Let’s take a detour from the usual rhetoric around here to focus on some of the positives. Although recent results can at best be described as inconsistent, the fact remains that this SLU team at least has the ability to be competitive on any given night. They have found a lineup that can actually put up points. By going small, often playing with 4 guards, the Bills can both attack the basket and spot up from behind the arc. The one drawback to this philosophy is that it leaves SLU vulnerable on the defensive end of the court. A team with any size can easily exert it’s will on our severely undersized lineup. Without a strong presence underneath, this small lineup simply could not function. That is precisely why the recent improvement in play from big man Reggie Agbeko has been integral to whatever level of success SLU has managed over the last few weeks. Over the Billiken’s last 3 contests he’s registered 6, 11, and 9 rebounds respectively. This is a large uptick in production for Reggie from earlier this season where he struggled to find a consistent spot in SLU’s rotation. Part of the reason Agbeko spent a good portion of time on the bench early in the year was due to the fact that he exhibited a bad habit of getting into foul trouble early. He also frequently exhibited a penchant for catching the ball, performing 3 head fakes, chopping both feet a few dozen times, and then deciding to take a dribble or two. Recently however, Reggie has simplified his game. He has embraced the immortal words or Ranch Wilder, fully buying into the “less is more” philosophy. This has led to a sharp downturn in turnovers on the offensive side of the ball, and personal fouls on the defensive end. Reggie has become perhaps our only dependable big man from a defensive standpoint. In a perfect world you wouldn’t ask Agbeko to play a true center. He simply doesn’t have the height to go up against the league’s best. However he makes up for it in strength and hustle. It’s admittedly a small sample size, but I for one am hopeful this is a sign of things to come for Reggie. God knows SLU desperately needs it.
It’s certainly nice to see Reggie Agbeko starting to comprehend basic basketball principles. I say that in a condescending tone, but I also mean it. Reggie isn’t a player who is going to show up on the stat sheet too often. In his better games, his biggest value is being a pest on the boards and being someone that actually requires some attention.
Although, I would argue that Reggie’s improvement has mainly to do with his offensive improvements. While he’s not getting lost as much on defense, it’s still a tough assignment to guard bigger, more athletic, true centers like we saw a Dayton. SLU ranks comically last in the A10 with 8 blocks, while our opponents have 49. We are also giving up 78 pts/game in conference play, and while he certainly doesn’t shoulder the load, it’s unimpressive.
Agbeko’s biggest problem will continue to be that he’s really our only down-low option at six and a half feet. So in addition to playing out of position, given his frame, the scouting report on him is out. If SLU continues to try to play the pick-and-pop style offense and rely so heavily on the three ball, Reggie is also going to vastly improve his pick and roll game. Right now watching Agbeko screen is like watching a matador taunt a bull. But at least he and Miles Reynolds appear to be on the same page.
We have a little bit of a break here before our next game at St. Bonaventure, so here’s to hoping that they’re watching some filmed practices from 2012. All in all, I don’t think this team is too far off from being adequate.