Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Basketball Season Recap

One post in the last week - I'm slacking. If you've noticed that most of the really heavily updated blogs have more than one regular contributor, it's because it's darn hard to crank out 2-3 items a day unless it's a fulltime job. Anyways, wah wah wah ... time to take a look back on the basketball season that was - today I want to cover the freshman class for this year and how they did, and I've got an e-mail exchange with RamblinRed about next year that will be going up as well in the near future as well as some discussion of GT players currently in the NBA as well (Luuuuuuuuuke!).

Hewitt brought in 4 freshmen this year, with varying amounts of hype and expectation attached to them. Lewis Clinch, Alade Aminu, D'Andre Bell and Paco Diaw all saw "above walk-on level" playing time this year, enough that we can get a feel for their potential while in Atlanta. Considering that this class contains GT's best athletes at the shooting guard and post positions, the impact expected for next year from this group will be fairly high.

Lewis Clinch - 23.9mpg, 9.1ppg, 2.8rpg, 43% 3pt%

Clinch entered the year as by far the highest regarded of GT's recruits, struggled out of the gate and then missed 5 games due to injury. At one point early in the season many people were down on his overall game and openly wondering why Clinch was recruited over players like Mike Mercer. Once Clinch got healthy and his sea legs under him in GT's offense, he immediately began to show the terrific scoring touch that he had flashed in high school. Clinch shot over 50% from the 3pt line in ACC play, and was the second leading scorer among ACC freshman (behind some guy who looks like a salamander). You could make a solid argument that Clinch was the second best freshman in the ACC, and certainly ahead of fellow class of '05 shooting guards Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Courtney Fells, Brian Asbury and Martynas Pocius.

What does Clinch bring to the table for next year? He can really shoot the basketball, and that appears to be his strongest trait right now. During the ACC season it was impressive to watch him on the offensive end, he has little to no hesitation in his shot and a very quick release to go along with the athletic ability to put the ball on the floor and adjust for an oncoming defender. Honestly, I was expecting him to be able to dribble penetrate and score in the lane more than he did, he had shown a lot of that in AAU play but that portion of his game was rarely on display in his freshman season. Part of his issues seem to be with a slighly erratic handle, and like almost everyone on the GT squad he needs to work all summer on his ball handling and decision making.

All in all, Clinch had a very good freshman year. He wasn't a magician who suddenly turned Tech into a powerhouse, but he was also a long way from a bust. Clinch showed that he was highly regarded out of high school for a reason and that he will be a key contributor for next year's team. I'm not sure if he'll be a starter or not in '06-'07, GT is just so deep at the SG spot and Anthony Morrow had a heck of a year and will be hard to beat out - but I do expect Clinch to continue to get 20+ mpg, and probably raise his scoring into the 12-14ppg range on around 45% fg / 40% 3pt shooting. That's a very valuable player to have on your roster, and Clinch has the potential to be an All-ACC caliber player in his career.

D'Andre Bell - 18.4mpg, 3.9ppg, 2.0rpg, 36% FG%

Bell was injured a large part of the end of his high school career, and came into GT a bit under the radar but contributed right out of the gate for GT. He started more games than any other freshman (11) mostly because he was capable of playing 20 minutes without severely screwing anything up and he hustled and played solid defense. As the ACC season wore on and Clinch really began to play well, Bell's minutes slowly dried up and his quality of play seemed to tail off as well.

What does it look like he'll bring to the table for future teams? Well, nothing spectacular - he's a hustle player who plays solid defense but he has some clear limitations. Bell is somewhat undersized for a SF, and he can't really play SG. In ACC play he struggled against athletic frontcourts, shooting only 36% (despite having a very nice jumper when open) and rebounding at a low rate. There's a reason Bell was seeing less of the court as the season went along, he was struggling to keep pace at the end.

With Thad Young coming in next year and Morrow and Clinch both needing minutes as well, I think that Bell will play less next year than he did as a freshman - maybe only 10mpg. He has value off the bench as a ball handler, defender and a guy who can make open jumpers but if Hewitt has to play him for long stretches of time, especially in the conference season, it'll be a sign of some pretty serious problems on the team.

Alade Aminu - 7.7mpg, 2.3ppg, 1.6rpg

Aminu was a track star in high school and had only a couple of year's experience playing basketball, but his elite level athleticism and size helped make him a top 100 recruit as a high school senior. While not a project on the level of Luke Schenscher, it was fairly obvious that Aminu had a ways to go before becoming a productive ACC level performer. Surprisingly to me, he played well in the conference games he entered and showed that he has tons of potential for the future.

What does Aminu offer for next year? He's going to be the primary post backup coming into the season, and should probably see his minutes double. He has the athleticism and agility to be an above average defender in the post, but he badly needs to get stronger and play under control more - he simply fouled way too often this year. On the offensive end, I'm not expecting Aminu to be a force by any stretch of the imagination, but 5-6ppg on dunks, putbacks and simply beating his man down the floor wouldn't be beyond his abilities. As for beating his man down the floor ... Aminu is F-A-S-T for a man his size, he will be very good in transition as this team tries to run a bit more next year.

If Aminu can contribute 5-6ppg, 4rpg and solid defense in around 15mpg, this Tech team will be in great shape with Dickey taking the lion's share of the minutes and Peacock/Sheehan chipping in a bit as well. I'm excited to watch Aminu develop, Hewitt and the staff did a terrific job working Schenscher into an NBA caliber center (if you had told me Schenscher would play in the NBA his freshman year, I'd have called the nearest mental hospital for you) and Aminu has a lot more natural talent to work with.

Paco Diaw - 7.4mpg, 0.9ppg, 1.3apg, 43% FG%

Talk about the under the radar, Paco Diaw was so far under the radar nobody had any idea what to expect from him. Diaw actually started a game early in the season, and played better than our other PG's for a short stretch at the beginning of the year - "better" meaning "didn't dribble it off his foot bringing the ball upcourt". Unfortunately, that came to an end at Wake Forest when Diaw commited 4 turnovers in only 9 minutes of play and looked completely out of place against ACC competition. From that point on (most of the conference season) Diaw saw very little playing time and really didn't look comfortable in the tiny bit of time he did get.

What does Diaw bring to the table next year? Honestly, I'm still not sure I know. He's the player on the current roster I would say is a better than average passer from what little we saw, but he is very weak and looked like he could easily be physically intimidated by ACC guards and that led to a number of turnovers during conference play. Diaw hit the only three he attempted this season, but didn't show much of an offensive game in any of his time on the floor and was tenative when open for shots. There is talent there, but the jump in competition level looked to be so huge that often he was just trying to adjust to the speed and athleticism of the game.

Diaw will be an interesting case next year, with Crittenton coming in and his brother (Boris Diaw) now in Phoenix and not in Atlanta any longer. I think he's a very strong candidate for a redshirt to allow him to build strength and get used to playing with ACC caliber players in practice every day, but I also would consider him a transfer possibility at some point in the future. I think he has the potential to be a contributor to Yellow Jacket basketball, but I'm not sure next year is the best chance for that to happen.

Looking back on this freshman class it seems that GT has a future All-ACC caliber player, solid options at the low post and small forward positions and possible future starters and one player who is still a giant unknown. All around, this seems to be a solid class and one that can make a large contribution to future success in Atlanta. Not as deep as the '04 class, and not as top heavy with talent as the '06 class appears to be - but a solid class nonetheless.

(all photos from the excellent Gooley Photography)


Blogger Dan said...

No basis for this other than a hunch, but I think Paco leaving will be the reason we have a 'ship available for Storrs. Everyone keeps thinking Zam, but only because he thought about transferring before IMO. Zam improved a lot at the 2 and has enough PG experience to at least spell Critty some next season.

I just think with Boris going to Phoenix, Critty coming in, another PG coming in '07 that Paco has probably realized there isn't much of an actual spot for him on the team.

I love his attitude, but we're starting to recruit at a level where you don't have a Paco on your roster for very much longer.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous gtryan said...

I agree with dan, if anyone is transferring, I think it will be Paco for the same reasons.

Nice post, excellent write-up of the freshman!

4:04 AM  

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