Headed into the 2009 College Basketball Invitational, Richmond's postseason reward for an 18-15 season, then freshman forward Darrius Garrett was used but sparingly. After playing nine games in the regular season, Garrett had amassed four points and zero blocks.
Fans and Richmond coach Chris Mooney had a glimpse of his future for the Spiders in the first game of the CBI, with Garrett getting his first block of the season against St. John's University. Five days later against the College of Charleston, Garrett blocked three Cougar shots. In the semifinal against the University of Texas at El Paso, Garrett blocked another shot.
Final tournament line: Five blocked shots in 39 minutes.
"That really gave me confidence that I could really do this at the college level," Garrett said after Saturday night's 76-65 victory over Temple. "I did it really well at the high school level, but before you do it at the college level, it's really tough to know you can [block shots]."
Garrett set the school record for career blocks earlier this year, recording blocked shot No. 184 against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, on the same day that former teammate Kevin Anderson had his number retired.
"It was a great personal achievement for me," Garrett said after blocking five Owl shots to increase his career total to 194. "It's been a lot of hard work since I got here as a freshman."
Along the way, Garrett has had a number of strong defensive games. During a home game against the University of Massachusetts his sophomore year, Garrett set the Atlantic-10 Conference single-game record with 14 blocks.
What was most impressive in the game was that at the half, Garrett had only two blocks. He needed overtime to get the four blocks necessary to get the record and have the second-most in a Division I game.
Another memorable defensive game for Garrett was the second round of the NCAA tournament last year against Vanderbilt. After 6-foot-11 inch then center Festus Ezeli controlled the game early for the Commodores, Mooney sent in Garrett, 6 feet 9 inches tall with arms that look like they can extend to unnatural levels, who promptly blocked five shots and changed the whole tone of the game.
The knack for blocking shots has impacted more than the interior defense. Guard Cedrick Lindsay said Garrett had helped make defensive jobs easier for guards.
"I think it definitely helps us a little bit with being aggressive," Lindsay said. "But not only that, sometimes people get by us as guards and I think having him back there gives us another weapon on defense."
The offensive contributions from Garrett may be limited - he has 93 career baskets - but his contribution is more often measured by his defensive presence.
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Sometimes, even the stat sheet can't capture Garrett's impact on the game. Take Saturday's game for example. His stat line reads five blocks, but when Temple coach Fran Dunphy was asked about Garrett's impact, he added another unofficial stat to the line.
"He's probably got another half a dozen [shot] changes," Dunphy said. "You're nervous when you're going in there, afraid you're going to get that shot blocked."
Garrett said that he had noticed teams becoming more tentative on offense when he had picked up a couple of early blocks.
"It changes people's shots because they shoot shots they can't make," Garrett said. "It really helps us out as a team. It doesn't show up on the stat sheet, but that's an intangible that can be really valuable to the defense."
Contact staff writer Andrew Prezioso at firstname.lastname@example.org
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