The Tigers were the last team into the GSC Tournament from the West last year, but they had a four-game cushion over UAM for that distinction. Let’s take a look at this year’s prospects for Charlie Schaef’s OBU squad.
What Ouachita Baptist did well: Shoot and protect the basketball.
Last year’s OBU team was unique in that they were reasonably good when they had the basketball but equally bad when they were defending the basket. In divisional games, the Tigers had both the third most efficient offense and the third least efficient defense.
Offensively, Ouachita was successful mostly because they were the best three-point shooting team by percentage. They also tied for the league lead in lowest turnover ratio at 14.4, which helped them overcome a size and rebounding deficiency. The trio of Memo Rodriguez, Jaranimo Marks, and Brandon Dawson made over 40% of their three-point attempts, causing some significant problems for teams who could not defend all three at once.
Defensively, forcing turnovers was the team’s only strong point. The Tigers allowed the division’s second-worst true shooting percentage and were dominated on the defensive boards, also second-worst in that category.
What we learned in 2007: The Tigers play small, but smart.
Only two players on this year’s roster are 6’7″ or taller, so Ouachita is going to struggle to some extent rebounding the ball. While it’s true that short players can be good rebounders, the Tigers are really not much better than their size in this respect, so OBU has to find other ways to succeed.
Last year, outside shooting was OBU’s primary weapon to overcome their size disadvantage. They’re also athletic enough to hang with bigger players defensively, even if they can’t effectively stop them. The end result: they’re still hanging around at the end to win a few games.
What’s in store for 2008: Possibly an even greater shift toward the long-range game.
OBU returns their two best players from last year, F Memo Rodriguez and G Jaranimo Marks, so that can’t be a bad thing. They also return a capable point man in Rowan Ledbetter and yet another outside threat in Daniel Munday.
What the Tigers lost, on the other hand, is possibly more important. Gone are the two best rebounders from a team that was already struggling on the boards: Shawn Bridgewater and Derrick Woods. While Memo Rodriguez and fellow returnee Justin Delamar are solid rebounders, OBU lacks the kind of inside threat (from returning players) that allowed them to counter with an effective outside attack.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the new players:
- Antonio Benjamin – 6’1″ JR guard: Played last year at Bevill State, averaging 13 pts and 4 rebounds per game, where he was also considered a good defensive player.
- Rontrell Bailey – 6’2″ FR guard: A highly-touted football recruit (he made the Elite 11), Bailey had originally committed at UA-Pine Bluff this year. Unlike other players of his stature in the GSC, he’s only a freshman, and this is his first year of college. Unfortunately, it’s rather tough to find info about his basketball skill among all the football articles. He had originally committed to Arkansas-Pine Bluff, but for some reason backed out and went to OBU. Perhaps it’s because they are letting him play two sports? I don’t know, since that was originally the reason he was going to UAPB instead of an even bigger school. I get the impression he’ll be a good player, even though he’s likely buried on the depth chart underneath all the other OBU guards for now.
- Murray Benton – 6’5″ FR guard: Played the high school transfer game, moving down to a 4A school (Valley View) for his senior season in order to secure more playing time. There, he was a prolific scorer, netting 30 in 8 straight games at one point. He’ll fit right in as a scorer who does most of his damage outside the arc. Interestingl, he is the only incoming recruit not projected in this summary to be an “impact” player.
- Ed Keyes – 6’7″ JR guard (?): Averaged 14/7 at Central Florida CC and was his team’s leader in both categories. I’m thinking his listing as a guard is a mistake, and I’m guessing he’ll step in right away at forward.
- Daniel Maddox – 6’8″ JR forward: Probably not quite the producer Keyes should be, but a decent recruit nonetheless. The Tigers could use more big bodies, so he will be that and probably more.
- Quentin “Q” Smith – 6’3″ JR forward (?): His build looks like a guard’s to me. He only averaged 7 points/3 rebounds, so I wouldn’t expect much, except for some solid defensive play.
It looks as though OBU did what they needed to do, short of landing an outstanding transfer post player. They added a couple of solid transfers and should keep the wheel of scoring guards turning. They’ll have to keep shooting well, though, as the rebounding game doesn’t appear to be improving. They’re still an impact post player away from having a serious first place contending team.