#71 UCF: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #71
Conference Rank: #4 Conference USA
2009-10: 15-17, 6-10
2009-10 postseason: none
Coach: Donnie Jones (First season at UCF, 55-41 overall)
UCF was a young team last year and it showed. The Knights hope new head coach Donnie Jones can help this group grow up. They should mature a little bit on their own, but Coach Jones did a superb job at Marshall and moving to a team that loses none of its key players and has the facilities and potential to recruit with anybody in Conference USA gives Coach Jones and UCF a very promising future.
Key Losses: none
With eight players returning who averaged at least 15 minutes per game, there may not be room for any of the newcomers to make an impact right away. Yet, the coaching staff did a good job preparing for the future by bringing a point guard, a wingman and a post player. Isaiah Sykes, a 6-5 wing, is the most highly touted recruit of the bunch and is the most likely player to work his way into the regular rotation as a freshman. Power forward Dwight McCombs is a junior college transfer who has the experience to add another big body to the mix this season. Point guard Jarvis Davis, meanwhile, will have to bide his time.
For now the point guard duties belong to A.J. Rompza. The 5-9 junior dished out 4.6 assists per game and only turned the ball over 2.1 times, and by the end of the year he was doing that with a bum knee. Rompza is not much of a scorer and he could become much improved in that department if his three-point shooting improves as an upperclassman. But UCF does not need Rompza to score more than his 8.6 point per game average a year ago as long as he keeps finding his teammates and playing shutdown defense. Marcus Jordan and Taylor Young are also capable ballhandlers and those two will be in a heated battle for a starting gig along with Isaac Sosa. Jordan is a better scorer and rebounder than Young, but Young is a much more consistent outside shooter. Whatever Coach Jones needs out of his backcourt, he can get from Jordan, Young and Sosa.
David Diakite would be the likely candidate to lose his starting job so Jordan or Young could start along with Rompza and Sosa. However, Diakite is the glue guy on this team and even if the numbers are not impressive, his play makes the rest of the team better. Diakite is only a sophomore, but he started 21 games last season and that says a lot about how important he became to this team when there were a lot of talented players who could have started in his place. A.J. Tyler and Keith Clanton are the traditional big men on the roster. Tyler is a little better scorer and Clanton is a little stronger on the glass, but both need to be more consistent. Tyler is one of the few seniors on the roster and needs to turn into a leader and Clanton needs to turn his promise as a freshman into consistency as a sophomore. P.J. Gaynor and McCombs will have to provide a bulk of the minutes off the bench when Tyler and Clanton need a break.
Who to Watch:
Sosa only started 14 games as a sophomore and, like most of the team, was prone to making mistakes, but he did end up averaging 10.3 points per game and easily was the best shooter on the team. Sosa is pretty much a flat out shooter, but he does it well. Rarely will he attack the basket or hit the glass, but somebody on the perimeter needs to be the go-to-scorer and right now that guy is Sosa. The 6-3 Puerto Rico native could come in off the bench yet again if Coach Jones favors the experience of Young or the potential of Jordan, but Sosa is the most dangerous offensive weapon the backcourt has. Young can come in off the bench and provide a spark with his outside shooting and Jordan can give the team another quality ballhandler, but it is probably Sosa who will have to take the big shots.
The Knights have a ton of potential. The 2009-2010 campaign was up and down, but the young group hung in there pretty well despite the lack of consistency. A year older and a year wiser could make all the difference. Add a nice up and coming coach like Jones to the mix and you can be sure that this team has higher aspirations than just improving on their 15-17 record of a year ago. And there certainly is reason to believe that they can be much, much better than that.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
A.J. Rompza, Junior, Guard, 8.6 ppg
Isaac Sosa, Junior, Guard, 10.3 ppg
David Diakite, Sophomore, Forward, 4.7 ppg
A.J. Tyler, Senior, Forward, 10.3 ppg
Keith Clanton, Sophomore, Forward, 9.7 ppg
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