Over the last two or three season of Sycamore Basketball I have provided my “Thoughts on Sycamores” on the sycamorepride.com forum after each game. I’m going to keep that tradition going this season by posting my comments on the sycamorehoops.com page and I hope that you all will discuss my thoughts as you have in the past on the pride forum. Please feel free to provide your own breakdown as many of you have done in the past. It just adds to the overall experience and conversation.
The lone exhibition game for the Sycamores showed fans a mixed bag of what the Sycamores might be capable of this year. For fans it was the opportunity to see a Sycamore roster filled with new faces. Some credit must be given to Division Two Lewis who played the Sycamores tough to the very end of the game. Lewis (15 turnovers) turned the ball over just one more time than the Sycamores (14 turnovers) and they managed one more steal than the Sycamores with 10 in the game. Although Indiana State was sloppy at times they did spread the wealth with 20 assists. They seemed to be more comfortable playing a more up tempo game against the less athletic Lewis team. They will not always have that luxury in MVC play that style of basketball as many MVC games are won and lost in a more half court style, grind-it-out type of game. As much as these guys are getting use to playing with each other, as a fan I find myself getting use to watching them.
Here we go:
Format – first 5 players listed will be your starting 5, the rest of the players listed will be based on jersey number.
Justin Gant: I personally like Gant in the starting line-up with RJ coming off the bench. I think the biggest thing that stood out to me was 8 rebounds. We are going to need that kind of effort from him every night. He has to be stronger with the ball – he had two turnovers in 20 minutes of play, on of those came off a poor pass in the first half that lead to a fast break for Lewis. In the second half he made a good post move and got near the rim and missed the lay-up. He might have been fouled on the play, from my vantage point he has to go up really strong on the play and dunk the basketball. If he plays physical then he is going to see a lot of action and we are going to be a better team for it.
Jake Kitchell: He was limited because he has been dealing with some minor injuries the past couple weeks. I thought his defense was decent with three blocks, but let’s be clear – we are not going to be playing against the likes of Lewis every week. Simply put, if we are going to compete he has to be better than 2 points and 2 rebounds. Although he didn’t attempt a shot offensively he did add two assists.
Manny Arop: Didn’t really show what he was capable of last night. Don’t feel like he ever really got into the flow of the game. They tried to run a couple of sets for him and when they did he was productive – on his own in the flow of the offense just kind of looked out of sync. He has a really nice mid-range game, something the Sycamores haven’t really had in a while. Arop needs to rebound the ball better than he did last night – as it worked out he was playing in the SF position and only had 3 rebounds in 25 minutes of action. Kitch, Gant, Arop, RJ combined for 13 total rebounds in 75 minutes. Odum, Cummings, Eitel and Brown combined for 15 rebounds in 87 minutes. Difference is those guys are your guards. I purposefully left K. Smith out of this because I believe that he can play the 2 through 4 at any time.
Dawon Cummings: I’m not sure why I have been calling this kid Dawson with an “s” for the last 3 months, maybe it’s because I grew up a huge fan of The Hawk (Andrea Dawson). Besides the fact that I have been calling him by the wrong name, I’ve been more impressed by him than any other new name on this roster. He had 5 steals and 6 assists last night – a couple of those steals lead to excellent passes/assists – those are quick little 4 point swings that he is directly responsible for. So the way I see it he has 12 points on 50% shooting (both FG and 3Pt) and throw in his steals and assist – Dawon was directly responsible for 12 points, 12 points off assists and 5 steals resulting in at least 10 points fewer for Lewis. Now that number can probably be tied into a pretty solid plus/minus for Cummings . He was able to do all that damage while taking care of the basketball, only had 1 turnover. He also added six rebounds. Lansing talked in the post-game presser about Cummings having some “pretty bad habits”. I would like to have sat in on his development from day one on campus, I don’t see a lot of bad habits in his game. He has a tendency to gamble and get out of position on defense on occasion, I would say he is pretty acceptable to a back door cut on occasion – if the other team can execute that play then more power to them. I don’t see him as a real strong ball handler or passer – he got away with a travel in the lane in the first half and he just kind of flips some weak passes from his hip on occasion. Other than that I think he is primed for a big year.
Jake Odum: I mean I’m not sure what you say about the kid at this point. He only shot the ball 3 times – he did get to the foul line three times (5-6) and finished with 7 points to go along with 4 assists and 3 rebounds. He had 2 turnovers last night but that is an area I expect he will improve in this season. If his turnovers are down and his assists are up which I expect to happen then Odum doesn’t really need to score for this team to be successful. He made a nice lob pass in the first half to Arop, who laid it in for two. For the last two years we had seen that very same pass made to Lathan – as a fan you almost expected to look up and see Lathan flying through the air. It wasn’t Lathan, but the end result was the same – assist for Odum and two points for the Sycamores.
Lucas Eitel: I’ve been pretty high on Eitel this off-season. I think he is in prime position to have a breakout season he will have to play better than he did last night for that to happen. I mean he is one of the guys on this roster with division one experience and last night against a lesser opponent he was 0-2 from long range and had three turnovers in 17 minutes. He has to play better than this – granted everyone has off nights and some players play down to the level of competition. You can’t afford any kind of let up at this level even against lesser competition. The second you let up, you will get beat and Eitel knows that. I expect him to knock down a couple big shots at UCLA.
Devonte Brown: I’m really not sure what to make of Brown yet. On one hand he does a good job of getting to the basket and drawing contact, 6 of 7 from the foul line. He is pretty quick and does an excellent job staying in front of his defender. On the other hand he doesn’t seem to have very good command of the offense – box score doesn’t show him having any turnovers, I know he had at least one turnover. Best play he made of the night was on a ball screen, he split his defenders with a nifty little dribble and slashed to the basket – missed the first attempt but made the follow-up hoop. Like I’ve said before, I think he is a year or two away from making any significant impact on this team.
Rhett Smith: Probably played the most uneventful 7 minutes of college basketball he will ever play. He did manage one rebound during that time. My guess is that Smith will not be redshirted this season and they will let his development happen in practice and on the floor – mostly in practice this season. Why you ask? Because TJ Bell has a lot higher upside than Smith and they are not going to redshirt two kids that may never develop into division one basketball players. If that rubs anyone the wrong way then all I can suggest is for them to get better.
Brandon Burnett: I was a bit surprised he didn’t get more of a look than he did last night. I mean if you can’t get any PT vs. Lewis then who are you going to get PT against? He made a couple of nice buckets inside when the Sycamores were running up and down the floor late in the game. He missed badly on a three point attempt. Don’t see him being much of a factor this year – we will see what Lansing has in store for them. He did single out his effort in his post-game presser, I’d say he didn’t play long enough to make any mistakes.
RJ Mahurin: Not like RJ scoring the basketball is new “news” or anything like that. We’ve always known the kid can score and take charges – he probably should have had one last night but got called for the block and one on a fast-break. He needs to shoot the three ball a little better than 1 for 5 and he surely needs to rebound the ball better – he failed to grab any rebounds. That said, it was good to see him on the floor after battling injuries this off-season.
Khristian Smith: Thought he played pretty well – made a couple nice moves to the basket and was able to finish. He added 7 rebounds and he took care of the basketball. A time or two it looked like he wanted to go one on one and he decided to be patient and play within the frame work of the offense. To me that showed a great deal of maturity and further proves that he can’t really be treated like an ordinary freshman. He talked about the “youth” of this team in the post-game presser – this team can’t keep falling back on being “new” and being “young”. They are going to be expected to come out and play well and to win basketball games – excuses won’t get the job done. I agree that it’s going to take this team some time to mold and I expect the non-conference portion of the schedule to be up and down. I think they will find their identity during conference play and win some big ball games. I think that Khristian Smith will be a big part of the equation this year.
TJ Bell: I don’t think Bell is done growing – I mean the kid moves like a 7 Footer. That doesn’t mean he’s going to be 7 feet tall, but I think he could still grow a little bit. I’ve said since I first saw Bell play in high school the kid is a project and I still believe that to be the case. For that reason I am confident that he is going to redshirt this season unless someone else goes down with an injury.
Sorry if this was a little long – I know that some of you still haven’t got a chance to see these new guys play so I wanted to try and give you a little additional information about each player. I will attempt to do this for every game although not seeing all games in person makes it a bit difficult to give a breakdown of each player. Lucky for us we have a lot of games on TV this season! It should be a fun season, all-in-all I think we are a middle of the road MVC team that has the ability to make some noise in March. More importantly than anything else, I think we’ve got a good group of kids. I don’t see some of the chemistry issues from last season reoccurring with this team.
Please discuss further at sycamorepride.com