Wahooze Basketball Preview is here! The season snuck up on us – if you haven’t heard, it starts tomorrow night @ George Mason. Much like last year, I’ve got player previews for yall. Though there are some intriguing walk-ons (Justin Miller) and a transfer sitting out this year (Anthony Gill), I’m going to stick with the scholarship players eligible to play. In ascending order of importance to this year’s squad:
Teven Jones – 6’0” 180 – Fr.
Jones, a North Carolina native, joined the team last January for a redshirt season when space opened up due to transfers. He provided a valuable body in practices, especially when half the team got injured and gave himself a six month head start on learning TB’s system. Jones scored in bunches in high school, but doesn’t have the rep as a shooting PG. On this team, that’s for the best whenever he logs time at the 1. Jones is lowest on the list of overall importance because he’s got Evans and Brogdon ahead of him at his position, but both will be out to start the season, so we may see a lot of Mr. Jones early. However, he is starting the year suspended…so he might not play much if Barnette can handle the load.
Taylor Barnette – 6’3” 172 – Fr.
Barnette spurned his hometown team of Kentucky when he joined the Wahoos after initially committing to UCF…well okay, so he didn’t have an offer from UK – but he’s still a fine player. His sister’s actually on the women’s team, so the parents are sure to get real familiar with 64/81. Taylor may not have had big time offers, but if Tony likes you as a shooter, I like you as a shooter. Not a lot was to be expected from the frosh this year, but with Jontel, Teven, and Malcolm all out for the opener, Taylor’s going to get plenty of PT early. If he takes the opportunity and runs with it, Bennett may have a reason to keep him in the rotation, but I’d expect Taylor spends most of the season on the bench and learning the ropes in practice. [Note: in his press conference today, TB noted that Taylor will probably start the opener.]
Paul Jesperson – 6’6” 197 – So.
The Court Jesper may be one of the worst nicknames I’ve ever heard, so let’s think of better ones. Jespernator was supposed to redshirt last year, but then KT Harrell quit because he’s a loser. Jespy struggled a little bit, but played some valuable minutes in some big games down the stretch – admittedly, out of necessity. Much like the freshmen guards, Baron von Jespavich should expect plenty of minutes early due to injuries elsewhere. Afterwards? Bennett likes to keep his rotation tighter than I think will allow for regular minutes for Jespersonality. A lot of kids make big strides between the first and second years, though, so it’s not out the question that we’ll see a fair amount of PJ throughout the year.
Evan Nolte – 6’8” 207 – Fr.
Evan Nolte could very well be much more important to this year’s team than some that I have above him, the guy should be a prolific scorer in his career here. But, if there’s one thing we’re not lacking, it’s wings. Nolte’s reputation is that of a scorer, but he’s a bigger guy for a wing, so he should be good for some bodying up inside. I assume he’s got the defense down, as TB’s already said he’ll be playing regularly. Might Nolte step in right away to fill some of Mike Scott’s scoring? Potentially. But as you’ll see, I think there’s a more important pressing issue for the team.
Mike Tobey – 6’11” 227 – Fr.
I hear a lot of this: “YOU CAN’T TEACH 6’11” HURRRR DURRRRR.” You know what you can teach? Sweet sweet offensive moves. You know what’s really nice? When you have a guy that’s 6’11” and someone’s already taught him that shit. Everything I know about Tobey is obviously just reputation. But, he had some nice offers (MD, Xavier, Pitt) and he’s apparently got a skilled offensive game. This means Mike should step in, learn the Pack-Line D, but immediately contribute something Assane Sene was still hoping to develop his senior year. Now, Tony’s defense is hard. This isn’t going to be “hey just stand there and be tall.” I’m willing to bet, though, that we see a lot of the big fella this year. Replacing the inside presence Scott/Sene brought to the team will be crucial this year – not that it’s all on Tobey, but he could definitely help.
Darion Atkins – 6’8” 222 – So.
Speaking of filling the shoes of the departed big men, Darion Atkins is my 6th most important player. Atkins should spell Akil at the 4 for most of the year, which should provide plenty of minutes. He played sparingly for the most part of last year, but towards the end he started to make more of an impact. Atkins has natural instinctive ability on defense and actually showed a nice jumper as well. He definitely needed to bulk up and I imagine Akil takes the lion’s share of the time at their position, but Darion should be a solid contributor already at this point in his career.
Justin Anderson – 6’6” 226 – Fr.
Haven’t heard of Justin Anderson? Prepare to meet your new favorite player. Heard of Justin Anderson? Well then you already know about his infectious smile, charm, and ability to jump over tall buildings in a single bound. Justin is immediately my favorite player since Jeff Jones, as he was also a Maryland decommit. He’s TB’s biggest recruit so far, rated 4 or 5 stars depending on the recruiting service you follow. But, more importantly, he’s as athletic as anyone the program has ever had. Ever. Adam Hall. He apparently needs some polish on his shot – but YouTube the name "Justin Anderson" and you’ll see we’ve got little to worry about with production on either end from the guy. Justin is your new favorite player – and every Hokie/Terp’s new favorite to hate.
Malcolm Brogdon – 6’5” 215 – So.
Malcolm was more than a solid contributor last season until he went down late in the year with a foot injury that’s still keeping him out of the lineup. Currently, the outlook is a positive one, with no definitive return date but a general idea of coming back sooner than later. When he comes back, Brogdon will either start at the 2 against smaller teams, or spell Bub at the 1 when we play a couple bigger wings. Malcolm’s got a weird looking shot, but the ball tends to go in. He’s a competent handler as well and should be looking to be a starter / big contributor for three more years.
Akil Mitchell – 6’8” 234 - Jr.
Kendall’s already tabbed Akil as this year’s breakout star on the team – and with good reason. Akil enters his junior year looking to build on his semi-surprising second year. The least heralded recruit in Tony’s first class, Akil has already exceeded expectations as Mike Scott’s backup for the past two years. Akil’s got all the tools: smart on defense, enough muscle to bang around, some moves on offense, and plenty of bounce. Now, Scott’s gone and the weight of the front court rests on Mitchell. Is he up for it? We don’t need him to score like Scott, but we’ll sure as hell want the rebounding.
Jontel Evans – 5’11” 188 – Sr.
Bub returns for his final year at point, leading the team with his tenacious defense and sneaky speed in the lane. We’ll need him to pick up the scoring average a little bit, as when he’s aggressive, teams will need to back off the shooters a tad more. The former 757 running back dogs other guards all game long and, while he’s had more than his share of cringe-worthy plays in his time, I’m a big fan of what he brought to the team last year (and hopefully, this year). I ranked him as 2nd most important on the team, because this year’s team is going to have to run through the back court more than the front. Where does that start? The point guard. Get well soon, Bub.
Joe Harris – 6’6” 211 – Jr.
Now that I think about it, I don’t like Joey Buckets as a nickname, either. Well. Joe Harris is unquestionably the most important part of this year’s squad. If he stays healthy (please please please), Joe should lead the team in scoring, provide leadership at a number of different positions, and be our go-to crunch-time performer. Who’s going to take the free throws in the clutch moments down the stretch? Joe. Who needs to answer opponent’s runs with a couple of baskets in a row? Joe. Who will we turn to in our darkest hours of need? Joe. In the absence of the one-man-show that was Mike Scott, this city needs a hero. It’s Joe Harris.