about potential, missed opportunities, and criticism that he’s biting off more than he can chew. Despite having one of the most recognizable names on Davidson’s roster, Meno has often disappeared on the basketball court. His offensive game lacks the moves necessary to consistently score with his back to the basket. The Meno three-pointer always evinces a collective gasp from the Belk Arena crowd as the ball leaves Boris’ hand. Please no, Boris!

The criticism isn’t new to Meno,however. When he first started playing basketball in late middle school, he thought that his height would grant him sufficient ability to dominate his opponents. He quickly found out how wrong he was. His opponents razed him about his game; they laughed at his inability to do certain things on the court.

But Meno used the criticism as fuel for improvement. He transformed himself from a tall, awkward student into a legitimate Division I prospect. By his senior year of high school, most of his opponents were too intimidated to heckle Meno in the least.

Knowing his ability to overcome adversity and criticism in the past, I continue to believe that the forward gives Davidson a very dangerous weapon, both potentially and actually. Despite what most people perceive, Meno actually had a nearly identical three-point shooting percentage with fellow big man Thomas Sander. Even though Meno did not put up block numbers comparable to All-SoCon forward Kyle Hines, Boris’ leaping ability always factored into opponents’ minds when they enter the lane. Meno’s ability to elevate over opponents, even when they had better position, led Davidson to outrebound its competition by 220 boards over the course of the 2006-2007 season.

Also, Boris plays the game in a way that is authentically exciting. He works on his dunks after practice. He knows how valuable big plays are to a team’s momentum and a crowd’s excitement level.

When this whole four-year experiment is done with next May, we might be able to say that Meno did bite off more than he could chew. Maybe the talk of potential was just a little too premature for a player that has only been playing the game of basketball since the end of middle school. But maybe Meno will overcome the occasional groans about a botched play and finally fill every single inch of his massive 6’8” frame. He has one more season to elevate his game and work towards his ultimate goals of winning in the NCAA tournament and playing professional basketball. Don’t sleep on Boris.

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