How Will Teams Account for Major Personnel Losses?

    
November 7th, 2011
One question that seems to float around college basketball on an annual basis is the "how will they replace..." inquiry. That could apply to just about any player, from a key sub to a starter to a conference player of the year honoree. But the danger of using the word "replace" is that sometimes the departed players is too difficult to account for by simply plugging someone else into their role. According to kenpom.com, these were the top ten players in the country last season in percentage of possessions used:

1 Anatoly Bose (Nicholls St.) 36.7
2 Jimmer Fredette (BYU) 36.4
3 Keion Bell (Pepperdine) 35.7
4 Brandon Bowdry (Eastern Michigan)34.4
5 Adrian Oliver (San Jose State) 33.8
6 Xavier Silas (Northern Illinois) 33.8
7 Will Pratt (Northwestern St.) 33.4
8 Grant Maxey (Jackson State) 33.2
9 Andrew Goudelock (Charleston) 33.1
10 Shawn Lewis (Cal Poly) 32.6

Nine of these players were seniors last season and the tenth (Keion Bell) has since transferred to Missouri, where he will have one year of eligibility in 2012-13 after sitting out this season (11th on the list is Lehigh's C.J. McCollum, one of the better guards in America who gets limited national exposure). But the question for each of these teams is how they go about redistributing the possessions that went to these players.

It goes without saying how important a Fredette or Goudelock was to their team last season, which makes it so difficult to simply say that they need to be "replaced". Attempting to replace a player of this influence can get teams in trouble, so the sooner a program figures out how to make up for the departure the better.

"At first we thought we could just run the same stuff and I was wrong," said College of Charleston head coach Bobby Cremins in a phone conversation last week. "We added some new stuff, went back and forth and then realized that we had to change."

The changes were all about comfort for the Cougars, who not only lost Goudelock but also guard Donovan Monroe (12.4 ppg) and forward Jeremy Simmons (13.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg). Goudelock and Monroe were responsible for 56.5% of Charleston's made three pointers in 2010-11, meaning that the Cougars will need multiple players to step up in that department.

One option: point guard Andrew Lawrence, who gained experience playing with the English National Team during the summer, and 74% of his points last season came from beyond the arc. Coach Cremins noted that Lawrence's experience this summer was a great one, and the starting point guard has the ability to set up teammates in addition to knock down shots. Obviously Lawrence's role will expand, but to expect him to pick up where Goudelock left off would be unfair.

In additon to Lawrence on the perimeter there are three players competing for the starting shooting guard role, with one of those options being Jordan Scott. Scott scored a team-high 23 points in their exhibition win over Queens College and 15 in the win over Limestone, but by no means did that lock up the starting nod, as Nori Johnson and Trevonte Dixon will also get opportunities to produce. In speaking with Coach Cremins he was still looking for improvement from Scott, and as the temperament improves his game should as well.

Charleston will also call on their lone returning starter for offense, and after missing the 2009-10 season due to a knee injury Antwaine Wiggins should be fully recovered. Wiggins averaged 7.9 points and 5.6 rebounds last season, making 51.1% of his two-point attempts and just 35.3% from beyond the arc. That percentage needs to improve if he's to raise his scoring, and that was a point of emphasis for the Cougars.

"He's playing well and trying to become a better shooter [form-wise]," noted Cremins. "He can be an NBA player if his shot improves."

Charleston also has the tough Trent Wiedeman in the frontcourt, but the loss of Willis Hall places a little more pressure on freshman Adjehi Baru, and the Cougars will have a chance to be a factor in the SoCon if the highly-touted newcomer is a factor. Charleston is young and has some big production losses to account for, but the Cougars have plenty back when compared with Colorado.

It's been well-documented the situation that Tad Boyle is in as the Buffaloes begin their first season in the Pac-12. In Alec Burks, Cory Higgins, Levi Knutson and Marcus Relphorde the Buffs lost 75% of their offense from last season's 24-14 team, meaning that there's a strong chance that they won't be able to simply look for guys to replicate the production of that quartet.

"We're not changing our system but adjustments need to be made," said Colorado head coach Tad Boyle. "We've stressed not trying to have a player be one of the departed, but to be themselves and understand why [the departed players] were successful and add to their games."

One player who will need to make this transition is point guard Nate Tomlinson, who had the luxury of being able to get the ball to players such as Burks and Higgins, who could then make a play and score baskets. "Nate has to be more of a playmaker himself and become more aggressive, but not just in terms of scoring," noted Boyle.

Tomlinson accounted for just 3.5% of the Buffaloes' points last season, but look for that number to increase by a substantial amount out of necessity. But he isn't the only player Colorado will call on for points, as a pair of seniors will also need to be involved. Forward Austin Dufault (6.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and guard Carlon Brown (Utah transfer) will also be key cogs in the Buffaloes' up-tempo system, and how they execute in their "secondary break" will be something to watch.

"Last year's team was good at taking care of the basketball and we have to continue that," said Boyle when asked what his team will need to do offensively this season. "We have to be patient offensively, and we're having issues with that now. We don't have a Burks or Higgins to make plays in our secondary break."

Can Brown do that? He's got the athletic ability to do so as do freshmen Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie, and sophomore Andre Roberson will also be called upon in the frontcourt. And in Dufault the Buffaloes have a big man who can score either inside or out. Coach Boyle noted that Dufault has to do a good job of understanding his matchup and knowing where his advantage is in order to be successful.

How teams go about accounting for major personnel losses will be something to keep an eye on, not just in the distribution from a numbers standpoint but also in what kinds of sets they run. Teams who could give the ball to a dominant figure and ask him to make a play might have to do more work off the ball to get good scoring opportunities, but the thought of simply replacing a player is a simplistic one. Look out for this in the first month of the season, as how this is handled will shape the seasons of many teams.

Some Other Teams to Watch

Arizona: The Wildcats not only lost a lottery pick in forward Derrick Williams but an assertive point guard in Lamont "MoMo" Jones (transferred to Iona). That means that the Wildcats will be young at the point with either sophomore Jordin Mayes or freshman Josiah Turner, and they don't have a big man on the block that can take the ball and get the team a basket whenever. More will be asked of Solomon Hill on the wing, senior Kyle Fogg is experienced as well and the sooner Kevin Parrom can return the better.

BYU: This one is pretty obvious due to the graduation of Jimmer Fredette, but don't forget about what Jackson Emery brought to the Cougars as well. The good news for Dave Rose is that Charles Abouo and Noah Hartsock return, as does Brandon Davies (suspended for an honor code violation late last season). The Cougars may have to rely more on their big men for points, especially early in the season, and it's going to be interesting to see how they incorporate UCLA transfer Matt Carlino once he's eligible in December.

Connecticut: The Huskies were a young team last year, but losing a player the caliber of Kemba Walker is a big deal, especially with freshman Ryan Boatright sitting per NCAA inquiry. That puts more on the plate of Shabazz Napier, and look for wing Jeremy Lamb to be used at the point on occasion as well. Lamb's best role offensively may end up being one similar to how Richard Hamilton was used during his time in Storrs, as Lamb is also a tough matchup coming off of screens.

Hofstra: Charles Jenkins left Hempstead as the greatest player in the history of the school, so there really isn't a way to simply plug someone into his open spot. Rhode Island transfer Steve Mejia is more of a distributor than scorer at the point, but in shooting guard Mike Moore the Pride have a player capable of assuming that alpha role on offense. Bryant Crowder, Nathaniel Lester and David Imes will also have roles that are larger than they would have been with a player of Jenkins' caliber still on campus.

Jackson State: Losing Grant Maxey, who was responsible for 33.2% of the Tigers' possessions last season, is a tough departure to account for but he's not the only loss for JSU. De'Suan Dixon and Tyrone Hanson were also significant contributors according to Ken Pomeroy's numbers, leaving Jenniro Bush as the main option. Bush was named Preseason POY in the SWAC, and JSU will need that kind of production to account for the loss of four starters.

Kansas: The Jayhawks have to account for the loss of not just the Morrii (Marcus and Markieff) but also Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar, their most successful three-point shooters with regards to number of shots made and percentage (Markieff Morris shot 42% from three but on nearly have as many attempts). Junior forward Thomas Robinson will be the primary option on the block, but it doesn't help that guards Tyshawn Taylor and Elijah Robinson have both been suspended already (only for the two exhibition games).

St. John's: Who didn't the Red Storm lose? Other than Malik Stith, who played just 12.2 minutes per game last season, no one of consequence returns from that NCAA Tournament team. But the newcomers are extremely talented, led by junior college transfers Nurideen Lindsey and God'sgift Achiuwa and freshmen Maurice Harkless and Sir'Dominic Pointer. To say the least this thin roster will need to remain healthy, and possible mid-season additions Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett would be welcomed with open arms.