Monday, September 23, 2013

Aggies questions entering practice: Nephawe's role/health

At 6-10, 265 pounds, NMSU center Tshilidzi Nephawe is a physical specimen, especially against Western Athletic Conference opponents.

Photo by Shari V. Hill

But for whatever reason, Nephawe's production so far hasn't been nearly as impressive.

Part of that is due to the fact that Nephawe is relatively new to the game and has in a sense, learned basketball at the Division I level. He was paired with Hamidu Rahman for the first two years of his career and showed he could be effective here and there, but has not put up the numbers you would expect from an important part of a center rotation. He was given the starting nod at the position last year before suffering a hand injury that required season ending surgery after nine games. Nephawe was averaging 7.2 points and 5 rebounds per game last year before his season ended.  Those numbers are more representative of what the Aggies needed at the time from a center playing 20 minutes per game. But his career numbers of 5.9 ppg and 1.7 rpg and .8 block per game are lower than I expected. I think with the addition of Tanveer Bhullar and the remarkable development of Renaldo Dixon, there isn't any pressure on Nephawe as the Aggies open practice Sunday. It will be interesting to see how and for how long Nephawe plays with Sim Bhullar at the same time this season. I think it's something the Aggies want to play with and the fact that college teams now have even more practice time, will allow for that. Although they are both centers, I would like to see Bhullar with the ball in his hands at the top of the key  in the early offense rather than Nephawe, who should still be a threat in the post. There is also the issue of Nephawe's health. He had an additional surgery on the hand and was only recently cleared in the past month. This could be Nephawe's best season to date for the simple fact that he can work his way back into the mix in a crowded frontcourt rotation. His experience should give him an edge on the younger Bhullar at the outset, but it's a good problem for a coach to have when Nephawe is the a third or fourth option.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Man, he has the potential to be a beast if the lights come on. The nasty streak he showed at the '12 WAC tourney left everyone wanting more. Let's hope it all comes together this year!