Saturday, July 31, 2010

What are the Aggies looking for from Canada tour

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.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Aggies note

Marvin Menzies told me the team will start practicing for their Canada tour on Aug. 1, but didn't go much further than that. I'm also hoping to get more of the teams that they will face in the next couple days. ... The Aggies Renaldo Dixon was cleared and will redshirt this year for the Aggies. NMSU is loaded in the frontcourt so redshirting him is a good move. Menzies hopes to add one more player to the roster before the season tips off. ... The schedule is nearly complete. A previous poster asked what cupcakes are on the NMSU schedule. Most of the non-conference games have been posted on this blog, including road games against UNM, UTEP, UMass, USC or Bradley, Arizona and home games against UNM, UTEP, Pacific, St. Mary's, Louisiana Lafayette and a home Bracketbuster game. There are a couple of holes for home games as part of the Springfield tournament, but overall, this is probably the most challenging and complete schedule from top to bottom the Aggies have had since Menzies has been here.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Who gets the last shot?

With all of the LeBron James talk this summer regarding which player in Miami will take the last shot, it got me thinking which Aggie will be Mr. Clutch this season.

There was no question last year as the Aggies had two players who could both create their own shot and showed the ability to knock them down. Jahmar Young had two game winners last year and Gibson knocked down the game winner on the road at Boise State and has hit big shots throughout his career.

Now the Aggies' top players are post oriented, meaning someone has to get them the ball in order to do their damage. Wendell McKines hit a big 3 from the top of the key against Nevada as a sophomore and Hamidu Rahman hit clutch free throws against San Jose State as a freshman. But when the defense is set, I think McKines and Rahman would be better served hitting the boards rather than drawing something up for them at the end of a game. Troy Gillenwater's versatility and range could create a 3 or a jumper or he can get to the rim if there is enough time.

But my choice is Hernst Laroche. Laroche hit the game winner last year at home against Louisiana Tech at the horn and his jump shot has consistently improved throughout his career. The Aggies do a lot of pick and pop offense so if the shot isn't there for him, Laroche has no problems creating an opportunity for someone else, making him more dangerous.

Who would you go to with the game on the line? Sub-question for those of you who have been around longer than me.....who is the best clutch Aggie in program history?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Another schedule upgrade

The Aggies 2010-11 schedule took a significant upgrade to an already solid schedule with the addition of Arizona in a home-and-home contract to start this season. I'm not sure on where or when this year's game will be, but this is a huge development for the university, which is always finding ways to A. increase the RPI of its non-conference schedule, which has been up and down through the years. B. More importantly, it should save on travel costs with U of A a five-hour bus trip away.

With this year's Texas Tech scrimmage at NMSU, perhaps the Aggies could add another regional opponent in the coming years. I know it's been a big goal of the administration and Pat Knight and Marvin Menzies each seemed open to the idea before the Aggies went to Lubbock last year.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A little more on Canada

Apparently there is still some work to be done before the Aggies can determine when they can begin getting their 10 practice days in. (A quick note about the 10 allotted days. They can practice as much as they want to take up a day, meaning they could hold a practice in the morning and the evening taking up one of the 10 days. But they have to get their 10 days in before leaving for Canada Aug. 8-16. A shootaround if they have an off day in Canada would be within the rules.)

There is a new NCAA rule regarding these tours that involves incoming players. The rule takes effect on Aug. 1 so NMSU is trying to determine if incoming freshmen can practice before Aug. 1. Alson, incoming freshmen such as Tshilidzi Nephawe and Christian Kabongo have to pass three hours and be qualified to compete in the games in Canada. Kabongo had already qualified before signing and Nephawe is still going through the Clearinghouse. Both were in the first summer session, but final grades for the summer aren't official until Aug. 11 meaning the entire roster should be able to make the trip. Perhaps even play this season.

Here are the men's basketball pages for opponents McGill University and Carleton University.