Sunday, November 9, 2008

Season Player Preview, Part I

First of all, thanks to CO_Hoya for inviting me to post on here from time to time. I don't have either his math or writing skills, but no one can say I lack enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Anyway, on to business.

The first age of the John Thompson III epoch is undeniably over. Each of the players that came in with Thompson have graduated or left for the NBA, including Patrick Ewing, Jr. Not only was this class the core of the team for the past four years, but Thompson’s first two complete recruiting classes after that class now just have two holdovers (of seven) in Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers.

That means the current incarnation of the Hoyas boasts just two scholarship upperclassmen aside five players that have yet to play a single game for the Hoyas. On the other hand, there’s some incredible talent on the Hoyas. On the other hand, the roster boasts four High School All-Americans and aside from Jessie Sapp, the lowest RSCI ranking for the expectated rotation is freshman Jason Clark’s sixty-two. Those two points will be the story of this year’s Hoyas: will youth and the lack of experience playing together derail the high level of physical talent and coaching this team so obviously has?

Last year the Hoyas were a fairly safe bet to be a very good team that some people felt lacked true upside. The team fulfilled those expectations, finishing the season in the Top 10 of many rankings but also bowing out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32.

This year, the Hoyas are much more of an unknown quantity. Due to this uncertainty, this preview is in the form of a countdown. More specifically, a countdown of the players in ascending order of how critical they are going to be to this season’s success.

#10/#9. Omar Wattad/Nikita Mescheriakov.

Already you’re getting less for your money, since Omar and Nikita are going to get an entry together. Neither has seen significant time (or any, in the Belarusian Assassin's case) so far at Georgetown, but from watching Omar and from scouting reports of Nikita, the talent level is better than many past non-rotation members.

Omar has a decent shot, even if he seems a bit trigger happy, and works hard on defense. Thompson has a preference for having two strong ball handlers on the floor, so I suspect that Omar’s role when on the floor will be similar to Tyler Crawford’s, mostly playing a third guard or short small forward and playing a shooter/defender/rebounder role.

Nikita’s shot is reputed to be quite good, but Thompson rarely seems to put a designated shooter on the floor, if shooting is the only thing they can do. That may change now that Jon Wallace isn’t available to take that role, but the team has plenty of shooters who also contribute elsewhere. So Nikita is going to have to demonstrate the ability to defend and rebound to take some playing time. Despite his slight build, that is more likely to happen at the power forward position than it is at small forward.

Luckily for him, we’re very young down low and so opportunities may arise for him to get on the floor. Omar has a slightly tougher row to hoe, but given this team’s youth and the very real possibility of running, there isn’t any reason why either of these players couldn’t grab a few minutes out of the rotation. Either way, I don't expect either to get more minutes than the eight listed in front of them.

#8. Julian Vaughn.

It was tough putting Julian in this spot, especially given that his presence gives the Hoyas enough post players to really compete this year. However, expectations do need to be tempered a bit with Vaughn. Consider the following lines:

Player% Min PlayedORating%PossOR%DR%FTRate


By the stunning 25% FT% in Player B’s line, you’ve probably figured out that’s Vernon Macklin, vintage 2008. And since this is the Julian Vaughn section, you might have an inkling that Player A is Julian. You’d be right.

Those lines are eerily similar. Both played the same amount of minutes per game, were equally efficient offensively and took a similar amount of possessions (Vernon actually shot more, which is pretty amazing).

Neither player protected the defensive glass but were decent offensive rebounders. Neither registered many assists. Both were underrated shotblockers.

The primary difference is that Julian can make some free throws (and so his ability to get fouled is a plus), but that's offset entirely by an abysmal turnover rate for a player who rarely registered an assist and was not a key part of the offense.

On defense, Vaughn will be a valuable asset because of his size. He will likely be our strongest and heaviest post player, which will be important against players like DeJuan Blair. He’s a decent but not great shotblocker, though, and his low defensive rebounding rates look like trouble for the Hoyas’ D when he’s playing center.

It’s not appropriate to say Vaughn won’t be a significant contributor this year. For one, he was a freshman last year. He had health problems and it’s entirely possible that whatever caused him to transfer hurt his production as well.

He also has some very real skills. He’s an excellent shooter for a power forward. He adds some bulk and experience to our frontcourt. The turnover rate seems unlikely to continue under Thompson as well.

But there’s also a decent chance his production continues more in the Vernon Macklin vein without the athleticism but with the very real ability to put the ball through the hoop without dunking it. That’s not a bad thing, but it is more of an issue when the other two post players are freshman and not fourth and fifth year seniors like last year. The Hoyas will miss Roy Hibbert's shotblocking and rebounding in general, and those simply weren't Vaughn's strengths at Florida State.

#7. Jason Clark.

The reviews of Clark from Kenner are rave reviews. He’s a blur on the court. He is a fantastic rebounder for a guard. He’s a great defender for a freshman. Pops has nicknamed him “Spare Change” because he does all those little things that add up. Oddly, his performance in Kenner seemed to come as a shock to many Hoya fans.

Much of this had to do with decreased expectations for Clark relative to our other freshman. Monroe, Wright and Freeman were all McDonald’s All-Americans. DaJuan was a Jordan All-American. There was even buzz for Henry to be at the burger game. Maybe as a result, Jason Clark’s consensus #62 ranking and his DC POY just didn’t seem to really impress Georgetown fans enough to expect big things from him.

This just illustrates how spoiled we’ve become since III began coaching here. Clark is an athletic, do everything guard who was a big scorer in high school but played as a much more complete player in AAU ball. He’s been lauded for his team play and his defense. His weaknesses seem to be an erratic three point shot and the fact that he’s a combo guard and not a pure point or pure scorer (this, despite the fact that we've seen how well combo guards play within Thompson's system).

That’s similar to how a player like Jessie Sapp was billed coming out of high school. Except Jessie, though ranked in the Top 100 by several publications, wasn’t Top 100 consensus. He wasn’t DC POY. He wasn’t listed by Bob Gibbons as a Top 3 Defender or a Top 3 Team Player in his class like Clark was.

And, you know, he ended up starting on a Final Four team and having the biggest pair of onions you’ve ever seen.

This isn’t to say that Clark will be better than Jessie during his time at GU or not. We all know that recruiting rankings and evaluations are far from exact, and Jessie has really improved his game over his time at Georgetown. That said, at the point they both came out of high school, the consensus of the “gurus” has Clark as a better player. Even if he is just as good as Jessie was his freshman year, he’ll be an upgrade over Rivers and a source of real improvement for the team.

Up Next: Numbers Six Through Four, including more stats and less conjecture now that we're talking (mostly) about players who have actually played college ball...

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