2008-09 UAB Basketball Preview: #47
Overall Rank: #47
Conference Rank: #2 C-USA
2007-08: 23-11, 12-4, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: NIT
UAB finished second place in Conference USA a year ago, but that was not good enough to reach the NCAA Tournament. It will be more difficult to finish second behind Memphis this year, but due to the increase in talent in the conference, a second place finish in 2008-2009 should lead to the NCAAs. And as long as the Blazers have Robert Vaden on the floor, they will be in the mix. Vaden averaged an incredible 21.1 points per game and added 3.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists. The 6-5 wing is a great shooter and hit 4.3 three-point shots per game at a 40 percent clip. And Vaden does more than just shoot the ball; he will get to the basket effectively and finish with ease.
The problem for the Blazers is in the frontcourt where the absence of Frank Holmes, Reggie Huffman, Walter Sharpe and Zisis Sarikopoulos leave the team with few options. Huffman, who started 30 games last season, is the biggest loss after averaging an impressive 7.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game despite averaging under 20 minutes per contest. Sharpe was a solid player when he was on the floor, but he only played in 12 games during the 2007-2008 campaign. The only departure from a deep backcourt is Tyler Marsh who played in just nine games.
Cameron Moore would ideally play the small forward spot, but he will not likely see too many minutes there while Vaden is around. At 6-7, Moore has the size to play the four spot in certain situations, although he definitely lacks the strength to battle with most opposing power forwards. The walk-on turned down some scholarship offers to head to Birmingham and could work his way into the regular rotation as a freshman. Terrence Roderick is an interesting prospect. After redshirting last year, the 6-6 guard will look to work his way into an already crowded group on the perimeter. Roderick handles the ball like a point, score like a two and has the size of a small forward. That versatility, not to mention plenty of talent to go along with it, should earn him some quality minutes right away.
Who to Watch:
And that says a lot about Roderick since UAB has five returning players battling for minutes with Vaden in the backcourt. Once Channing Toney was eligible mid-way through the season after transferring in from Georgia, it was hard to keep him out of the starting lineup. The 6-5 wing averaged 10.5 points per game and is a better than average shooter from long range. Now that he will have a full year on the court, Toney should be even more productive. But Paul Delaney III will likely keep Toney coming in off the bench. Two years ago Delaney led the team with 15.5 points and 5.2 assists per game. Last year he was supposed to move to the shooting guard spot, but went down for the year in the fourth game of the season with a knee injury. He is back this year and ready to give the team another dynamic scorer. Ed Berrios and Mike Davis, Jr. are not explosive players, but they are experienced options who will provide quality depth. UAB needed to find a point guard last year so they could move Delaney to the shooting guard position. They found Aaron Johnson. The 5-7 Chicago, Illinois product dished out 4.1 assists per game and did a good job keeping the turnovers relatively under control. Having Delaney’s ballhandling skills by his side, not to mention a year of experience, should make Johnson more effective this year.
The frontcourt has potential. Lawrence Kinnard is a proven scorer and a solid rebounder. The 6-8 senior spends most of his time behind the arc on the offensive side of the floor and that leaves Jeremy Mayfield and Howard Crawford to battle in the paint. Both averaged under 15 minutes per game last year, but both are also talented players who can develop into big time players. If they can, UAB will easily be second to the Tigers in C-USA. But if the center spot remains a problem on both sides of the court it will open up the door for teams like Southern Miss and UTEP to sneak into second place.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Aaron Johnson, Sophomore, Guard, 5.2 points per game
Paul Delaney III, Senior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Robert Vaden, Senior, Guard, 21.1 points per game
Lawrence Kinnard, Senior, Forward, 11.1 points per game
Jeremy Mayfield, Junior, Forward, 4.3 points per game