With a season like the one we just had, and an incredible senior class graduating, it's tough to imagine that we reach the same level of success next season. Moving forward, we have enough pieces in place that we should be able to at least contend for the MAC and get back in the tournament. For us to get there, we are going to need some development out of our returning players. Here's what I would like to see from each player:
Jordan - He has to be our leader next year. Graves should be the best player, but Jordan will be the most important player. I want to see Jordan become more reliable as a decision maker, and aim for an assist/turnover rate at around 2.5. 5 assists per game and 2 turnovers per game will get the job done (Currently at 3.7 APG and 2.3 TPG). Obviously he needs to become a competent free throw shooter, and I think he can do that. His 3 point shot is reliable enough that he can knock them down sometimes, and I want it to get to a point where I feel like it's going in if he's open. Overall, I want Jordan's stats to be around 12 PPG 4 RPG 5 APG 2 SPG 2 TPG 38% 3P 60% FT
Graves - A lot of our fate lies in his hands. I don't think he's necessarily the next CJ, probably a tad worse. But I'd love to be proven wrong. I think what we need most out of Graves is for him to become a threat to create his own shot. A lot of his shots this year were spot up 3's and putbacks. If he's our best scorer, he's going to need more ways to get a bucket. He's got the athleticism to be able to break a defender down and he's got the shooting ability to pull up for a shot on a defender. I think he just needs to be more confident in his ball handling ability and he will become much more of an iso threat. This is what I would like out of Graves next year: 16 PPG 6 RPG 3 APG 1 SPG 1 BPG 47% FG 40% 3P 75% FT
Williams - Each of the last two years we've seen a player make a huge leap from freshman to sophomore year, first Jordan and then Graves. I would like to see both Williams and Segu make this leap. We have a hole at the 4 position to fill, and Williams seems like the most likely guy to fill it. I feel like Williams can make a leap even bigger than Jordan and Graves. It felt like he got better as the season went on. You know how Harris is able to break down a lot of big guys off the dribble and get to the basket? Williams is quicker than Harris, and he's going to be guarded by these same big guys. The key for Harris though is that he's a legitimate threat from 3, so his defender has to play him tight and it allows for Harris to drive. Williams isn't exactly a threat from 3. If we can get Williams to shoot even 30% on 3's, that's just enough where the defender will have to guard him on the 3 point line. He will blow by any big guy that guards him out there. Defensively, Williams has a lot of potential. A year under his belt should help him play smarter. I'm hoping Williams can get to this point next year: 9 PPG 6 RPG 1 APG 1 SPG 1 BPG 48% FG 30% 3P 65% FT
Segu - Hoping for a similar freshman to sophomore leap as Jordan or Graves. It feels like the starting backcourt next year will be Jordan/Johnson/Graves, so I'm thinking that Segu will be the 6th man next season. Watching Segu this season, it was easy to sense the raw talent, but it came with some poor decisions offensively at times, thus leading to a shorter leash from Coach Oats. By the end of the year, it felt like Segu tried too hard to play under control. He was afraid to look for his own shot and preferred to drive and kick, but defenses were aware and stole the kick passes a lot of the time. I feel like Segu is really going to benefit from the additional playing time next year. He's got a lot to work on with his decision making, but it's tough to really improve on decision making without the experience against D1 defenses. His shooting is solid already, he's got a strong handle on the ball, he's quick enough to get past defenders, and he's a willing passer. Give him a few years to develop more and he will be a nightmare to guard. Defensively, I think Segu will benefit from having the mentorship of Caruthers/Jordan/Massinburg this past year. Segu liked to guard opposing ball handlers full court, which he actually did a good job of making their lives at least a little more difficult in initiating their offense. But he had two huge problems defensively: too small to get through screens, and lacking awareness to be able to effectively guard players off-ball. These things need to change or else he's not getting much more playing time next year. If he can add some muscle and make better decisions, he's going to be really good. I think he's an all-MAC player his junior year and a potential MAC POY by his senior year. For now, I want him here: 9 PPG 3 RPG 3 APG 1 SPG 1.5 TPG 45% FG 38% 3P 75% FT.
The other guys we don't really know that well. Johnson seems like a starter right away based on his stats at Middle Tennessee. If JUCO rankings are accurate at all, then Allen seems like the favorite to start at center. Noah Williams/Hawkins are good recruits, but who knows how well it will translate to a productive freshman year. Rojas should be in the rotation. Grant has had a year to practice with the team, so I anticipate that he will get a shot at minutes too. If I were to guess the lineup, I would say Jordan/Johnson/Graves/J. Williams/Allen with Segu/N. Williams/Grant/Rojas/Hawkins off the bench (Hopefully not getting ahead of myself with the Hawkins talk before he has committed). This leaves Fagan/Bertram/Cadwell out of the rotation. I don't have a good feeling about Fagan and Bertram, considering we were playing a football player in the rotation ahead of those two for certain parts of the year. Hopefully this will motivate them to improve their games in the offseason. Cadwell is ranked rather low on the JUCO rankings. I'm sure he'll get a chance at minutes, but I don't think we will play 11 guys. For now he seems like the odd man out.
All in all, this was an incredible season. This was the best senior class in school history, and there is no way that our newcomers can match the production that they put up. But if our returners up their games and take on bigger roles, and some of our recruits and transfers are able to make instant impacts, the blueprint is there to get another chance at a tournament run. Go Bulls!