While Georgia State’s men’s basketball team waits to see if it will be invited to a postseason tournament, we are left to ponder what the team will look like next year.
Gone are six seniors: Eric Buckner, James Fields, Jihad Ali, Josh Micheaux, Brandon McGee and Jamar Taylor.
Their absence will be big in several areas.
The sextet produced 64 percent of the team’s points and 80 percent of the team’s rebounds this season.
The team will return three players who saw a lot of playing time in point guard Devonta White (12.4 points per game), part-time starter Rashaad Richardson (5.5 ppg) and subs James Vincent (3.4 ppg and 2.0 rebounds per game) and Tony Kimbro.
White and Richardson, arguably the team’s best 3-point shooter (36.4 percent to Ali’s 37), figure to make up the core. While Vincent can’t duplicate Buckner’s shot-blocking ability, he can be just as productive on offense given more playing time and more aggressiveness. Kimbro could fulfill the Micheaux “do-everything” role. He’s very quick and an underrated rebounder. He needs to work on his ballhandling and shooting.
Georgia State will feature several new faces. Manny Atkins, who sat out last season after transferring from Virginia Tech, and a slew of signees led by outside sharpshooter R.J. Hunter, coach Ron Hunter’s son, will arrive. Atkins and Hunter could bring a dimension to the offense that was lacking this season: a consistent outside shot. Hunter is averaging 19.9 points, including 38 percent from 3-point range, as of last weekend.
Atkins, who is 6-7, and Buford’s T.J. Shipes, who is 6-8, could also provide Hunter more height and more rebounding on the wings. Atkins averaged almost 5 points per game as a reserve for the Hokies. Shipes is averaging 13.7 points and 10.1 rebounds as of last weekend.
The other signees inclulde: 6-1 point guard David Travers, who figures to spell White, and 6-4 shooting guard Cameron Solomon, who figures to spell Richardson.
Hunter said next year’s team will play much differently than this year, likely because the team will be more familiar with the offense and especially the defense. Buckner covered up a lot of the team’s mistakes this year. They will need to tighten up next year. Vincent is a good shot-blocker around the basket, but doesn’t have the agility and quickness to step out and challenge the short jumpers as effectively as Buckner did.
Though the senior-laden Panthers won 21 games, the second-most in school history, Hunter said next year won’t mean lesser expectations just because the team will be much younger.
“Youth won’t be an excuse,” he said. “Just because we are young doesn’t mean we can’t win. You’ll never hear me say that.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Please follow me on twitter @ajcgsu.