The most interesting thing about the 2017-2018 men’s basketball team is that I’m not exactly sure about where all of the pieces will fit in terms of position. I’ve watched film and I have a pretty good idea about what each of the players can do, but I’m not certain how the some of the pieces will fit in terms of the backcourt. I can pretty well figure out the frontcourt because those are pretty obvious roles, but the in the backcourt, head coach Chris Beard has some terrific options in terms of options (at least on paper).
Point Guard: I’ve somewhat plugged Keenan Evans into the point guard spot, but truthfully, I think it’s clear that Chris Beard wants to transition Evans into a shooting guard. And he should. Evans is the best scorer on the team, has the ability to score from the outside as well as drive and create. If anything, Evans at the starting shooting guard spot seems like a certainty, but my only hesitation would be if the other two point guard options don’t cut it.
I think the best candidates are Hyron Edwards and Josh Webster.
Candidate 1: Josh Webster: Webster averaged less than 10 points a game for South Plains, but he shot 58% from the field, made 72% of his free throws, grabbed nearly 4 rebounds a game and averaged 7 assists a game. A large number of those assists I think came as a result of Jordan Brangers, the former Texas Tech signee who wriggled out of his NLI and is at Western Kentucky. Those assists were pretty easy because Brangers was a spot-up three-point shooter with tremendous range. All assists are not created equal, but Webster is a true point guard. A pass first ball-control point guard that is only lookng to set up teammates. This would probably pair pretty well with Evans as Evans looks to not have to do it all for Texas Tech. Last year Evans struggled only from the standpont that Evans didn’t have anyone set him up for shots, which is important because Evans is the best scorer. He did it all on his own.
Candidate 2: Hyron Edwards: Edwards is more of a scoring point guard, a guy that can do a few things. Edwards is a better scorer than Webster, but not quite the passer. Edwards averaged 18 points a game, while shooting 42% from the field and 36% from the three-point line, while making 83% of his free throws, grabbed 3.3 rebounds a game and had 4.8 assists. Edwards led his team in scoring, so he was obviously a shoot-first type of point guard that may not work as well with Evans. Not that there’s anything wrong with having two shoot-first guards on the floor, but if you’re looking to split things up a bit and create a bit of equality between the starters and the reserves, it makes sense to pair Webster with Evans so that Webster can help set up Evans from a scoring standpoint.
Verdict: 1) Josh Webster; 2) Hyron Edwards; and 3) Keenan Evans
Candidate 1: Keenan Evans: This is pretty cut and dried for me. Evans is your starting shooting guard, or should be.
Candidate 2: Niem Stevenson: I’m not wild about this as an option but can be talked into it. Stevenson is a good scorer but not necessarily a good shooter. He’s decent. Stevenson does play good defense I think that’s important on the second unit. Personally, I think Stevenson pairs better at small forward behind Justin Gray as I think Stevenson’s skillset is better suited at small forward than at shooting guard.
Candidate 3: Brandone Francis: This is somewhat of an unknown for me. I’ve really only seen highlights of Francis in high school where he wowed with a really nice mid-range game, some terrific ability to pull up and pop from the outside along with some really nice handles for someone his size. I just don’t know how he’s matured his game during his year off as a result of the transfer. If he’s improved his outside shot, then I’m definitely penciling Francis in as the back-up to Evans at shooting guard. The only thing holding me back is that I’m not sure if Francis is a small forward or a shooting guard in what Beard wants to do.
Candidate 4: Jarrett Culver: Culver started out as a point guard and then morphed into a shooting guard that pretty much did it all for Coronado. Culver led the team with 28 points a game and also led the team in rebounding and assists. Culver’s transformation was really a result of his growth-spurt which allowed him to expand his game, from a guy that just shoots, to a guy that can do a bit of everything. At 6’6″, Culver would perhaps be that defensive guard to Edwards, but I’d have to imagine that Francis’ game is a bit more mature at this point.
Verdict: 1) Keenan Evans; 2) Brandone Francis; 3) Jarrett Culver
Pairings: 1) Josh Webster and Keenan Evans; 2) Hyron Edwards and Brandone Francis; 3) Keenan Evans and Jarrett Culver.
Ultimately, I think Stevenson is better suited to push Gray at small forward. And I don’t know that you need a third point guard when you have a player like Evans who can play both positions and gives you so much versatility. Evans could also pair with someone like Culver where Culver’s primary responsibility is to play defense and not worry about scoring.