The Aggies handled Division II Eastern New Mexico 98-72 on Monday in front of 3,621 at the Pan Am.
A few things that I wanted to talk about. It's obvious to me that, in the half court at least, the Aggies will run the ball through Troy Gillenwater.
Shocker there Groves, I know. But it's not how I expected at least. When Gillenwater is on the floor, it seemed like he was the one trailing Hernst Laroche. He is spending a lot of time on the perimeter early in the possession. He will set a pick or get the ball if the Aggies swing it or Laroche gets trapped, where Gillenwater can then drive, dump it into the post or spot up. We all knew that he was the most skilled offensive player, but it's clear the Aggies' focus is to run if it's there, and if not, get Gillenwater the ball where he can make something happen.
"Coach is putting me in positions where I'm comfortable at scoring and facing the basket. I think that is a new look this year. I'm just trying to be as versatile as possible and help the team in as many ways as I can."
The Aggies committed 26 turnovers with just 18 assists. Marvin Menzies said some of those turnovers came as a result of trying to feed Gillenwater when it wasn't there.
"They look to Troy too. A few of the turnovers were guys trying to go to the man. But you have to move the ball and get reversal and swing it and search the post without staring and telegraphing your passes. A lot of that is timing and just experience and chemistry and that will come. Troy is obviously one of the better players and he is going to have to pick up his share of rebounding and do some other things besides scoring and he did that."
I wouldn't worry about the turnovers too much and I wouldn't put too much stock into the 55 rebounds, 20 offensive rebounds and 10 blocks against a D II club. But the Aggies did show that their style of play has been tweaked a little.
"I don't think you can put too much stock into the numbers we had tonight. We had such a physical advantage. It's hopefully a measure of things to come but not something you can hang your hat on outrebounding Division II team. It was a telling stat, but so were the turnovers. It was way too many. We are going to run this year. We have adjusted some of our speed game concepts so if we are going to push the ball at the pace that we want, then we are going to average a couple more turnovers than we would if we didn't. I can live with a couple extra but I can't live with a boatload extra."
I like how the Aggies' schedule opens up against two opponents they should have no trouble with. It will give Menzies a better chance to evaluate some position battles. Here is the one I have been harping on the most.
Tyrone Watson — 6 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block 3-6 FG, 4 TOs in 24 minutes.
Bandja Sy — 8 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 4-of-7 FG 0-2 3-pt, 4 TOs in 18 minutes.
But there are other spots Menzies is looking at as well before the schedule's degree of difficulty significantly increases next week.
"I did use tonight as a chance to maybe try to balance out the minutes a little so I can get some film and go back and teach those guys again. You look at it like Renaldo (Dixon) and BJ (West) are really competing for that back up four spot. You have Bandja and Tyrone kind of vying for the 3 so there is a lot of competition still in practice. The line hasn't been defined for me enough to say this is the one we are rolling with. But there is always going to be opportunity if you earn it and take it. It's all got to be earned right now. I think the top 7 guys or so are pretty much locked in right now."
Freshmen guard Chrisitan Kabongo and freshman forward Tshilidzi Nephawe showed that they will contribute this season with more playing time and experience. I liked Kabongo's ability to guard the ball and Nephawe didn't play like a freshman so I liked the effort and the physicality while everything else will continue to develop.
"We know that we can score. We just have to be able to defend and that's what we really really stress in practice. We don't like doing it but we have to do it because that is what is going to help us win games. As far as a spark, I think we just woke up. I think the first couple of minutes, we were just getting comfortable on the court but as the minutes went on, the sweat kicks in and the energy just rises after that."
"I think they played good today. I think their effort was definitely there. They played hard, they had really good intensity and will help us a lot this year once they start to get more comfortable in the pace of play of college ball. I think Christian had a really solid game. He played hard. He was good on defense. He is going to get better down the road."
"Have a little (Gibson) there in CK. He does a good job of hawking the ball. Just have to try to train the brain not to be a reacher
I certainly have my question marks entering the season. I think that teams that are perimeter oriented will give the Aggies trouble (St. Mary's). If a team takes Laroche away from the inbound, the Aggies are going to need either Castillo or Kabongo to be able to break the pressure. I think the ultimate goal is to have Kabongo back up Laroche and that seems to be there, but he will be out of control at times this year I think. Outside of Castillo, the Aggies don't have the shooters they've had in the past. Gillenwater and Kabongo and maybe Laroche have the skills to knock it down, but none are proven shooters from distance yet. Watson and/or Sy have the athleticism to be a slashing type of player that could break defenses down and create a shot. I think the player to prove to be the most consistent will wind up solidifying the rotation, but there can't be the ups and downs. I think Watson has the potential to be that guy because he does so many little things. Sy has improved but time will tell if he has the confidence in his second year.