2008-09 Appalachian State Preview: #116
Appalachian State Mountaineers
Overall Rank: #120
Conference Rank: #2 Southern Conference
2007-08: 18-13, 13-7, 1st North
2007-08 postseason: none
The expectations are down, and rightfully so with the two best players running out of eligibility, but Coach Houston Fancher has built a winner at Appalachian State. There is plenty of talent left, and some coming in, to get the Mountaineers back towards the top of the conference standings. With a Southern Conference that is pretty weak compared to last year, Appalachian State has good reason to start thinking about what happens after football season.
Finding success will not be easy without Donte Minter and Jeremy Clayton. Minter, a dynamic forward, averaged 13.9 points and 6.0 rebounds during his senior campaign. Clayton added 8.7 points and 8.1 rebounds and provide solid defense in the post. Making matters worse, just about all the depth behind them is also gone. Davis Bowne and Doug McLaughlin-Williams rarely put up big numbers, but they did provide nearly all of the frontcourt depth.
The Mountaineers have a whole slew of players who will be asked to step in and see significant playing time in the frontcourt. Josh Hunter has the highest expectations. The 6-6, 230 pound junior college transfer is a tough rebounder. He might not have the size to compete with some players on the glass, but he makes up for it with hustle and positioning. Ideally Quinche Dowdell will play at the three where he can better utilize his athleticism, but the freshman has the toughness to battle down low. That versatility will cause some mismatches before too long. Fellow incoming freshman Andre Williamson has a little more size and could make a big impact at the five spot immediately. The 6-7 Prince George, Virginia native averaged 18 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks per game as a senior in high school and garnered a McDonalds All-America nomination. It is that shot blocking ability that will earn Williamson some quality minutes as a freshman. Speaking of shotblocking, Josh Nirenberg, a 6-9 center, excels in that department. He might not be quite as polished overall as some of the other incoming freshman, but at 260 pounds, he can certainly clog the lane. The most experienced of the newcomers is not really a newcomer at all. Tyler Webb redshirted last year after playing in 51 games with six starts as an underclassman. His experience in the program will be very important while the newcomers adjust to life in Boone, North Carolina. Redshirt freshman Donterious Hughes will provide some depth in the backcourt.
Who to Watch:
But the backcourt does not need much depth this season. Donald Sims and Ryann Abraham split time at point guard and will likely do so again. Sims is the more dynamic scorer and the most prolific long range shooter on the team. However, Abraham hit over 46 percent of his attempts from long range. Abraham has a little more experience and if he takes the majority of minutes running the show, Sims could be moved to the two guard spot. But that would move Kellen Brand to the three and, at 6-1, that would make the backcourt really small. Eduardo Bermudez can do a little bit of everything. At 6-3, he is a decent rebounder from the wing, but he can also pass and get to the basket himself. Jeremi Booth had a solid freshman campaign and showed that he can be an explosive scorer. Once he starts scoring more consistently, he will play a bigger role. It does not matter who starts where and Coach Francher will find the best combination for the situation. The important thing is that he has five quality players to choose from to fit into the three perimeter positions.
Not every position in the frontcourt will be manned by a newcomer. Isaac Butts averaged less than nine minutes per game as a freshman, but he is ready to play a bigger role and clog the lane this time around. At 6-10 and 295 pounds, the nickname ‘Big Ike’ is well founded. He is a decent scorer around the basket, but his most important assets this year will be his ability to rebound and play defense.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Donald Sims, Sophomore, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Kellen Brand, Junior, Guard, 10.4 points per game
Eduardo Bermudez, Senior, Guard, 6.5 points per game
Josh Hunter, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Isaac Butts, Sophomore, Center, 2.8 points per game