Teyvion Kirk wasn’t supposed to start.
He planned his handshake for his introduction, a fake chest bump followed by a quick series of high-fives and daps, just minutes before game time with Jaylin McDonald.
Coach Saul Phillips wanted to stick with experience to open the season, just as he did in the exhibition game against Capital when he started five upperclassmen. But Jason Carter’s foot injury forced him to make a change.
Kirk wasn’t even supposed to be a Bobcat. He only committed to the Bobcats after former Drake coach Ray Giacoletti resigned.
And he definitely wasn’t supposed to lead the Bobcats in scoring his first game. But the circumstances aligned, and everything that shouldn’t have happened, happened.
Teyvion Kirk transferred to Ohio, started in his first game and was the best scorer on the court in Ohio’s 61-53 win Saturday. Nerves be darned.
“I got those chills out in the exhibition game,” Kirk said. “I try to keep my confidence high because that’s just the type of player I am.”
Kirk did most of his damage in the first half, scoring 12 of his 16 points during that time. His teammates distributed the rest of the scoring load evenly. Seven Bobcats scored and six scored six points or more.
That kind of balance is typically positive. Everybody touches the ball, everybody stays involved.
But as the game got closer late, the egalitarian offense sputtered. The Bobcats managed two points over a five and a half minute stretch, and the double digit lead they enjoyed for most of the game was four with under two minutes remaining.
They turned the ball over four times in the same stretch. The Bobcats are still in search of a go-to scorer, and it was evident during the 17-2 Alabama A&M run.
“We lacked an identity at times tonight,” Phillips said. “If I went as long without eating as we did scoring tonight, I might be a lot skinnier.”
The scoring struggles weren’t limited to one sequence, either. Ohio shot under 40 percent for much of the first half and sported one double-figure scorer at halftime: Kirk.
Kirk scored the only two points during the Alabama A&M run, too. With about 3:35 remaining, He sized up his defender, drove past him and scooped the ball around the post defender and into the basket.
He made his living at the rim all night. All of his points either came off drives to the rim or free throw as a result of drives to the rim.
Of the six field goals Kirk made, only one came off an assist. He proved he can create shots without help from his teammates. Defenders will struggle to keep him away from the rim.
He’s too quick, and he’s too strong to be discouraged from attacking the rim by hard fouls.
And Saturday, he showed that he can carry the scoring load for the Bobcats when called upon, whether Phillips plans on it or not.
“I like TK,” Phillips said enthusiastically. “For the bulk of the night, he looked pretty darn comfortable there.”