North Texas Daily

Basketball tries to use front court as advantage

Basketball tries to use front court as advantage

Basketball tries to use front court as advantage
November 17
23:46 2014

Scott Sidway / Staff Writer

The tallest member of the Mean Green men’s basketball team stands at 6 feet 8 inches. The two tallest members of last year’s team, who stood at 6 feet 10 inches, are gone, causing a size disadvantage for the team.

Yet despite losing two big men from the roster, senior guard Jordan Williams believes having an undersized team is not necessarily a bad thing.

“I kind of think it’s an advantage now because we can run, get out faster, and be faster than other teams,” Williams said. “So I think it’s an advantage instead of a disadvantage.”

Former Mean Green center Keith Coleman left the program following the 2013-2014 season, and center and graduate student Kelvin Gaines decided to forego his final season of eligibility and pursue a professional basketball career overseas. Statistically, the loss is not entirely devastating, as the two combined to average 4.9 rebounds per game for the Mean Green.

Regardless, losing that much height in a team’s frontcourt can create problems on both offense and defense for a team. However, head coach Tony Benford said the shift in size on his roster actually matches a growing trend in collegiate basketball.

“If you look around the game of basketball now, there’s not really many dominant low post players out there that can really just go on that block,” Benford said. “So most of the guys nowadays are guys that can pick and pop, guys that can operate on the high post area and elbow area. We’re doing a lot of things like that, so that’s how we’ll score.”

The lone 6-foot-8-inch member of the North Texas squad looking to fill the void at the center position is senior forward Armani Flannigan. Now as the team’s tallest player, Flannigan said the coaching staff has asked him to adjust his game due to smaller personnel.

“The coaches have asked me to be a little faster up the court, because they want it to be a little more of a fast break team,” Flannigan said. “They want me posting up, of course, but they want me running up the floor well this year.”

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Senior forward Armani Flannigan drives past a Nicholls State defender in yesterday’s home game. Flannigan recorded 30 blocks last season.

Aside from Flannigan, the Mean Green’s roster is littered with what Benford refers to as switchables, which are players who are able to play nearly every position on the floor. Flannigan said even the big men are required to do more than post up in this year’s offense.

“You’ve got to be ready at all times to basically play any position, because they want you to do a lot of different things instead of just run the court and post up,” Flannigan said. “You might have an open shot. It all really depends on what the defense gives you.”

In last Friday’s season opener, Benford elected to start senior forward Colin Voss at the five position and freshman forward Jeremy Combs at the four. Voss and Combs both stand at 6 feet 7 inches, which is undersized compared to the traditional frontcourt.

“Colin played the five last year. Armani played the five. So there’s not a big transition,” Benford said. “It’s pretty much the same offensively.”

North Texas is hoping that size does not matter in terms of defensive efficiency either. Voss has experience playing the five, and Combs possesses the athleticism to consistently crash the boards and play around the rim. Combs registered a double-double in the team’s exhibition game, and both players came one rebound shy of another in the season opener last Friday.

Benford said this year’s newcomers fit the “switchable” description and give the team versatility with its roster.

“The guys that we recruited are probably fours like Jeremy Combs, a guy that can play the four or the five, [junior transfer] Muhammed Ahmed that can play the four or the five, and then [freshman forward Greg] Wesley. Those guys are all versatile bigs,” Benford said.

The Mean Green has begun recruiting big men who are able to run the floor and do things outside of the traditional big man skillset. The recruitment started with players like Combs, Ahmed and Wesley, but the process has begun for next year as well.

North Texas has already signed seven-footer Rickey Brice from Pantego Christian High School in Arlington, a big man who fits the current Mean Green mold by being mobile and possessing an outside shot.

For this year’s squad though, Benford plans to maximize his players’ skills despite their lack of size.

“I think you adjust to the personnel you have,” Benford said. “But I think with this year’s group, we wanted to really push the tempo and get a lot of guys that can rebound.”

Featured Image: Senior forward Colin Voss looks to score on a defender against the University of Arkansas – Monticello on Nov. 14. The team won 84-62. Photo by Harris Buchanan – Staff Photographer

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