Thursday, October 20, 2011
Bob Spratling Memorial Basketball Preview
Basketball practice started last week, and while I know some of the smart asses in the room will make smart ass remarks about how it's still football season and who cares about hoops; I care, and I'm the one who writes here, and since you sheep read anything we read, I'm putting it out there. Mark Fox is in the process of hopefully building something special in Stegeman, so you might wanna learn before feeling all left out like a dumbass in a couple years.
This will be Fox's third season in Athens, and while he will be working in some new faces to his rotation, he'll also be working against a very difficult schedule. In addition to the usually tough SEC schedule, we'll have neutral site games against Cal and then either Notre Dame or Missouri in the Progressive CBE Classic in Kansas City. That's followed by road trips to always solid Xavier in Cincinnati, and to Boulder for Colorado. We have another road trip to LA and Southern Cal in mid December, and before that host the Cincinnati Bearcats and of course the annual tilt against Georgia Tech will be in Athens on December 7th (we haven't lost at home to the Bugs since 1976).
That rotation of new faces will also include two familiar faces, 4 yr starting PG Dustin Ware returns to run the show, and while he lacks some ideal physical attributes, he is an extension of Fox on the floor, and plays very smart. He is the consumate floor general, and has had some glowing reports this summer on his game. Alongside him will return SG Gerald Robinson. The SR transfer from Nashville had moments where his quickness and ability to attack the rim took over games, but when SEC play started, he got out of control often and was much less effective. An improved perimeter shot and playing more within himself would go a long way to helping the NBA-quick and strong defensive player become our go-to weapon this winter.
Our other go-to weapon should be G/F Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The McDonald's All-American from Greenville, GA is as hyped as any we've suited up in a long while. He's known as a silky smooth scorer that can stroke from outside or blow past SFs with his handle. He also has the athleticism that makes for a strong defender. Joining him, Robinson, and Ware in the backcourt rotation will be Vincent Williams, Sherrard Brantley, and in January, DB Nick Marshall.
Williams apparently broke Travis Leslie's vertical mark from last year, and in year 3, should be a solid backup to spell Ware when he needs a breather. The Irishman Brantley, from Dublin, showed a strong outside shot although he struggled to acclimate himself to the rest of the system. If he's more familiar with where to be in year 2, as he should be, expect him to be a big time threat off the bench bombing away from deep. Marshall, being a FR and late arrival once football is over, can't be counted on for much. But he has big time talent offensively, and is a strong enough athlete to at least give a Fred Gibson like 10 minutes of hard hustle impact defensively.
Up front is our biggest question mark going in to the season. Sophomores Marcus Thornton and Donte Williams showed some ability last year, but weren't very productive. A year of getting bigger and stronger should help Donte in the paint, as he showed the natural instincts, athleticism, and even soft touch in close, to become a solid SEC big. Thornton was our marquee signee last year, and should be our starting PF. He won't replace Trey Thompkins, but his all around skill level should allow him to show significant strides from last season.
The other returning big is SR Connor Nolte. He'll likely assume a backup role, and showed the smarts, hustle on the glass, and perimeter shot to be a solid 15-20 minute rotation player.
We'll also have several bodies to throw in, and hope some pan out to be solid. JUCO John Florveus, a Miami native, has gotten the best reviews in the off season, and has the length and athleticism, ala Donte Williams, to provide enough in the paint defensively. Tim Dixon, from Columbus, is a similar tooled player, but being a freshman should be much rawer and less likely to produce. John Cannon is our other potential C, and sounds similar to Dave Bliss in size and all around decent if unspectacular skills. We can only hope he proves as solid as our former Wisconsin transport.
Rounding out the frontcourt rotation will be PFs Nemanja Djurisic and Jay Rome. Rome, like Nick Marshall, is skilled but also obligated to football duties through January so unlikely to provide much more than athletic hustle. Djurisic's reports sounded somewhat similar, although obviously less acclaimed, to Trey Thompkins. 6'8 or so, 245 or so, with good court vision and passing ability, plus the skill to score from outside or inside. He's also said to be a more physical player than most Euro's get credit for, so a banger inside and on the glass. He comes to us from Montenegro via the prestigous South Kent prep academy, and imo, will really push Nolte and Thornton for time at PF.
*For those who don't know, Bob Spratling, well known to hoops message boarders as DC, was a long time loyal hoops fan who tragically passed before last season from a heart attack while driving through his Atlanta neighborhood.