Monday, August 10, 2009

Rising Seniors -- Ten Nine to Watch

Last Impressions?
Luke Harangody won't make this list. Neither will Lazar Hayward nor Scottie Reynolds. They are names already, having made their marks during their freshmen or sophomore seasons. Every season a Hilton Armstrong, or a Rob Kurz, a Jon Wallace or a Dante Cunningham lands in the national press (and picks up a post season Big East award or two) seemingly out of nowhere. Invisible to all but their team's fans, these seniors tend to start somewhere back in the pack, but unlike their classmates, they improve every season. By Pomeroy's classification system they may start as "Role" or "Limited Role" player, and grow into a "Major" or "Go-to Guy" player over the course of their four years. Pomeroy discusses growth "probabilities" in "Putting Individual Efficiency into Perspective" over at The Basketball Prospectus back in 2007. One thing about these players is clear -- they tend to push at the upper limit of their growth curve each season. A few things are clear about the Hilton Armstrongs and Dante Cunninghams -- they are drawing a good share of the minutes at their position going into their senior seasons and they are drawing somewhere between 18% - 20% of the possessions when they are on the floor...their teammates know who they are and can find them on the floor...and trust them.

On Offense...

Jermaine Dixon, a JUCO out of Tallahassee JC in Florida, will spend his second (and last) at Pitt as a wing, distinguished as the lone returning starter. Dixon was shy about contact, an unPitt-like characteristic, taking about 42% of his FGAs from beyond the arc and hitting at a < 30% rate. He will draw more attention this season, but will no doubt improve his accuracy as well. If he can step in and take some of the production left by the exits of Same Young, Levance Fields and DaJuan Blair, he will get noticed. Sharaud Curry, Arinze Onuaku, Stanley Robinson and Andy Rautins, like Dixon, face similar circumstances, they have started (and will start next season) for teams depleted by graduation and NBA dreams. Rautins split time on the wing with Harris and Devendorf (both departed). Alongside a well regarded transfer from Iowa State, Wesley Johnson, Rautins will have a few more opportunities to contribute, both as a scoring option (expanding his reportoire of shots) and as a distributor. The De Paul staff encouraged Will Walker to take a larger share of the offense at the end of last season. With off guard Dar Tucker off to Europe(?), the immediate responsibility for outside scoring will fall to Walker, at least in the near term. Whether he can keep it will depend on whether he can improve on his 36.8% conversion rate.

On Defense...
Jermaine DixonPitt61.59.213.714.03.03.4
Sharaud CurryPC79.25.423.419.40.01.8
Arinze OnuakuCuse64.816.64.317.85.31.0
Andy RautinsCuse67.510.518.
Will WalkerDPU86.
Reggie ReddingNova71.913.018.823.62.22.2
Stanley RobinsonUConn47.215.48.819.63.91.4
Eugene HarveySHU83.96.927.521.10.32.5
Robert MitchellSHU83.716.

The Pirates expect their new faces (transfers from Missouri, Memphis and New Mexico State) will give the squad an upgrade in talent. On that theory both Eugene Harvey and Robert Mitchell should get better. For Mitchell, a transfer himself, playing his 2nd season in the Big East, the expectations for improvement should be high. Pending resolution of a legal matter,Villanova's Reggie Redding, a versatile guard-forward, has at one time or another, played anywhere from the #1 to the #4. Versatility -- and defense -- has been the key for Redding, who started a handful of games his freshman season when Mike Nardi was hobbled. Though his shot lacked accuracy, Redding got the nod over older, more polished scorers. His long range shooting stills (30.3%) still need work, but if he can improve that feature of his game he will contribute even more to the team his last season.

And Then There's...
Ok, I know I said I would not mention Lazar Hayward (among others), but the rising junior will be the 1st and 2nd option on offense until transfer Dwight Buycks gets up to speed. Hayward was one of the go-to guys on the World University Games that won the bronze medal in Belgrade in July. He will get a lot of looks next season.

And a thank you to Ken Pomeroy for use of the stats from his Scout Pages.


stan said...

Hello greyCat.
A couple of comments and a question.
1. I think that SHU team could go far this year. Not only because of the "two" to watch you mention here and the returning minutes, but also because of that kid Pope they have coming in. AND, not to mention the fact that I think that coach Gonzales is a pretty darn good coach. I don't know how you quantify a coaching edge, but I don't discount that he'll give that team one.

2. The kid Will Walker from DPU, 36.7% (and that's from down town) is a pretty good % in my book. How much does he have to improve?

greyCat said...

Hey Stan, good to hear from you.
I mentioned Herb Pope in my post on JUCOs and Transfers to Watch earlier this month. Talk this off season about Big East teams that should improve their standing next season have almost always included three -- Cincinnati, St. John's and Seton Hall -- as ones that are ready to make the move. Seton Hall and Cincinnati's coaches have decided to use high risk/high reward recruits/transfers to help make it happen, and Pope is one of those high risk/high reward players Gonzo has decided to bring in. Given his own history of occasional "lapses" in public self-control, bringing in Pope might be a match to Gonzo's gasoline. But I absolutely agree with you that Coach Gonzalez knows how to coach and his teams play hard. The 2010 Pirates will be the deepest and most talented of any he has had in his tenure in South Orange. And they will give him his best shot to break into the top half of the conference. I caught them at the Rock a few times last season, and even though I was rooting for the "other guys", I was impressed with how they played.

Check out Will Walker's possession and shot percentages (21.4 and 26.2) -- they suggest Walker is (according to Pomeroy's classification system, a "significant contributor" to the Blue Demon offense -- Walker was the 1st or 2nd (in reality with Dar Tucker on the floor Walker and Mac Koshwal shared 2nd option status in the offense). It is not likely that, even with Tucker gone, Walker can (or would even want to) take 1/3 of the available shots on De Paul's offense. What can he do (assuming he will not take a significantly higher percentage of De Paul's shots) to improve De Paul's offense? Improve his accuracy when he does shoot. Dropping 37% of his 3s put his eFG% at about 49.8, ranked #35 in the Big East last season for overall field goal efficiency. Bumping his 3 point accuracy up to @40% would push his eFG into the mid 50's, good for a ranking around the top 10 in the conference.

David said...

I saw this article of 9 juniors and I thought you were referring to St. John's team. Kidding but really we have 9 juniors.

Anyways was wondering if you input all of the junior class into this spread sheet or just hand selected these 9.

Can you email me the results if you have them?



greyCat said...

Thanks for the note David. I have a few posts about returning minutes and the value of that stat (in various forms and use in conjunction with other stats) in a number of earlier posts. The scatter chart that plots returning minutes (percentage) and Pomeroy's rating shows St. John's in an interesting, "outlier" location. My first post on returning minutes shows St. John's by far returning the highest portion of their rotation among Big East conference members. I noted in another returning minutes post how most of St. John's minutes were coming from a single class. That is not, by the way, very unusual (I thought it was at first, but found numerous examples in previous seasons).

Pomeroy has a page for each team in DI, and I extracted the data for each class from those team pages. Pomeroy only posts possession-based stats on those players who logged 10% or more of the minutes in their position. That narrowed the class (sample) size to about 30+ players. Since my objective has been to identify players flying under the radar, those who have earned All Big East team-type honors (except maybe Rookie Team players who did not receive recognition after their sophomore/junior seasons) are generally filtered. Using Pomeroy's projection for possession "growth" over a 1 - 2 season period, I want to try and identify the playrs whose roles will most likely grow in the next season. They may earn some recognition at the end of the season (for a recap on the 2007 Rising Freshmen, see my post from August 2008), or most likely, they will improve, but not breakout. The "Rising Juniors" post is about next season's seniors, two of St. John's players will get a mention in a post (out sometime next week) about "Rising Sophomores". I narrowed that class from about 35+ down to 10 (not sure if I will go with 10, but that's my target number...). Drop me an email (contact information should be somewhere on the page -- vendors seem to be able to find me with no problem...) and let me know which classes, etc. you want & what format.

stan said...

One last thought/s about Will Walker:
Somebody has to live up to the Dar Tucker standards for shooting, why not Walker. Just kidding.

It's probably going to take a lot more than bumping Walker's efficiency by 3 pts to get DPU to start winning. However, it certainly is something to "shoot" for.

Looking at DPU'S numbers I think I can safely guess that they don't have the horses to get the job done, and a further guess is that it's probably a recruiting thing. Glad we don't have to worry about that.

And last, I have a quote for you I saw in one of today's papers. It's from Admiral Grace Hopper (on information) "One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions."

CO_Hoya said...

I hate to be a serial pedant, but I believe you are using the term "rising juniors" incorrectly.

A member of a rising class is one that has competed the requirements of the previous year, but has yet to begin the named school year (op cit]. So, in this case these nine players would be considered rising seniors.

Otherwise, a very nice article, as usual.

greyCat said...

Ooops. Thanks for the heads up. I guess the next post will be "Rising Juniors II" or something.