On the bright side…
By Bert Klasey
Reader “the don” asked this morning for some good news regarding this basketball team, so here we go…
First of all, as bad as this team looks on some nights (Utah), they actually look pretty good on others (OSU). Basically, it’s the hallmark of a team without a ton of experience or much leadership. It’s a team that has worked a system for the past couple of years and had to make some major changes this season due to two major personnel changes (Thompson and Casto).
What that all means is, they are adjusting. This is a major transition/rebuilding year. Of course, when you have a rebuild, you usually have the benefit of a really great year before it and that wasn’t exactly the case with last year’s team. Unfortunately for all of us, Klay is really good and no one can really blame him for bailing for the NBA and Casto is really good and no one can blame him for wanting to support his family. Of course, when it happened, the whole team was thrown in a bit of a funk.
Without a major inside presence, the Cougs have been forced to shift to a game that relies heavily on guard-play, on a lot of passing around the perimeter to find an open shot or await a couple of screens to open up Motum/Enquist down low. They simply don’t have the ability to go directly down low and let Motum impose his will. They also lack shooters who can create their own shot – which is a HUGE problem.
What the Cougs do have is a lot of good shooters and a lot of good passers, but those both require focus game in and game out, and that’s something that we simply don’t see. I don’t know if it’s the guys on the court or the coaches on the bench, but someone needs to get these guys FOCUSED for each game.
Much like the offense, the defense is equally as mercurial. Overall, the Cougs hold opposing offenses to a very solid 41.2% shooting, good for 3rd in the conference. In their losses, though, the Cougs allow 48% shooting from the field, which would put them at dead last. Again, the focus is lacking.
I realize that I still haven’t arrived at the promised “bright side.” Here it is: Help is on the way.
Next season, the Cougs will welcome the arrival of shooter Demarquise “Que” Johnson, forward Richard Longrus and center Richard Peters. On top of that, Kansas transfer Royce Woolridge (who is on the team now, but not eligible) will be able to take the floor as a guard. These are not “under-the-radar” types. These guys had offers from schools all over the nation (Auburn, Clemson, Washington, Seton Hall, Stanford, Colorado, Utah, Gonzaga, Virginia, ASU, Minnesota, Missouri, OSU, SDSU, New Mexico, UNLV, etc) and chose to come play for Ken Bone. They will make an impact.
All of a sudden, the MacGuyver-ed offense will be scrapped and something that is more of the Ken Bone style will start to take form. The backcourt then starts to take shape with guys like Reggie Moore, DaVonte Lacy, Woolridge, Johnson and Mike Ladd. This is a solid and athletic backcourt that can shoot, pass and create shots. Que Johnson is the next Klay Thompson – a guy who can pretty much do it all and score in bunches.
In the front court, we will see Motum and Peters likely starting, with DJ Shelton and Richard Longrus coming in to provide depth. Motum has shown what he can do when virtually alone down low this season – so imagine what he’ll be able to do with the 6-10, 260lb Peters by his side. Longrus is the type of athletic rebounder and explosive jumper that the Cougs have had in the past and have been missing this season.
This is much more of the lineup that Bone wants to run. This will be a team with a few young guys but with three seasoned players as the backbone (Moore, Lacy and Motum). This is a team that should be able to score some points and win some games. If Lacy continues his progression, he will be something very special and will hopefully take that role as the on-floor leader that this team desperately needs. After that, they need to work on the focus. I don’t have an answer for that…but playing a system you know that works, having real athletes on every position on the floor and winning some games will go a long way.
I’m not going to let Bone completely off the hook for this season, and I doubt he’d expect anyone to do so, but this is an unfortunate rebuilding year. Had Klay and Casto stayed, we’d be having a much different discussion right now – but that’s college basketball. You have to make do. This team will have a tough time making it to .500 this year and that will hurt, but there’s light at the end of this tunnel.
So “the don,” the good news is that the Cougs are not far off. Good basketball is on the horizon.