With Spike's retirement, Andrew Dakich has unsurprisingly, once again, dropped his redshirt. Initially, I really didn't think much of Dakich's potential to contribute significantly and consistently to the team. Other than energy, he doesn't seem to bring much to the floor. And is energy really the key trait that this team needs right now? Probably not. But, after watching Dakich play a little bit last year and, more specifically, a little bit today, I've come to the conclusion that there are four main reasons why he has the potential to maintain the legacy that Spike has created. Do I think Dakich can or will play up to the level that Spike played? Absolutely not. But, I think he can at the very least perform up to par and make consistent and potentially significant contributions to the team.
First, Spike serving as a mentor to Dakich is crucial to Dakich's success on the court. Spike is one of the best leaders on that team. His playing abilities are matched by his leadership skills. Like he noted at his press conference, he was not afraid to hold players accountable for their actions. At the same time, he lead by example. He was an incredibly smart basketball player, rarely turning the ball over. He was a playmaker, and, when he needed to be, he was a scorer. His basketball knowledge and leadership skills make him the perfect mentor, and, assuming he works with Dakich, Dakich should be able to develop quite well under his guidance.
Second, Dakich's enthusiasm is vital for his development. While Spike is the ideal mentor for Dakich, his advice means nothing if Dakich doesn't accept the advice. However, Dakich's enthusiasm assures me that he is more than willing to take some advice. Additionally, his enthusiasm likely has a positive effect on his teammates, much like Spike's enthusiasm. In big games against tough opponents, someone needs to be the source of energy for the team, and I think Dakich will be that source. Whether he's performing one of his trademark celebrations on the bench, or getting fired up on the court (after he scored his first basket today, he could be seen/heard shouting either "FUCK YEA!" or "FUCK YOU!"), there's no doubt in my mind that his Spike-like enthusiasm can have a very positive impact on his teammates.
Third, Dakich's style of play is almost identical to Spike's, with the exception being that Spike is just a better basketball player. The way I'd describe the style of Spike is that it is the intersection of unorthodox street ball and strategic basketball. Spike was obviously not one of the most athletic players in the country, but his creativity enabled him to be one of the most versatile. While many players struggle at Spike's height, he had few problems driving to the rim and performing some of the most creative lay ups, or making some virtually impossible passes to set up teammates. He was unpredictable, and his creativity made him a nightmare for defenders. I see a lot of similarities in Dakich's style. Obviously Dakich is not even close to the level that Spike was at, but he plays with a similar street ball/strategic basketball style. Much like Spike, he spends a lot of time moving the ball, whether it be with passes or on his own (preferably the former). I noticed a lot of that today against Delaware State, where he had 4 pts, 3 ast, and even 2 rebounds. The aspect of his game that probably needs the most work is his care for the ball, as he had 2 of the teams 7 turnovers. Regardless, as his skills develop, I think he could have an impact that mirrors, though not at the same level, Spike's impact.
Finally, Dakich has a LOT of support from fans, students and non-students alike. Much like fans loved Spike, fans, at least, based on enthusiasm at today's game, love Dakich. They erupted when he scored today and when he missed, there were on the edge of their seats waiting to explode again. Having the support of thousands of people can be a major confidence booster for players, and with his personality, I think Dakich will be using that support to propel his game to the next level.
Ultimately, I do not think Spike is a replaceable player. As I said before, his style is unique and organic, and I feel that replicating that could be difficult. However, Spike is leaving behind a legacy. He went from lurking in the shadows to a national household name quickly, and had he not been plagued with unfortunate injuries, his potential was limitless. I certainly think that Spike would love to vicariously live out the rest of his season through Dakich. Perhaps I'm being way too optimistic about the situation. But, with all the petty injuries we have right now, and of course, with Spike's retirement, I think it's important to find the positives in the situation. Though Spike's legacy may be over, I think that Dakich has the potential to establish his own legacy. It probably would not be as impressive as Spike's, but I think that it would be great to see the legacy that Spike was trying to cap off with a stellar senior year be maintained by Dakich, under the Spike's guidance.