Jackson State Basketball Preview: #144
Jackson State Tigers
Overall Rank: #144
Conference Rank: #1 SWAC
2008-09: 18-15, 15-3
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Tevester Anderson (95-100 at Jackson State, 198-153 overall)
Jackson State was the prohibitive favorite to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference a year ago. The Tigers still ended up with a 13-3 record in the conference, but that was not enough to win the title. Thus, Coach Tevester Anderson and company needed to string together some wins in the postseason tournament to get into the NCAA Tournament. They came close, but JSU fell short in the finals, losing to Alabama State.
Key Losses: G Darrion Griffin, C Jeremy Caldwell
Coach Anderson is bringing in six newcomers and has a trio of holdovers who sat out last season. Big men Oliver Jefferson and Davon Jones will add some much needed depth to the frontcourt and fellow redshirt Jonathan Lewis has some potential. What the Tigers need in this class is size and they certainly got it with 7-2 center Jamarious Sykes, 6-10 forward Gertavian Blake and 6-9 Raymond Gregory. It is Blake who will make an immediate impact after having some experience at the junior college level. Blake will not score much, but he is a solid rebounder and shot blocker. The size continues in the backcourt, most notably in 6-7 wing Tyrone Hanson. Hanson spent a year with Nevada before playing another year with Arkansas Fort Smith.
Darrion Griffin was the team’s best scorer on the perimeter last year, but the team does return six players who saw significant playing time in the backcourt. Johnson will find a spot somewhere on the perimeter and Hanson could immediately step into a starting spot. Chris Hyche, De’Suan Dixon, Kenny Russell, Cason Burk and Phillip Williams might not be the most experienced players in the conference, but all of them averaged around ten minutes per game and one or two of them will step up and play a bigger role off the bench, or even compete for a starting gig.
The frontcourt will look a lot different without center Jeremy Caldwell. The big man averaged 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds a year ago. His ability to free up space in the paint was invaluable to the team. The man it benefited the most was Grant Maxey. The 6-6 forward had a superb junior campaign, leading the team with 16.4 points and 6.7 rebounds. Maxey’s ability to step outside and hit the three-pointer makes him extremely difficult to defend, but he will not be as effective if one of the newcomers cannot create space in the paint. Garrison Johnson would be the only other option, but he is really a 6-4 wing who should be at the two or three spot. Jackson State could move Maxey to the five spot and Johnson or Hanson to the four, but Maxey is not a true big man.
Who to Watch:
However, the leader of the team, is sophomore point guard Rod Melvin. The 6-1 Brandon, Mississippi native had a superb freshman season, dishing out 3.4 assists per game. His turnovers were a little high, but not bad for a freshman. Those numbers should get better this year and Melvin will lead this team. Melvin is not a prolific scorer, but he certainly has the potential and somebody needs to step up and fill the void left behind by Griffin.
The Tigers have their point guard in Melvin and their big time versatile scorer in Maxey. Even Blake should be a decent replacement for Caldwell. Blake will not score as much, but he will eat up space in the paint and free up Maxey to score about 20 points per game. The key to this team will be how much production they can get on the wings. Johnson and Hanson are capable slashers who will get to the basket and once this team finds a consistent three-point shooting threat off the bench, nobody in the SWAC will be able to stop them.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Rod Melvin, Sophomore, Guard, 16.4 points per game
Garrison Johnson, Senior, Guard, 10.7 points per game
Tyrone Hanson, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Grant Maxey, Senior, Forward, 16.4 points per game
Gertavian Blake, Junior, Center, DNP last season