Saturday, October 31, 2015

Men's Basketball Preview

This preview is a testament to how quickly things can change in college basketball.  Last year, Chris Jans appeared to be a miracle worker, transforming a relatively moribund program almost instantly into a program that came within a few seconds of getting a top-two bye, even while playing without Richaun Holmes.

This year was always going to be tougher.  It reminds me a little bit of Clawson's first year, to be followed by Clawson's second year.  Orr still had some good holdover players for the first year, but the classes following that come more from the era when it was clear Orr wasn't going to stay and recruiting suffered.  Even if Jans stayed, taking Holmes, Clarke and Henderson off that team was going to cause problems inside and out.

Then, of course, we know what happened next.  Chris Jans did what he did and he was gone.  At one point, the internet said all of our scholarship players were leaving.  That didn't end up happening, but Delvin Dickerson and Jovan Austin did leave, and while neither one of them is a great player, we certainly could have used them.

Chris Kingston made a move that was popular with the fan base by bringing in one of BG's fan favorites, former All-MAC PG Michael Huger.  Huger is a seasoned basketball guy who played a dozen years professionally overseas and then learned to coach under Jim Larranaga.  He brought Anthony Stacey back as an assistant.  It made people feel good.

And it could turn out to be great.  I think Huger has infectious enthusiasm, he's approachable and I think he has a more positive coaching style which is more in line with the way today's players want to learn.  He also has had the kind of apprenticeship you would look for.

What he doesn't have is head coaching experience.  And that's a trade-off.  Jans had coached a lot as a head coach, though not at D1.  Louis Orr had been a head coach.  Rarely does a guy come with the whole package.  I'm excited about him because I believe he loves our University, he wants to get the program back involved with the community and bring the Anderson roar to the Stroh.  It has been missing for a long time.  In fact, we've never seen it at the Stroh, really.  If that can be combined with a winning team, men's basketball will be back at BG.

Everything points to this year being a rough road on that journey.  May not happen that way, but that's the only logical thing to think.

BG returns only six scholarship players:  Denny, Joseph, Parker, Gomez, Tisdale and Mayleben.

Not to disparage anyone...but that's not much to start with.  Zack Denny is a very solid two-way player who continues to battle injury issues with his legs (noting especially his fall off last year in this context) and Pep Joseph showed himself to be a very solid PG.  Spencer Parker has been good in spots but never a consistent force...perhaps he can develop that now.

Anyway...after that you have Josh Gomez, who did start to play better late in the year but has never been a big minute contributor...and then JD Tisdale and Garret Mayleben, who have yet to develop into strong players.

Those are the knowns.

So, what are the unknowns to watch?  Because if expectations are going to be exceeded, this is where it will need to come from.

The most interesting one is Rasheed Worrell.  He was with BG last year but redshirted.  He 6'8" and from Alabama, had other D1 offers and from what I hear is highly skilled but raw.  Since BG's inside game currently consists of Parker, Gomez and Mayleben, this is where an emerging player could make a really big difference.

The other inside newcomer is Damejeo Wiggins from Springfield HS.  He was a late signee and would (by my guess) be more of a project than an immediate contributor.

There are four back court newcomers.

At the point is one of two JUCO players, Ismail Ali from Cali.  Coach Huger told the Blue Ribbon Yearbook that is a distributor, which is consistent with his JUCO stats, which had him at 9 PPG but 6 assists.

The other newcomer at PG is Malik Hluchoweckyj, the only Jans commit who stayed with the program.  He is a great athlete, good football player who was recruited to Big 10 and Big 12 schools.  He had huge numbers in HS in Nebraska, was all-state in basketball as well.  He's playing for a coach who was a PG and I like this guy's odds to contribute in the MAC, though it might not be in the first year.

One weakness for BG has been wing players who have some length.  The last two newcomers have a chance to help that.

The first is Wesley Alcegaire, the other JUCO player.  He's from Miami...6'6" and as an older player, will be more likely to make a strong contribution.  He went to Liberty out of HS, red-shirted and then played one unspectacular year.  He transferred to Daytona State in Florida where he had a very solid sophomore year.  He scored 17 a game, shot 37% from beyond the arc and shot 46% overall, which is incredibly good for a shooting guard.  Obviously, he can be 2 or 3 for BG.  You never know with JUCO players, but his apparent skill set is certainly something BG can use.

The other is Antwon Lillard of Cleveland Central Catholic.  If goes well, my opinion is that he has the highest upside of any player BG as coming in.  He was Divison II All-state in HS, played on a highly successful team and averaged 22 ppg/6 rpg as a senior.  That kind of production along with his length (6'5") would show him as being the kind of guy BG just has not had in recent years.  Obviously, he's a 2 or 3 in the MAC, but a mismatch at 2 for sure.  As always, time will tell and it may take some patience.

BG was picked last in the East.  That's reasonable based on what is known.  There are unknowns that could develop and could at a minimum be interesting to watch for.  To me, the guys you want to watch are the freshman.  The JUCOs are likely to be gone before the team is competing at a championship level.  The question is what BG gets out of Worrell, Hluchoweckyj, Lillard and Willard over the longer term...when the team rebuilds the front court...and whether Huger is ready to be a head coach.

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