Republished from sportsandgrits.com
Inspired by Paul Westerdawg's piece, I figured I'd give a quick look ahead to next year's Fox Hounds before putting up the shorts and looking more at baseball and spring football.
Next year, we add at least three champions, to a roster that as of now would look like:
PG-Vincent Williams (Sr) Charles Mann (Fr)
SG-Sherrard Brantley (Sr) Kenny Gaines (Fr)
SF-Kentavious Caldwell Pope (So) Brandon Morris (Fr)
PF-Marcus Thornton (Jr) Nemi Djurisic (So) Tim Dixon (So)
C-Donte Williams (Jr) John Florveus (Sr) John Cannon (So)
There is room for at least one more spring signee (with a handful possible either inside or perhaps a shooter since we really need one), perhaps two if someone decides to leave the program early. Adding Tony Parker would change this outlook, but as for now, this is my thoughts...
The biggest need is, aside from general all around continued progression byarguably the best developer coach out there is for Mann to be ready to take over at PG (sorry Vincent), and for Marcus Thornton to develop offensively.
KCP is the star, and focal point. He showed enough this year to say he could be a 15-18 ppg guy offensively, and a strong wing defender. He's a guy you build around. Donte Williams showed some good stuff inside on both ends, and while his slender frame may not hold much weight, he should be able to add a few more pounds (probably 10 or less) and improve his strength. Nemi Djurisic showed flashes to where if he can improve consistency, and shoot better than 30% on layups, he's got the thickness to be that rare collegiate player strong enough to defend as a C, and skilled enough offensively to play like a SF.
John Florveus I'm punting on same as Brantley. You expect JUCOs to contribute immediately, and both have fallen far short of that. Cannon and Dixon both had their flashes, although it wouldn't have hurt to redshirt one and give those sporadic, sparse minutes to the other. I'd say the same for next year, especially if Florveus can improve to be a decent role player off the bench or if we add a legit big this spring (please Tony Parker, please!!!). Cannon seems reminiscent of the guy Fox mistakenly pushed away in Tech's Daniel Miller (tall, decent touch, and could develop nicely down the line, but will always be limited physically), while Tim Dixon seems cut from the Donte' Williams mold of slender, 6'9 or so athletic projects.
That brings us to the freshman, the backcourt, and Thornton. Thornton was hampered, possibly in a big way, by his knees all year. The kid just can't catch a break health wise, going back to a bout with mono as a freshman. He may just be cursed and never healthy, but if he can get healthy, he's shown great ability on the glass, and has the strength/athleticism to be a strong defender. He's shown flashes offensively, which may be his limited skill set, or may be health. But if he can improve, a front line of him, Djurisic, and Donte' Williams could be a good matchup crew of 3 talented 6'8+ players who can compliment each other's weaknesses on either end of the floor. It'd also allow KCP to play his more natural SG spot. We really need Thornton to a) get healthy, and b) develop at least a decent offensive game as a face up 4 or big 3 to dovetail with Djurisic at forward.
The backcourt will be the issue though. Aside from KCP, we have underwhelming seniors, or potentially overwhelmed freshmen. Gaines and Mann both have strong HS resumes, and some solid AAU work. They are good athletes, with thick frames who can do work attacking the rim. But the SEC paint is unlike any they've ventured in to before, and neither is said to be much of a shooter, which allows opposing Ds to lay off and kill their ability to drive. That, and they're both freshman, so excessive turnovers come with the territory, and those hurt badly. Williams and Brantley, to be somewhat nice, I just wouldn't be comfortable with either of them getting more than 20 minutes per, or even 15 minutes per, based on what they've shown the last two years. If they are getting 15-25+ minutes a night, we're in trouble and if not for South Carolina, would be staring at the SEC cellar.
Fox's player development noted, he still needs to bring in the horses. Things look like they'll be a similar growing pains next year, this time because of the backcourt. If we could add a Parker, or a strong SG/SF to partner with KCP, (let alone both) the outlook would be a lot rosier. As is, we're staring at another struggler, hoping KCP sticks around as a junior, and Fox can finally get some elite recruits to get this sleeping bear out of hibernation.