2008-2009 Season Preveiw / Roster Breakdown
Hey guys, I hope you are all doing well. Basketball season kicks off on Sunday and I could not be more excited. The Aggies play their home opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff Sunday afternoon at 4:00 in a game that should not be much of a contest. The Aggies also played the Golden Lions last season and put up their most impressive defensive effort of the year in holding A-PB to just 37 points as the Aggies waltzed to a 64-37 victory.
OK – We had a chance to scoot up to Reed Arena last Wednesday to watch the exhibition game against TAMU-Kingsville and wanted to pass along a couple of observations from the game. We’ll use the same format we’ve used the last couple of years and just give a quick thought or two on both the “old guys” and “new guys”.
Let’s start with the “old guys”.
Josh Carter – Carter is in an interesting position this year. Being the only Senior on the team kind of forces him into the de-facto team leader roll. I will be very curious to see how Turgeon ultimately decides to use him. He has always been at his best when he can spot up behind the arc or just catch-and-shoot and use his quick release to score the basketball. Carter does not handle the ball very well and looks a bit awkward when trying to create space on the perimeter with the ball in his hand. When he does have the ball on the perimeter, he has a great move to the basket when he can attack the rim and put the ball on the floor with a couple of dribbles going straight at the hoop. Carter will be relied upon greatly to shoulder much of the scoring load for the Aggies.
Bryan Davis – I am also not sure what to think of Bryan Davis. There are times he looks so good as a force in the middle, and there are times on the offensive end where he reminds you of a guy like Marlon Pompey. I hope we see more of the Bryan Davis that led the Aggies in scoring 4 times last season and less of the Bryan Davis that went 1-for-8 and scored 3 points in the exhibition game against Kingsville. One thing you know you are going to be able to count on with Davis is that he will be a big body in the middle that Turgeon can count on to grab more than his fair share of rebounds and take up a lot of room in the paint.
Junior (Chinemelu) Elonu – Even though he is just a junior this year it feels like Elonu has been a member of the Aggie basketball team for about 7 years. One thing that stood out from watching Elonu last week was that he just looks like a beast on the inside, and the guy can jump out of the gym. I don’t think the Aggies will look to #41 to shoulder a large amount of the scoring load this season, but with them being so thin on the inside they will certainly need 25+ solid minutes per game from Elonu. I would look for Elonu’s major contributions to come in the areas of blocking shots and grabbing rebounds. Junior is easily the most athletic guy on the squad.
Donald Sloan – Sloan is going to be the biggest key for success in the Aggies' 2008-2009 campaign. When you see Sloan this year you are going to think something looks different. The Junior from Dallas looks like he has bulked up just a touch, and he came out on Wednesday with an attitude that he was willing to put the entire team on his shoulders and lead them into battle. He looks like a guy who learned from last year how to be a leader and came out with an extra dose or two of some much needed confidence. Sloan will also be relied upon heavily to put up points for the Aggies while running the offense.
B.J. Holmes – The small guard enters his second season with the Aggies and will be relied upon off the bench to run the show when Donald Sloan needs a quick break. Holmes has an above average shot from the perimeter and as mentioned, his biggest strength will be running the Aggie offense for 10 minutes +/- per night. There will also be a few rotations where Turgeon will want to go small, and you will see both Holmes and Sloan on the court together at the same time.
Derrick Roland – I would look for Roland’s primary roll to be filling the defensive gap created from the departure of Dominique Kirk. Roland can get low and has extremely long arms that help make him the Aggies' most effective defender. Roland could also be one of those “sneaky scorers” for the Aggies where you look up at the end of the game and he has 16 points and you have no idea how he got there. Roland will most likely be the guy left open on the offensive end as teams will rotate to Carter and Sloan in an attempt to slow down the Aggies. Roland has above-average offensive game, and if there is one surprise to keep your eye on this year, it may very well be the emergence of Roland as an offensive key for the Aggies.
Nathan Walkup – Walkup is one of those guys who you just can’t help but root for. He is a kid who always looks like he is trying 110% to only be 90% as good as everyone else around him. It’s these elements that make him a fan favorite. Walkup busts his hump on the defense end and is actually an above-average defender but he also has a deadly shot from the perimeter. The one thing that I would look for from Walkup is his ability to actually pull the trigger. I feel like there are more than a handful of times when he is on the floor that he still has a pass-first, shoot-second mentality. Hopefully as he works through year two as an Aggie he will develop a little more tenacity on the offensive end.
OK – Let’s now take a quick look at the “new guys”.
There are basically two new guys, both freshmen, that are going to have to grow up very quickly and become immediate contributors for the 08-09 Aggies.
Dash Harris – A quick-as-a-gnat point guard whose primary strength will be handling the basketball, Harris showed some flashes last week where you can see that he is a pretty slick ball handler. I think Harris could be a guy that can draw some oohs-and-ahs from the crowd as he can flip the ball with no-look, head-fake, and behind-the-back passes with regularity. He is certainly a guy that brings an element of quickness to the lineup and can push the ball the length of the court in a flash. When Harris is running the show I would look for the tempo of the game to be ratcheted up a notch or three.
David Loubeau – A big power-forward (6’9” 215 lb) who has an offensive arsenal that is already more advanced than anything you saw from DeAndre Jordan all of last year. Loubeau’s size and athleticism is obviously nowhere near as advanced as Jordan’s was, but it will not take but a possession or two on the offensive end for you guys to see how much more advanced his overall offensive game is. There were a couple of plays where he got the ball with his back to the basket and a defender behind him. One time he made a quick drop-step move right around his man and went unabated to the rack. The other time he turned toward the rim, squared up, threw a pump-fake at the defender and went right around him with two dribbles again getting to the rim with ease.
I think both Harris and Loubeau could be key contributors this year, but more so Loubeau than Harris just out of roster-necessity. With Elonu and Davis being the only other front-court guys on Turgeon’s roster, Loubeau is going to have to be ready to go immediately and probably to the tune of 15 to 20 minutes per game.
Harris will be spending time right away playing behind Sloan and Holmes, but there are certainly times when Turgeon will be forced to go small and run plenty of sets with any 2 of those 3 (if not all 3) on the floor at the same time.
I would look for your day 1 starting line up to look like the following:
I would then look for the following guys to log 10+ minutes per game coming off the bench:
Obviously, Turgeon’s primary strengths in his roster come on the perimeter as he has a full suite of backcourt guys at his disposal. The good news is that he will easily be able to go 9 quality guys deep, but the biggest concerns lie in the fact that he only has 3 big guys to rotate down low.
I am both very excited and quite curious to see how this group is going to come together. I have to admit, it is a little odd to watch Aggie Basketball without any of the guys on the floor who helped get this thing started (Antoine Wright, Acie Law, Joseph Jones or Dominique Kirk), but it is awesome that they helped lay the foundation to build the program to the point of sustainability that we see today.
When you look at this year’s roster and schedule – I would take an early guess that we’ll see a breakdown along these lines:
Non-Conference Record - 13-2
Conference Record - 8-8
Overall Record - 21-10
I would look for the Aggies to again make the tournament as somewhere between a 7 and 10 seed and win a game or two.
Again – All of this is pretty much just speculation at this point as there are so many pieces that they need to put together. I could easily see this group winning as many as 24 or 25 games, but I could just as easily see them only winning 18 or 19 games.
I think through 6 games we will have a much better idea of where this team will stand and just how good they can be. They should cakewalk to 4-0 (A-PB, SFA, Jackson State and UNC-Wilmington) before they head to Padre for the South Padre Invitational where they have a match-up with Tulsa and then either Illinois or Kent State. When you leave Padre after a pretty decent jump in competition we should know a whole lot more about this group.
Finally – It is also worth pointing out that Mark Turgeon had three guys sign letters of intent to play for the Aggies next season. The three guys we get to wait a full year to see are Naji Hibbert, Kourtney Roberson and Khris Middleton. All three players are in espn.com’s top 100 prospects (Hibbert #59, Middleton #64 and Roberson #87), and ESPN rated the Aggies' haul as the 16th best in the country. You can read much more about the recruiting class here:
OK – I’ve taken enough of your time – we’ll be going to the game on Sunday and will have a recap for you guys when we return.
I hope you guys all have a great weekend.