North Texas Daily

Five things to watch for from men’s basketball over the offseason

Five things to watch for from men’s basketball over the offseason

April 04
21:35 2018
  1. Lawson’s wrist

Sophomore guard A.J. Lawson infamously injured his wrist coming into the season–something most people did not find out until months into the season. It showed in his play as he shot nearly eight percent worse from the 3-point line in his sophomore season than his breakout freshman year.

His sophomore campaign also showed a four percent drop in his free throw accuracy.

“It hurts to shoot,” Lawson admitted back in January.

As a result of his inability to catch-and-shoot, Lawson shot 1.1 less 3-pointers per 40 minutes as a sophomore than as a freshman.

Lawson underwent surgery for his wrist on Monday, merely three days after the College Basketball Invitational Finals game three. He tweeted that the surgery went well, and now his fight to return to basketball normalcy begins. If he can not get to a 30 percent 3-point shooter, his role on the offense could become limited in his junior season, especially with the bevy of talented guards on this team.

Lawson’s playing time dipped in the CBI tournament as junior guards Jorden Duffy and Michael Miller offered more versatility and shooting offensively. While his finishing ability and power game could equate to a small-ball forward next season, that’s a limited specialty.

  1. Umoja Gibson

Arguably a top three player on the 2017-2018 team before his season was ended in game two with an ankle injury, Gibson is now the main player who has Mean Green fans excited heading into next season. A third dynamic guard to go beside sophomore guards Roosevelt Smart and Ryan Woolridge who can shoot, create and playmake has everyone salivating.

Gibson received a medical redshirt after his injury, so he will enter the 2018 season as a redshirt freshman with the potential to open up the offense even more than what we saw in the CBI tournament.

While he may be undersized for a two guard, his basketball savvy and the team defense should be able to cover any deficiencies he has on the defensive side of the ball.

  1. Redshirts Mark and Miah

After redshirting this past season for different reasons, Jahmiah Simmons will be a redshirt sophomore and Mark Tikhonenko will be a redshirt freshman entering the 2018 season.

Tikhonenko is a 6-foot-10-inch forward who is advertised as a 3-point shooter similar to senior forward Shane Temara. His shooting did not stand out as exceptional to me when I saw him before the season in drills or 5-on-5. He is not skinny despite being young, so his strength could be a positive as well, but defense and rebounding is the major focus for him along with sharpening his shooting.

If he can shoot 35 percent from 3-point range, he adds a whole other dimension to next year’s offense.

Jahmiah, meanwhile, came to North Texas from Arkansas State along with McCasland and was forced to sit out as a result. At only 6-foot-4-inches,Jahmiah played much like Charles Barkley in his years back at Arkansas State in the post and on the glass.

He has been working on adding a 3-point shot to his arsenal, though. It’s almost essential in today’s basketball to at least hit a mid-range jump shot, but there have been videos of him sinking tons of 3-pointers in practice with consistency. In his sophomore season at Arkansas State, he attempted nine threes on the entire season. Much like Lawson, Jahmiah’s shooting could determine his playing time and role on the team next year.

  1. Guard competition

Game after game, Woolridge and Smart played 35 or more minutes as the two primary guards with sophomore DJ Draper or junior Jorden Duffy coming in beside them to handle the ball. Those four are coming back next season. Add Gibson, junior Michael Miller, any recruit McCasland lands and perhaps Lawson if he can stretch the floor, and there’s not a lot of minutes for the six or seven of them.

If Woolridge and Smart take another step of improvement next season, the remaining minutes will be even less for the rest. That’s Draper, Duffy, Lawson, Miller and Gibson without even mentioning junior guard/forward Allante Holston and Simmons, both of which can play the four position.

  1. The development of Zachary Simmons

Freshman forward Zachary Simmons has one of the highest ceilings on this team with his touch around the basket and his length. We saw him grab 22 rebounds in a CBI Finals game and finish numerous times around the rim with crafty shots or a post hook.

His post game improved drastically and so did his defensive awareness throughout the season. The next development from him could come in improving his abilities as a roll man in the pick-and-roll. Often Zachary caught the ball outside of the paint and most of the time he did not have the ability to attack with a dribble and also struggled to find the open pass on the rotation.

He has all the tools of a terrific forward in Conference USA, and I would not be surprised to see a big jump in his sophomore campaign.

Featured image: North Texas sophomore guard A.J. Lawson shoots the ball in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament against Louisiana Tech on March 7 at The Star in Frisco. Sara Carpenter

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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