Thursday, November 06, 2008
If the Bisons basketball team gives coach Scott Sanderson the right answers to most of the questions surrounding the 2008-2009 season then they should challenge for the Atlantic Sun regular season championship and their first NCAA Tournament berth.
Once again the Atlantic Sun is going to tough, especially the top four or five teams in the league. A look at some of the questions provides insight into the Bisons program.
Will sophomore Michael Teller quickly return to form after missing last season as a medical redshirt?
“Teller played 17 minutes a game for us as a freshman,” said Sanderson. “He is a very good shooter. Defensively, he is always in the right spot.
“The best thing you can say about him is that he has a feel for how to play the game. You can’t teach that. He understands where to be offensively. You have to guard him. He gets a lot of shots not because of his speed or quickness but his ability to position himself.”
Can senior guard Michael Lusk make the step up from role player to more of a go-to player?
“Michael will play the No. 2 guard and will play the point in emergency situations,” said Sanderson. “He is going to guard the best guard on the other team. He has an understanding and knowledge of what we are doing offensively and defensively.
“His role has changed. We are expanding his game. We want him to do more offensively. We want him to extend his game on both ends of the court. He was a great role guy his first two seasons here, but we need him to be more assertive this season.”
Will sophomore center Adnan Hodzic be able to start out this season the same way he finished last season?
“I don’t see how he is not going to be an all-league guy for the next three years,” said Sanderson. “He is in better condition. He has lost body fat. He is stronger.
“He is way ahead of where he was last season defensively. Offensively, if he catches the ball down there and the other team is guarding him one-on-one he is going to score. He is learning angles in the post, where the ball is and where to catch the ball. He needs to improve on his assists and become a consistent free throw shooter.”
How much better can guard Josh Slater, a member of the Atlantic Sun All-Freshman Team last season, be with a year of collegiate experience under his belt?
“Josh should be an all-league guard,” said Sanderson. “He is a tough, hard-nosed player. He is not afraid to compete. He is not afraid to take big shots. He should have a major impact on this team.
“He started a lot of games. He played a lot of minutes. He is healthier. He is stronger. We are going to expect a lot out of him playing both the point and the wing.”
Will Brandon Brown be able to put up the same statistics in conference games on a consistent basis that he was able to produce in non-conference games last season?
“We are going to play Brandon at the wing more this year,” said Sanderson. “He is shooting the ball really well. He is very good defensively. He has a good feel about how to play defense. He has a nose for the ball.
“He had a good year for a freshman, but he fell off a little late in the year. He has success early and teams started playing him differently. He is stronger than he was last season. He has more of a confidence about him.”
And how many members of the freshman class will provide immediate help?
Guards Jacob Arnett and Jordan Burgason and forward Matt Shaw are three newcomers that will be counted on to contribute quickly.
“Jordan might be one of our best shooters…period,” said Sanderson. “He can get his shot off of the dribble. He can shoot the three. He is a very good passer. He is learning how we want him to guard people.
“Jacob is an athletic kid. He is moving better offensively and defensively. He is a very good passer. He has really been making strides defensively. It will be interesting to see how he develops this season.”
Shaw is also a player whose development will be closely monitored this season.
“The best way to describe Matt is he is solid,” said Sanderson. “He makes his open shots. He will be in the right spot defensively. He will take charges. He is a nuts and bolts type of guy with a good understanding of how to play.”
What will be expected from the rest of the team?
Also expected to provide help in the backcourt is sophomore point guard Jimmy Oden who has dealt with some medical issues in the early going of his college career.
“Last season we didn’t see what Jimmy can do on a consistent basis,” said Sanderson. “And the biggest thing for him is to be consistent night in and night out.
“He has a tremendous upside. He probably has the best vision of anyone on the team. He can really see how to get other people involved. He creates shooting opportunities for a lot of his teammates.”
Forward Brian Wright sat out his freshman year as a redshirt. Sanderson thinks the extra development time paid dividends.
“Brian is our wild card guy,” said Sanderson. “He can guard three spots. He is extremely athletic. He can shoot the ball, especially the 3-pointer.
“He is a good kid off of the floor. But he plays that way on the floor too. We are working with him to go to another level in terms of being tougher on the floor. There is no question that off year helped him.”
At the center position Thomas Pfaff, who joins Lusk as the only two seniors on the team, appears to be ready to finish his college career on strong note. He will see playing time at both the No. 4 and No. 5 spots.
“Thomas has really improved a lot,” said Sanderson. “The biggest thing is he has come to grips with what we are going to let Adnan do and what we are not going to let him do. I can see playing him and Adnan together a lot.”
Pfaff not only brings his 6-8 frame to the court, but also provides a boost of energy whenever he enters a game.
“Thomas has outstanding energy,” said Sanderson. “He has a much better feel of what we need out of him. We want him to defend. We want him to get trash buckets. We want him to get stick backs. We want him to get loose balls around the bucket and stick the ball back in. He can cover up a lot of mistakes by other players.”
“He is our best low post defender. He knows where he supposed to be. He is a good rebounder. And he plays extremely hard. He is passionate about wanting to play with Adnan.”
Rounding out the roster are a pair of walk-ons in guard Brett Staal and forward Rob Murphy and one transfer.
“Brett is going to play the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 positions,” said Sanderson. “He is a Lipscomb High School kid. He has great practice habits. He wants to be here. He is hungry to have success here.
“Rob is from Brentwood Academy,” said Sanderson. “He is 6-7 and sometimes a big guy is hard to get as a walk-on. He has a burning desire to play.”
Also working out with the team, but ineligible to play this season, is 6-8 sophomore center Justin Glenn, a transfer from Centenary.
“He is long,” said Sanderson. “He can shoot the ball from the perimeter. He can get up off of the floor. He can stretch things defensively. He is going to be a very good asset to our team.”
This season’s team looks on paper to be the youngest here in many years. But Sanderson thinks that just looking at the roster is deceiving. Slater, Hodzic and Brown all played significant minutes as a freshmen and Teller is really a junior in terms of age. Wright is ready to play after setting out last season.
“We still have to connect the dots,” said Sanderson. “It is still kind of wide open as to who is going to play where. We are still deciding how we are going to play offensively.
“Last year we were one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. This season we are going to be better. If we are going to be a better rebounding team then we should be able to run more.”
Sanderson would like to increase his team scoring average from last season, while also reducing the points allowed.
“I would like for us to score a few more points this year,” said Sanderson. “We have guys who can shoot the ball. We have a good low post presence.
“But at the same time we don’t want to sacrifice what we do defensively. We should be better defensively. We are longer. We have more size. I feel like we should be able to guard better.”
Players must also deal with new 3-point line. He is interested in seeing how it will affect his team as well as opponents.
“There are some guys who have been able to shoot a 3-point shot, but with the line moved back a foot then some players might not be allowed to shoot it any more,” said Sanderson. “I think Teller, Burgason, Slater and Wright can all really shoot the 3-point shot with Adnan down low. We have the ability to stretch opponents defensively with our perimeter shooting. And Adnan is going to force some teams to double-team him.”