The Aggies started practicing over the weekend for a Canada Tour that seems like they have six games in four days scheduled so far.
This team has a number of things going for it even if they couldn't practice until October, but getting a head start is important for any club. I think there are four main things the Aggies would like to have figured out before the semester starts.
Go big or go home?: There's no question Hamidu Rahman, Wendell McKines and Troy Gillenwater are all starters. (Imagine if Rahman's improvement from his sophomore to junior year even approaches the improvement he made between his freshman and sophomore year)The question I'm interested in answering is are they going to play together for extended periods of time. Menzies teams boast players who are capable of playing multiple positions, but either McKines or Gillenwater will have to spend a little more time on the perimeter on the offensive end. McKines can knock down the jumper and Gillenwater showed his stroke had improved during his abbreviated season last year, knocking down big 3s against Michigan State. Troy said last year he was working on ball handling so he would make more sense, coupled with the fact that you want McKines around the rim for his rebounding prowess. That's all on the offensive end. The Aggies play a lot of zone anyway, so imagine the length the Aggies can throw at you on the bottom of that zone with those three guys. The question comes into play if the Aggies want to play more man. There are no versatile Luke Babbitt types in the league this year, so perhaps they could get away with it.
Defense: Menzies acknowledged that the defensive end has been a problem area. The Aggies scored 78 per game last year, but gave up 77, and opponents shot 45 percent from the field and 36 from 3. Menzies has always relied on that matchup zone in the past, but it would be beneficial to be able to mix defenses with some confidence that you can pressure guards man to man if you need to. Defense is probably the hardest thing to coach, so any extra time spent on that area would be beneficial.
Scoring: The Aggies have plenty of players who can score, but they have to try to find a way to replace nearly 40 points a game that Jahmar Young and Jonathan Gibson provided last year. Troy Gillenwater (14.6 ppg last year) Wendell McKines (14.6 ppg) Hamidu Rahman (10 ppg) and Hernst Laroche (6 ppg) are all capable of increasing their points per game from a year ago. But can it be realistic to expect Rahman and Laroche to up their point production that significantly. I think Gillenwater and McKines could each top 20 per game and Rahman and Laroche could combine to score 10 more per game, the Aggies would still fall short from their 78 ppg last year. Gordo Castillo is certainly going to have his games where 3s are falling, but it will be interesting to see what bench players will contribute. I think Bandja Sy is a key player off the bench. Toward the latter part of the year, he was working at the wing which is his natural position. Andy help offensively that Tyrone Watson could provide would be a bonus. I think Aggies coaches are excited about the ability of freshman guard Christian Kabongo. It's a lot of pressure to put on a freshman, but he apparently has the ability to help the Aggies continue to play their style of ball. It will be fun to see how the Aggies will fit him in during their trip to Canada.
Development of young players: I've talked about some of the names here. Kabongo is a freshman that coaches like. But can he step in and be a productive freshman? Or fall off the map like Sy did last year? Tyrone Watson impressed me with his passing ability last year and his athleticism and maturity will land him on the court this year in a more natural position for him on the wing rather than the power forward spot. BJ West, Abdoulaye Ndoye and freshman Tshilidz Nephawe should be able to provide some depth in the post.
The Aggies have one open scholarship, which Menzies intends to fill. Finding a player who can play on the perimeter. At this point, players such as Remi Barry, who was on campus a couple weeks ago, or even transfer players are a possibility, although it would go against what Menzies has done throughout his first three years. But a player who could spell Laroche in the backcourt could come in handy for depth purposes.