Some thoughts: 23-24 returnees |

Some thoughts: 23-24 returnees


All American
Aug 29, 2011
So probably pointless to do this during the Portal Season but I feel like we tend to focus a lot on who's leaving (or potentially leaving) and who's coming in this time of year. But with potentially five departures (Edwards, Judah, JGIII, JBA, Torrence) and five freshmen (Carey, Brown, Bell, Copeland, Taylor) and two sophomores (Hima, Benny) returning and only two newcomers (JJ -- will make a big impact -- and Patterson, less likely to make a big impact) signed up so far, I think it's safe to assume at least 3-4 of the guys coming back will play key roles for us this season. Figure it's worth a look to see what we might have returning, regardless of who else we manage to convince to portal our way.

So with that ...

Benny Williams -- 7 ppg, 4 rpg on 45/40/65 shooting
The optimistic view:
Benny seems like a good kid who wants to be successful. This may seem like nothing, but it's something to start with. Red is a different voice and while I don't really buy into the 'JB was the issue' view that is often the key reason guys transfer or are disappointing in one way or another, maybe Red can get through to Benny or even put him in a system that better suits his game. His athleticism is legit. So is his size. Maybe the combo of the new staff, new system and another off-season of hard work puts Benny in a spot where he's a more efficient scorer and better all-around player. It's also worth noting he DID improve. Hit close to 40% on threes, rebounded a bit better, and gave us some nice moments early with some downright impressive moments after returning from Siberia (24/9 vs. Pitt; 18/11 with 5 steals vs. Wake in the last game). His per/40 numbers were 13 ppg and 7.4. Not sure I see that in his future but could he get to a fairly efficient 12/6 while being a better presence defensively with his length and athleticism? Yeah, I don't see why not.

The pessimistic view: There are a lot of things we could talk about here but I think the question is really this: Is Benny a basketball player or is Benny a tall kid with tremendous athleticism and length? There is the thought that maybe the new coach doesn't have him looking over his shoulder quite so much, but the reality is the old coach played Benny a lot ... arguably a ton given the level of production. In two years, Benny's appeared in 59 games and played close to 1,000 minutes. He logged almost 11 minutes a game in a season where he shot 34/9/62. He was closing in on 700 minutes last season and, while there was undoubtedly improvement, there was absolutely no telling what you were getting from him game to game. I'm also happy to say the jumper looked better and Benny looked much more confident taking it. That said, 19 of 46 is the ultimate small sample size warning. He had a couple nice mid-post fadeaways, but I still have yet to see him beat someone off the dribble. I'm sure he has but I can't recall it happening. So we've got two years of Benny that tells us he's talented, but not consistently productive. It can make it difficult to buy into him as a key piece (30+ min player) on a team that is back in the NCAA tourney next year.

What I hope to see: The thing for me with Benny is intensity and dirty work. I'm not the old guy saying 'You're 6-10!! Get in the paint!!!" so much as I'm saying the place to start is making an impact and building up confidence. If he's intense from the jump in these games, crashing the glass, and running the floor -- he could get to 12/6 a game by simply hustling, being aggressive and using his natural gifts. He's going to put up defensive numbers that way too -- steals, blocks, deflections, defensive rebounds. Those are as much hustle as anything else. From there if he starts feeling it offensively and becomes and dynamic wing scorer, all the better. But it starts with seeing match his athleticism with a similar level of aggressiveness.

Maliq Brown
The optimistic view:
Brown was sort of the opposite of Benny in some ways. Showed an excellent feel for the game. The stuff that showed up in the box score was solid for a guy who started the year buried on the bench and wasn't a big-time prospect. Put up solid numbers (5.7 ppg/4.6 rpg/.698 FG) and got to double-figures 8 times. Beyond the box score, he just seems like a kid who has a nice feel for the game. His subtle movement in the paint allowed him to take advantage of the attention Jesse drew and defensively the rotations were solid (not perfect, of course) and he deflected a ton of passes, got a bunch of strips. He had a good number of steals and blocks (for a guy who's unlikely to be a huge shot-blocker). He's a guy who knows what he does and plays within himself. Deserves credit as well for being ready for his opportunities when they came -- didn't log consistent minutes early, but did good things when he got in the game. You need those types of guys on a basketball team.

The pessimistic view: Not quite as productive later in the season and his size (let's say somewhere in the 6'7" range) is a little on the small side for a guy who seems to very much be a 4. Not sure on his quickness either if we are switching to a more aggressive defense with a healthier dose of m2m. His offensive game was layups. Literally only layups. There's likely more there but not sure exactly how much more projection there is in his game. Could be wrong here (and that would be great), but he feels a little bit like what you see is what you get.

What I'd like to see: Brown coming back a little stronger would be great. Feel like maybe he adds a drop step or some sort of baby hook and develops into a Rick Jackson-ish type? Will be interesting to see how he handles man if we go that route. Probably at his best in a role where he's not playing 36 mpg but not sure what the rest of the roster will look like. Not too worried about range or jumper or putting the ball on the floor. Not sure that's in his game.

Justin Taylor
The optimistic view:
Taylor had a couple moments and proved to be a potentially good shooter with some more variety in his game. His turnaround jumper is intriguing. Also moves his feet well on defense and appeared to have pretty quick hands as well. His frame didn't look like that of most of our freshmen, generally. He's a strong kid and he has some decent size to at least get by at the 3 for stretches. Should be able to knock down free throws and I would think at some point in his career could get himself to line 3 times a game or so. Didn't show much in the way of play-making for himself or others, but also didn't turn the ball over. A pretty well-rounded player with some room to improve.

The pessimistic view: Taylor scored 25 points against Bryant ... but scored just 97 points in his other 28 games (3.5 ppg) while playing a regular role in the rotation (~17 mpg). That's ... concerning. I mean, he obviously wasn't the top option and he didn't appear hesitant to shoot, but you'd think if you have some offense it would show up at times over the course of the season. It never did. That's not great. He showed little to nothing off the dribble, wasn't a terrible rebounder but didn't stand out in that department. I think the thing with Taylor if you're down on him is this: what is it he's going to do to help you win games? He can play at this level, but can he help you win against good competition? Not sure. Really struggle the last 11 games and was losing PT at that point as well.

What I'd like to see: Taylor, like all these guys, deserves the benefit of a wait and see approach, so I'm not going to flip out about a nondescript freshman year. That said, some here are pretty excited about year 2 for Taylor but I'm not sure exactly where that comes from either. Seeing him in a m2m scenario would be interesting b/c he works hard on that end and moves well for his size. He can obviously shoot a bit -- can he do it with a higher volume? Ultimately, I'd just like to see a more confident, aggressive Taylor on the offensive end. See if some of those glimpses of mid-range fadeaways and solid size/athleticism might show some positive results. Not super down on the kid but also not really sure what he is as a player.

Chris Bell
The optimistic view:
Bell got a bunch of shots up and played 600 minutes. He made enough shots to believe there's something there. He is a shooter who came in as a freshman and made .345 from three. That's not lights out, but it's something. He actually shot close to 40% through the end of january but struggled in Feb/March until the conf tourney. Showed the occasional turnaround jumper and finished a few fast breaks which at least indicates he may be able to score in ways outside of spot-up shooting. Confidence is not an issue -- came out shooting and didn't stop. Not sure he'll ever be a monster on the boards but he was a bit more of a factor as the season went on. Not a crazy good athlete, but he's got some athleticism and may be a solid m2m defender with his length and athleticism.

The pessimistic view: Bell is a shooter ... but at this point not much else. To play nearly 600 minutes and have just 5 blocks and 5 steals through your first 28 games and just 13 assists total is hard to really fathom. His per 40 numbers are ok from a scoring standpoint, incredibly minimal everywhere else. Could be OK in m2m, could be a liability. Nice athleticism but not sure how quick his feet are and how committed he is on that end (not saying he isn't but he didn't stand out on the defensive end as a freshman). Struggled in the zone.

What I'd like to see: Not really sure. Love to see him be more of a factor on the glass and defensively and maybe we see that but I'm not really sure that will ever be his calling card. Not sure if he loses out some if Judah comes back and Westry/JJ are healthy. Could be. A new system on both sides of the ball will present an opportunity for both he and Taylor to potentially show a bit more ... or be exposed a bit. That will likely be the key for both. If Bell's athleticism plays up in a new defensive system and he's a better shooter/scorer in year 2 he could certainly help us win some games.

Quadir Copeland
The optimistic view:
So Copeland doesn't have the numbers and didn't get the opportunity any of the others got on this list thus far (only Hima and the injured Carey played less, and Hima appeared in more games). That said, oddly, JB still called his number some during conference play (he averaged 12 mpg -- for better or for worse) in our last 8 games. I think Copeland has a little more of a basketball player vibe than Bell (who I'd describe as basically a shooter) and Taylor (who has an intriguing set of physical gifts and basketball skill, but the two don't seem to translate into much production). Copeland's per 40 rebound, assist, and steal numbers actually look better than Bell/Taylor and compare pretty favorably to Benny. Whether that actually translates when he's in a bigger role is questionable, but he feels like more of a factor when he's on the floor. Pretty good handle for his size, pretty shifty driving the ball and not afraid of contact. Not sure how he'd fit defending other guards but there may be something there.

The pessimistic view: Copeland has a weird looking shot that also doesn't seem to go in very often. He's creative and confident, but he's also a turnover machine at times. Not sure if he ends up being a bit of a tweener defensively -- not quick enough to guard opposing guards, but not quite strong enough to hold up inside.

What I'd like to see: Love to see him come in to camp in great shape and with an improved handle. If he's a tad quicker and is making good decisions with a solid handle, he may really benefit from a system that may lead to more transition. Kid has a really good attitude and while improved shooting would be great, he could make an impact with hustle, rebounding, and good decision-making/passing. Does that make him a Judah backup if Judah comes back? Or maybe a third guard if Judah is gone? Or maybe just a swiss army knife off the bench? Not exactly sure but I do believe he has a role here even if he never really becomes much of a shooter.

Mounir Hima
What I'd like to see:
Cutting this one short because I think we know what Hima is at least at this point, which is a decent backup center. So what I have to imagine everyone wants to see Hima in that role -- a backup -- and potentially showing a bit of improvement. Not sure the ceiling is too much more than we're seeing.

Peter Carey
What I'd like to see:
Keeping this one short as well because we just didn't get to see anything of Carey and it sounds like he was dealing with a pretty serious injury. Hope he's healthy and we see something of him. I'm still holding onto my Carey stock b/c I love the combo of size, athleticism, and aggressiveness I thought I saw on his tapes, but just getting healthy is probably the main priority for next season.

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