I’ve been debating whether to publish any posts this year. But after constant flip-flopping, I was charged $16.99 in late October for this URL and the choice was made for me.
I’m going to do this, at least, once.
So, welcome to the first Billibuckets post of the 2017-2018 basketball season. Let’s go ahead and jump right into passing judgment on pseudo-adults without any skills in actual journalism.
What can I expect from the 2017-2018 Billiken Basketball squad?
First, you should expect nothing. Last year, the Billikens wrapped up a relatively successful (emphasis on relatively) season after being just a bit better than the worst 75 or so D1 programs. Don’t expect them to finish in a certain standing in the A10; don’t expect them to make some type of post-season tournament; don’t expect them to be over/under some erroneous win count you’ve come up based on the value-add of transfers who wear compression sleeves on their left calf. Set your expectations low and hope that the team looks vastly different than the one from last year.
“We’re going to play fast, aggressive, energetic basketball. It’s going to be basketball you want to watch” – Travis Ford, misquoted, from some time last year.
I sure hope so. Travis Ford’s best teams have all had something in common with each other: Fast Tempo and top-of-the-league Free Throw Rate. In his best seasons at UMass, he ranked 29th (2007) and 4th (2008) in adjusted tempo. Those ranks are typically reserved for perennial bottom feeders who think a key to the game is more possessions (ie. The Citadel or Greenville College), but Ford had more of a system than just run-and-gun. It’s run-and-get-the-hell-to-the-free-throw-line. It’s likely why we saw such little post-play in the Harris-Stowe exhibition (more on this later). Ford has found success by pushing a fast, drive-and-take-contact style of basketball. Now that we have a guard who can do both of those things in Goodwin, I’m hoping he returns to what has made him win in the past.
Who are these players and who are going to play?
One of the big questions this off-season has been trying to speculate who will get playing time with the influx of new talent. Let’s take a look at each player:
Aaron Hines, AKA The Guy That Doesn’t Deserve the Hate: Aaron Hines will always hold a special place in my heart, all walk-ons do. But, as much as we relied on him last year to take space up on the court, we won’t need that this year. Aaron Hines is just slightly better than a Grandy Glaze, or Jake Barnett. And slightly worse than an Austin McBroom (HOLLYWOOOOOD). He’ll likely only see playing time as a Point Guard, and my guess is he’s 3rd or below on that depth chart. We have too many bodies this year to justify playing a PG who has a career shooting percentage of 28%. I still love you, Aaron Hines, please dunk the basketball during Warm-Ups for me.
Adonys Henriques, AKA The Guy That Took Roby’s Spot: Of all the transfers eligible to play this year, Henriquez has generated the most buzz. This is a guy who was actually good in a higher quality conference before transferring to SLU (from UCF). At this point though, that’s all he is: buzz. We didn’t get to see him play in the exhibition, but if he’s able to shoot like Ford talks about, get ready for some raindrops. He also has remarkable discipline on defense, committing just 1.2 fouls/per 40 minutes and a strong Free Throw pct (73%).
Davell Roby, AKA The Self Proclaimed Leader: Roby will get a lot of undeserved hate from me this year. But the moral of the story is that I don’t think Roby is good enough to have the same role that he had last year, and I’m worried about him being able to let that go. He was the guy last year. He shot a high clip from three land and was the only one on the court who I trusted with the ball in his hands. His minutes and usage rate were the highest on the team and he earned that trust from his coach. And, for that reason, Roby has also earned the right to start this year as a senior. His 3PT shooting and FT% are enough to keep him on the court, but only so long he checks his ego at the check-in table (get it?). There were too many ill-advised shots against an NAIA opponent from your senior leader who looked more like a guy trying to keep up with the rest of his teammate’s stat sheets. He’s also the best on-ball defender on the team. See? I can be nice.
DJ Foreman, AKA The Continuous Work in Progress: Not to say that this guy is Agbeko 2.0, but he looked a hell of a lot like that on Saturday night. His travels weren’t nearly as blatant as Reggie’s used to be, but he still had 3 in only 12 minute of play. On the flip-side though, he also had 8 rebounds in only 12 minutes of play. His movement without the ball was less graceful that some of the guys he’ll be competing against for playing time, but it’s really hard to make any judgment on the big men at this point. Their usage in the Harris-Stowe exhibition was essentially non-existent. I don’t think Foreman will be a starter and his minutes will likely decreased over the next couple of years, but if he’s only a great rebounder – i’ll take it.
Elliot Welmer, AKA “Oh yea, I remember that guy from last year!”: Welmer is hurt for, I think, the entirety of non-conference play. I’m too lazy to look into it because I forgot how long it takes to write this crap and I’m getting burned out and I still have like 7 players to go through. He’ll be a good piece to stretch the floor and he shoots well. It’ll be interesting to see if, and how, he fits into this offense when he’s healthy (hint: he’s never healthy).
Hasahn French, AKA Holy Shit: I didn’t know basketball players could look small wearing XXL clothing, but holy hell. French, who was a top 100 recruit this year, will see a lot of playing time in his first year and is going to pop at least 3 basketballs. I have a feeling a lot of opponent’s game plan is going to center around avoiding Mr. French at the glass. He doesn’t look incredible polished and will need to work on his discipline, positioning, and confidence, but I have a feeling that will all come pretty quickly. Against Harris-Stowe, French got the start but didn’t see much of the ball on the offensive end. But again, that seemed to be more by scheme than anything else. Ford had the team mostly in a motion offense, but I have to think that a pick-and-roll with Goodwin/French would be pretty effective at times. Most importantly, French is the only reason I have any hope that I might see that elusive Alley-Oop.
Jack Roboin, AKA Senior Night: Walk-on from Lake Land Community College. We will cheer for him when he gets to play in the final 30 seconds of Senior Night in 2019.
Jalen Johnson, AKA Jalen Johnson: I get the sense that Jalen wouldn’t want a nickname. He seems like a nice boy who calls his mother after every game to thank her for raising him and tell her he’ll do better next time after dropping 17 points and 8 rebounds. I like Jalen Johnson a lot and I think he is going to be one of the best players on the team this year. He’s a guy that is always super-focused. When he makes a mistake, it’s because he tried really hard at the wrong thing. He was a big part of last year’s team and I think he’ll continue to be a huge piece of this team moving forward. Jalen works especially well when he isn’t the focus of the offense and the play can come to him, and that is just what he is going to be on this team. Expect a fun battle between Johnson and Henriquez on who can toss up more threes, I’m putting both of them at over 140 attempts this year.
Javon Bess, AKA Mr. Minutes: Javon Bess comes to our program by way of Michigan State and Tom Izzo. He played all but 2 minutes against Harris-Stowe and the argument could be made that he was the best player on the court. Bess was aggressive on the drive, drawing contact and getting to the line frequently (HEY WE WERE TALKING ABOUT THAT EARLIER). He only shot 5 for 15 overall and 3 for 9 on the line, but I don’t think that is indicative of what we can expect throughout the season. He’ll see a lot of time because he can play effectively as a off-ball guard or forward. Ford calls him a “stat guy” because he quietly puts up solid game numbers, but I think he’ll be a lot more than that by the end of the year.
Jermaine Bishop, AKA The kid that’s not really part of the cool kids but sits with them at lunch and they’re not big enough jerks to tell him to go away but they also don’t invite him over to Ricky’s house to check out Ricky’s parents’ new waterbed: Jermaine Bishop took a medical redshirt last year after playing in the team’s first 9 games. He spent the remainder of the year dressed in the black sweatsuit alongside all the other highly touted transfers. Don’t be fooled though, he was associated in clothing only, not in hype. Bishop will likely start the season as a backup to Goodwin at PG, the position he controlled when he was healthy and before everyone on the team wasn’t terrible. Bishop does, however, bring some valuable skills to this Billiken team, most notably his assist rate and free throw shooting abilities. Bishop ranked 6th and 5th in the A10 in both Assist Rate and Free Throw percentage, respectively. Surprisingly enough, he also has the 10th highest average GameScore across his BOLD (Billikens of the Last Decade) teammates. That will be the first and last time I use that lame reference. The top 5 are Dwayne Evans, Kwamaine Mitchel, Brian Conklin, Jordair Jett, and Mike McCall. That is to say, Bishop has value, but it’s not the type of value that might increase his playing time.
Jordan Goodwin, AKA Mr. Billiken: Jordan Goodwin has a legit chance at being one of the best players to put on a Billiken uniform. As a consensus top 60 recruit and top 10 SG, he’s got both the mental makeup and skill to carry his team and his career to a better basketball future. The only thing I enjoyed more than Goodwin’s one-handed NBA dunk against Harris-Stowe, was watching him conduct his teammates with the ball in his hands. He only went 5 for 14 from the field and shot one lonely free throw, but his skill on the offensive side was obvious. He will, however, not be our team’s leading defender. As polished as Goodwin is, he’s closer to a Junior year Jordair Jett than a ballhander with quick feet, and his defense against Harris-Stowe highlight some areas he could improve. He also should cut down on the amount of ‘behind the back’ handles when he’s pressured on the ball, but all this will come in time.
Luis Santos, AKA Look At That Giant Guy on the Bench: Santos is a transfer from University of South Florida eligible to play starting the 2018-2019 season. He is 6’8 and 250 lbs.
Markos Psimitis, AKA The Greek Freak: Not to be confused with the lesser known Giannis Antekkfaosdugmpou, Markos is a walk-on from Harris-Stowe. I think he scored a pair of free-throws last year, if I remember correctly. That was fun. Give Markos all your love, he won’t play.
Rasheed Anthony, AKA Depth Guy: These nicknames are really getting lazy, aren’t they? Rasheed is a graduate transfer from Seton Hall, meaning he is eligible to play immediately. He’ll be a good depth guy off the bench, but I can’t see him logging more minutes than he did against Harris-Stowe (17) unless there is foul or injury concern. In fact, the 17 minutes he logged were more than any game he played at Seton Hall. At 6’9, he’s the tallest member of the team this year and comes from a very respected basketball program. He certainly has some good experience and he’s done this before:
Ty Graves, AKA Mighty Mouse: Tyler Graves transferred from Boston College midway through his freshman year. Because of that, he’ll be eligible to compete starting in January 2018. Ty Graves is a legitimately good point-guard, and they’ll likely try to find a way to fit him into the rotation. I just don’t know how they’ll do that.
Anything else? I’m kind of over reading this.
Hey, screw you. I’m over writing it too, okay? But there are just three quick things I wanted to add. First, There are a lot of rotation options that Ford has now that the majority of this team is eligible to play. And he’s likely to go through a couple of lineups early on the season to get a feel for whats clicking.
But Ford will not run with a deep bench. Other than his last year at Oklahoma State, Ford typically ranked in the bottom third of bench usage. And his best teams (2009, 2010, 2013, 2014) are even lower than that.
Second, you may have noticed that I mentioned three-pointers a lot in the player profiles, and that was only slightly intentional. The fact of the matter, is that a lot of our players generate most of their contribution via the three point shot. Knowing how Ford has had success in the past, it’ll be interesting to see how he shapes his players’ tendencies with his own play book. The exhibition gave little indication that the offense is defined.
Third, and finally, the new jerseys are fly.
Well…until next season, probably….