Following our recent discussion on themes to keep in mind for this year’s Friar squad, let’s take a look at the players.
Vincent Council (Jr – PG): The leading returning scorer will likely be relied upon to blow away the 13.7 points per game he turned in last year, but Council is truly at his best when he is not forcing his offense and when he is getting into the paint. He improved to become a capable outside shooter as a sophomore but he needs to resist the urge to fire when he can get himself, or a teammate, something better. Council should see some time at the two as well particularly if newcomer Kiwi Gardner is ready to take on significant minutes at the point. Council is their best player and he will have to perform despite being a focal point for opposing defenses.
Gerard Coleman (So – SG): Look for a breakout year for Coleman both statistically and as an emotional leader. The talented slashed was an afterthought offensively last year and still managed to average double figures despite long stretches without quality touches. This year his workload will increase and the empowerment will only help his confidence. While it is reasonable to expect an improved jumper (23.5% from 3 last year) Larry Bird is not coming through that door fans. While he is not a natural jump shooter from downtown, Gerard shot a solid 47.2% from two-point land a year ago, and that’s where he needs to live this year. Coleman should also improve upon his disappointing 53.7% from the free throw line simply by getting to the stripe more often with his explosiveness to the rim and developing a rhythm. Hopefully we will also see improved strength and ball handling. If so, Coleman will be tough to stop.
LaDonate Henton (Fr – SF): One of the most decorated high school ballers ever to come out of Michigan, Henton will face trial by fire in his initial Friar campaign but it appears he is well suited for the situation with a game that is mature beyond his years. On a team that will likely struggle to find consistent perimeter offense , Henton has range out beyond the 3-point line, as evidenced by his four treys in Saturday’s Mal Brown scrimmage. That said, “Buckets” (nicknamed for his scoring ability) strength is the mid-range game. The Friars will see zone after zone until they prove they can beat it, and Henton working the foul line area in the soft middle of many zones could go a long way to forcing opposing coaches to rethink their strategy.
Note: Head Coach Ed Cooley referred to Henton as a ‘faceup “four” man in a July MSG.com
interview with Jon Rothstein. The reference to Henton as a four was surprising, so we will have to see what plays out there.
Kadeem Batts (So – PF): Batts is another Friar with breakout year written all over him. He has proven he can shoot with 3-point range and, along with Henton, could make a living around the foul line against zones (a virtually unused tactic last season). However, the Friars are woefully thin (pun somewhat intended) in the frontcourt, so for Batts to really emerge he will need to show consistency and toughness against very difficult front court matchups in the Big East. On the plus side, the potential is there. Batts actually averaged more rebounds in Big East play (6.8) than in the non-conference (4.6) last season.
Bilal Dixon (Jr – C): Not sure how fair it is to have any expectations for an under-sized center on an under-sized team in the rough and tumble Big East but Bilal Dixon gave Friar fans such an encouraging red shirt Freshman year that his sophomore slump really stood out. So the question is which Bilal Dixon will show up this year? Dixon clearly lost confidence and focus last year and appeared frustrated with the ball dominance of Council and Brooks. Frustration which quickly provided Dixon with a long term stay in Keno Davis’ dog house. Another factor that led to Dixon’s regression was that he appeared to add significant upper body bulk between his (red shirt) freshman and sophomore years. As a (red shirt) freshman, Dixon was able to cope with the bigger bodies he faced by being a quick and explosive leaper. The size he added made him more of a plodder. Further, carrying the extra mass may also help to explain why Dixon’s performance and ability to be on the floor declined as the season wore on. Tough to tell if he trimmed down all that much from last year to this, but Cooley’s heavy off season conditioning program could help Dixon bounce back.
Off the Bench: Look for Ed Cooley to be creative this year and work the match ups and hot hand(s) as much as possible. This will lead to many different combinations on the floor.
Bryce Cotton (So – Combo G): Cotton, who will be a key player off the bench this season, was thrust into action as an undersized Freshman two guard in the Big East. Not an easy task and it was met with predictably mixed results (4.0ppg/1.5rpg/.5apg). However Cotton used his athleticism to prove a worthy defender when not overwhelmed physically and showed flashes of his scoring ability with a penchant for floaters and runners. It also appears Cotton improved his long range shooting stroke over the off-season which would be a welcome added dimension to his game (25.9% on threes last season).
Brice Kofane (Fr – PF): The 6’8” red shirt freshman has drawn praise from Ed Cooley in the early going for his shot blocking ability. It will be interesting to see if Kofane can continue the trend and build upon the successful post red shirt campaigns of Kadeem Batts and Bilal Dixon. Other than working against his teammates in practice last year, Kofane certainly has not gone up against the size, strength and speed he will soon be facing. If and how quickly Kofane can acclimate himself enough to be a factor and add sorely needed front court defensive presence and depth will be key.
Ron Giplaye (So – PF): Another breakout candidate, Giplaye received a paltry 5.5 minutes per game of playing time a year ago as his bruising physical style did not mesh with Keno Davis’ approach. Giplaye, a natural rebounder, represents a much better fit with Ed Cooley’s D-up or sit down approach and will get the opportunity to play a significant role this season.
Kiwi Gardner (Fr – PG): The Tasmanian Devil of point guards, Gardner, YouTube legend and already a fan favorite, will electrify one minute and frustrate the next as he makes the leap into major college play. The challenge for Cooley will be to contain without stifling. For it is Gardner’s ability to play with confidence and outside the box that will ultimately set him apart, so it will be important to accept some inevitable bumps along the way. Gardner will make questionable decisions and force shots at times but his basketball IQ is higher than many give him credit for. We just have to hope the bigs will be ready for his creative passes.
Lee Goldsbrough (So – SF): Goldsbrough saw little action last year (4.5 min/gm) and did not show much in that limited time. Just 13 shot attempts all year, although he did make 2 of 5 threes (40%). Goldsbrough gained some valuable experience over the summer competing in the FIBA Europe U20 European Championship despite not putting up flashy numbers (3.6ppg/4.3rpg/13min). If he shows he can createoffense from deep Goldsbrough may be able to find some situational minutes.
The Non-Scholarship Players: They put in the work knowing they may never see the floor. Here’s hoping the Friars get on the right side of a few blowouts so these guys can have their moments in victory.
Ted Bancroft (So – G)
Chris Carter (Grad S. – G)
Mike Murray (So – G)