While practice doesn't begin for another month, today was the first time teams can use some of their allotted court time as a complete team practice rather than groups of four.
This is how the roster looks to me so far, although it will probably change before the season and then even into the season as younger players start to feel more comfortable.
C — Hamidu Rahman
PF — Wendell McKines
SF — Tyrone Watson
SG — Christian Kabongo
PG — Hernst Laroche
The way I think about the makeup of this team is three or possibly four guys have to play great every night for the Aggies to have a chance to win the league. Those three are obviously seniors Wendell McKines, Hernst Laroche and Hamidu Rahman. I'll throw in Tshilidzi Nephawe as well. As I've written before, I'm not sold on the team's ability to score, but I think they have the players who are capable of defending. Whether or not they can focus on that end and rebounding for an entire season remains to be seen. It didn't happen last year, as the Aggies had the same size they have now and were even in rebounding margin for the season. That should change with the return of McKines, who if he would have played to his average of 8.4 boards per game last year, he would have led the team by almost two rebounds per game. They are going to need McKines to score however. I could see him get into the 15-18 ppg realm. His career high is 22 and he's a career 9.5 ppg player shooting 50 percent from the floor. But with the absence of a dominant scorer on the team, perhaps McKines' focus to score will take him away from the other things he does well ie, rebounding and making players around him better by doing all of the little things.
Last year was a wasted season for Hamidu Rahman due to a calf injury that he never recovered from. Rahman averaged 10 ppg and 8 rebounds per game as a sophomore. Nephawe didn't prove to be much of a rebounder as a freshman at 4.4 per game. His fitness level never got to a point to dominate a game. He could have played all the minutes he could handle with Rahman's injury, but still averaged just 18 minutes per game. Still though, any combination of Rahman and Nephawe could yield 15 plus points combined and 10-15 rebounds per game. Perhaps Nephawe will start and finish games since he was a 76 percent free throw shooter last year. Or Rahman could start as a senior with Nephawe finishing games. It doesn't matter. The Aggies need production from this position and it doesn't seem like the WAC is loaded with frontcourt talent so it should be possible.
Laroche has started every game since he's been here. To think that Ross-Miller would unseat him is ridiculous, but he certainly needs a backup, whether it's Ross-Miller if and when he's cleared, or freshman Terell de Rouen. Laroche is at his best with weapons around him. He was asked to score last year and didn't seem up to it. His numbers were good, shooting 44 and 34 percent from 3-point range but his career scoring season of 11 ppg wasn't good enough and it won't be good enough this year. Unless a young player emerges in the backcourt as a perimeter threat, I think Laroche needs to be in the 15 ppg realm this year.
CK is one player who should, and who needs to, provide perimeter scoring. CK was the only player capable of getting into the lane and creating for teammates, but he was terrible from the field (19 percent from 3-point range) and committed a turnover (82) for every assist he had (82). The thing I liked last year about CK and hope he carried into his sophomore year, is his willingness to play defense. I thought he did a good job on Randy Culpepper. With CK and Laroche at the top of the zone to begin games and pestering teams in the backcourt of their trap could be pretty good. You would think that a college player would put the time in the gym addressing a 19 percent effort from 3-point range. If so, I think CK could be between 10-13 ppg.
Tyrone Watson does everything for this team. He was playing way out of position last year at the four spot and was still fifth in scoring (7.6), second in steals (39), third in assists (71) and third in rebounding (4.9 rpg). McKines' return means Watson can move to his natural position on the wing. I think Watson is capable of getting to the 8-10 ppg mark.
If you look at the high end of my estimate, the Aggies starting five is capable of putting up 71 points per game. Not a bad output but that's based on every player increasing his production significantly over a period of time.
Even if they fall short of offensive production, all five starters do have the ability to defend their position. If they rebound, they could cut down on the 44 percent opponents shot against them last year. Not bad, but the Aggies also shot 44 percent, which I believe shows they were happy to exchange baskets. Added up to a .500 season.
I'll look at the bench in a blog entry on Friday.