GSC Preview 2007-2008: Arkansas-Monticello

Arkansas-Monticello is clearly another GSC school that will take just about any player with skill who wants to transfer there.  There are only three holdovers from last year’s 8-17 team (Brett Potter, Derek Easter, and Jermaine Samuels), accounting for a grand total of 4.5% of the team’s offensive possessions.  Needless to say, it will be even easier for the Weevils to review last season than predict what might happen in the future.

What Arkansas-Monticello did well: Protect the basketball.

While the Weevils weren’t adept at forcing turnovers on defense, they did a fantastic job avoiding them on offense.  Nate Newell only turned the ball over on 10.3% of his possessions, which is pretty good for a guard, but not spectacular, since he was mostly a spot-up shooter.  Torre Doty and point guard J.B. Williams were also good, and the team as a whole had a turnover rate of 14.3, the lowest in the division.

Really there was no comparison to Newell, though, on any team, in terms of a high number of possessions used (Newell’s 34.5% is the highest rate I’ve seen in my several years of tracking usage) and a low turnover ratio.  He was able to convert a lot of those possessions into points, posting an above-average efficiency rating in the process.  He may have only shot 34% from the field, but it’s hard to argue that the team would have been better off without him.

What we learned in 2007: Teams that are both undersized and somewhat slow can neither defend shots nor rebound well.

This isn’t rocket science, but the 06-07 Boll Weevils played both slow and small last year, and as a result, they were by far the division’s worst team on defense, with a 113.9 defensive rating.  The next-worst team was Arkansas Tech at 105.0, while the league average was 100.7.

They allowed a league-worst true shooting percentage of 59.2 and a fairly staggering differential between their own offensive rebound percentage (28.3%) and that of their opponents (36%).  In GSC play, the Weevils only pulled down 63.4% of available defensive rebounds, while the conference average was 68.7%.  Only two individual players had rebound rates greater than 10%, and Newell’s was an anemic 3.6%, very low for his height.

It’s hard for me to pin down individuals’ defensive struggles, since I don’t really have adequate data to do so statistically.  I know that Newell wasn’t a good defender, but I don’t really have lasting impressions of the rest of the team’s ability.  With as much turnover as they’re having this year, it probably doesn’t matter.  Let’s just agree they were bad and move on.

What’s in store for 2007-2008: Lots of new faces.

I mentioned that G Brett Potter, F Derek Easter, and F Jermaine Samuels are the only returning players, but only Potter logged playing time among the three last year.  He averaged 16 low-offensive-usage minutes per game at very low efficiency (76.5).  He didn’t shoot well, and he struggled to hold on to the ball.  Still, as one of the only incumbents, I imagine he has a head start for playing time.

Now, let’s look at everyone else:

  • Justin Johnson – 6’4″ FR guard – Averaged 23 ppg at Palo Duro HS in Amarillo, and he presumably has the size to shoot at the D-II level.
  • Marius Williams – 5’10” FR guard – Not on Rivals, and there’s very little in terms of Google search results, so I have nothing.
  • Byron Wicks – 6’6″ JR forward – Averaged 7 rebounds for Triton CC.
  • D’Angelo Dean – 6’3″ FR guard – All I know is that he showed up in a few game results, so he must exist.
  • Giovanni Marchetti – 6’4″ SO guard/forward – Averaged 19/10 at Edsel Ford HS in Dearborn, MI, pretty solid for a guy of that size.  I assume he’s pretty athletic, but he’s obviously on the small side if they’re going to play him at forward.
  • Raymond Wright – 6’9″ JR forward/center – Averaged 19/11 as a decent HS prospect out of New Jersey, but like so many journeyman transfers, he has two lost seasons for which I can find nothing.
  • Duke Sturdivant – 6’1″ JR guard – Went to two JCs and committed to Georgia State, but that didn’t work out.  Either he wanted to play football (he’s a DB on the UAM team, and GSU doesn’t have a football program), or there were other issues.  Football would seem to be the reason, as I really have nothing on which to gauge his basketball or academic skill.
  • Marcus Baham – 6’3″ JR guard – Was a prolific scorer at Sussex Co. CC in New Jersey, averaging 25.7 ppg his last year there.  I’m not sure how that will translate to D-II, but you’d have to consider him a frontrunner for guard minutes.
  • Deron Brown – 5’10” JR guard – Compiled decent efficiency numbers in limited minutes for Morehead State as a freshman in 05-06, but he went back home to Murray State College (not the D-I school) last year.  Morehead State might as well have been in D-II based on the season they put up the year he was there, so I imagine he’ll be a backup on this team.
  • Mike Pilgrim – 6’9″ JR forward – Pilgrim easily has the best story of the UAM newcomers.  He graduated from Purcell Marian HS in Cincinnati in ’02 as a solid D-I recruit, choosing Cincinnati over his uncle’s Seton Hall team.  He was basically MIA at Cincy, prompting a few great Huggins quotes like, “I only coach the guys who are here.”  He turned up again for the 05-06 season at Seton Hall, where he played only a few garbage minutes, again facing questions about his motivation.  He went missing again last year, as far as I can tell, and now he has turned up at UAM.  If he still has some of that talent, he’ll be an impact player in the GSC.

The verdict: No one can be sure, but I’m not totally convinced that the handful of solid recruits will make a difference this year at UAM.  They’ll need Pilgrim and/or Wright to have an impact up front if they want to improve last year’s dismal rebounding numbers, for sure.  It’s a roster of wild cards, and we’ll find out if they can hang with big teams early on as they face Tennessee, West Virginia, and Texas in the Legends Classic.  I wouldn’t bet the farm on UAM’s success this year, but they’re a team to watch during the non-conference schedule.


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