With the football team laying a collective egg for the month of October and without a significant prospect of improvement for the team in November, I feel it is time to put the gridiron on the backburner.
With most of you leaving the BYU game at the end of the third quarter when we were only down by 18 and one score would have put us right back in it (yea, I am frustrated with the Green Machine, but that is off the topic), it seems that you would agree with me that it may be time to move on to something else.
Well, fortunately for all of us, that something else is right around the corner. That’s right Ram fans, it’s hoops time! Now, judging by the average attendance of students at the past two home games for the basketball team (think less than 25 and you would be right about on), I may be your only source of information about the team thus far.
As such, I can think of no better way to bring you the hard hitting analysis than to channel my inner Mel Kiper Jr. and start passing out grades. I even busted out a giant jar of Brylcreem and closed off my nose with a clothespin to make my voice more annoying. I told you, I’m not messing around with this one. To the grades!
Starter Cory Lewis has been with the program for two years now, and it shows. A good leader on the floor, he distributes the ball well, is aggressive on defense, and can crash the boards surprisingly effectively, given his size. He should lead the Rams offense this season even better than he was able to manage it last season. That means crisp passes down low to guys like Jason Smith and open looks for our shooters like Stephan Gilling. That is, if Layer lets him lead and doesn’t make him dump the ball off to our center at the top of the key like he did last year.
Off the bench will most likely be either Jordan Surratt or the wildcard Tyler Smith. With Smith spending the preseason on the bench it is hard to say right now what he can do, but Surratt should develop over the season into a better player than he has showed. Right now he has a tendency to force passes that aren’t open and not put enough on his feeds down low, leading to turnovers. He does play pretty decent defense and could come off the bench if we need a stop, kind of in the same role that Chris Harris (yet another young guy Layer drove off) played last year.
Like I said, Tyler Smith is this season’s biggest wildcard. He has the potential to be really, really good if he can keep his act together and live up to just some of the hype that has surrounded his coming here. Maryland’s player of the year his senior year in high school, as well as an All-American at Northeastern Junior College, I have high hopes for him. From what I have heard he scores well from range and is able to see the court well. Plus he hangs out with ‘Melo in the off-season. So, basically I am really excited to see this guy play.
If Layer decides to use Smith as a point guard to spell Lewis, then Stephan Gilling will fill his usual role of a perimeter shooter who gets open off picks and can go on hot-streaks where he may knock down five threes in row. Really, if things pan out well with Tyler Smith then Gilling will be a good guy to bring off the bench to kick start a rally. A rally that Layer can then kill with an inexplicable timeout and subsequent substitution.
Also off the bench is Jimmy Smith, a high school guy from California who should see junk minutes sporadically throughout the year. In the preseason he didn’t look too bad, but shouldn’t see much floor time this year.
I was really happy to see how well Alton Robinson played this preseason. He is a slasher who can drive the lane, is an effective reboundeder, and hustles like crazy on defense and offense. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about this guy. He could be the difference maker for the team this year if he keeps it up.
Freddy Robinson plays a similar game. He drives the lane and gets rebounds, but from what I have seen doesn’t shoot quite as well as Alton. Still, if I had my way both of these guys would be on the floor at the same time for most of the night, with Gilling off the bench if we need more outside shooting.
Preseason Mountain West All-Conference player Jason Smith will lead this spot, and is the highlight in our stable of big men. At seven feet tall, he’s great on defense and should pick up blocks when our centers can’t. He is also our most proven player on offense, with a good array of post moves and a decent mid-range jumper. Sometimes he gets a little too excited about his shooting and starts taking 15-footers, but most of the time he provides us with a consistent scorer.
Off the bench are Xavier Kilby and Jarrel Smith (for those scoring at home, this is the fourth Smith on the team, only Jarrel and Jimmy are related), two guys that weren’t here last year. Kilby will most likely see the most time of the two, but unless we get into foul trouble we shouldn’t really need them. Creason will sub in to fill the big man roll, and Freddy Robinson plays bigger than he is. So, I don’t see too many problems here.
For problems, this would be the place to look. Stuart Creason is the highlight of the position, but really all I can say is that he is a good leader on the court to younger guys, makes pressure free-throws, and can score on the block against people who are much shorter than he is (which at 7 feet tall is most people). But just like last year when we were killed by inconsistent guard play and a lack of toughness down low (oh, and by Layer), center could be our weak point again this year. For his size, Creason plays soft defense and isn’t much of a rebounder.
Now, I am just going to plant a seed here and will write more in depth about it later in the season, but I am a firm believer that Creason needs a ‘stache. He would go from soft center to enforcer in the span of a few days. Just think about it.
Anyway, off the bench are Ronnie Aguilar, who was hurt all last season, and Ryan Vermeulen, a freshman who seems to have trouble controlling his six-ten frame (who can blame the guy). Unfortunately neither of these guys seem ready to step up into that badass enforcer role that we are lacking, so the center position at CSU should continue to be soft on D again this year.
Overall, I like us to finish better than the seventh place in the Mountain West that we were picked to finish in the preseason. Tyler Smith and Jason Smith have the potential to take over this team and become our very own Brandon Heath and Marcus Slaughter, the dynamic guard-forward duo who led the San Diego State Aztecs to the MWC title last year. If we can address our lack of defense down low, I am confident of big things out of the team this year. We may even be able to overcome the 7-8 games that Layer single-handedly loses for us. We can only hope.