We're two weeks to the season tip off and I think many of us are ready to get out basketball fix. This morning, men's basketball had an opening practice to kick off a busy Saturday for UB. I felt a lot better after watching this practice than when I was after watching last night's Bulls Madness event. Overall, I think we're underrating this team slightly. There are definitely some things that need to be worked on but there's still two weeks until our exhibition game against Daemen. Before I say anything, I would like to note that I was unable to see any action from Wigginton due to his injury. I'm still going to be speculating on him.
I don't think I can stress this point enough. The defense that this team has right now is really good. Everyone was up in each others faces for the whole practice and their execution of the man defense was much better than last year. The gaps from three point range that we had last season are almost non existent right now. Oats was telling the truth when he said that he was focusing on defense a little more than offense.
Below is two sets of rankings: who I was impressed by and who I wasn't impressed by.
1. Jarryn Skeete- Skeete has improved a lot from last year in my opinion. His three point shooting is getting more consistent and he's also developing a presence in driving to the rim.
2. Nick Perkins- The freshman Power Forward will be starting this season. If he doesn't, I will surely be disappointed. Perkins may be a little smaller in size than Moss (and maybe McCrea), but he's a much better shooter. Perkins made two NBA threes during practices and a few more. We definitely have a mini Donyell Marshall on our hands here. His ball handling his top notch and it was really tough to not put him in the one spot here.
3. Blake Hamilton- I was concerned last night during Bulls Madness about his shooting but today looked much better. Hamilton may very well be our sixth man. He has a great post presence along with an outside shooting presence. I could very well see him sub for Wigginton often.
4. Nikola Rakicevic- Rakicevic proved today that he's really good at finding open shots. He also seems to be the hardest worker on the team. It had to have been nearly a half hour after practice of him shooting the three ball. His shooting from three in the middle is great. He struggles from the wing though. Fortunately, that's what he's focusing on. I don't expect him to start but he'll be very solid off of the bench.
Honorable Mention- Tyler Moffe: He's definitely our best walk on. He can really hold his own with division one guys and was able to hit a few threes and even drive to the rim at points. He might sneak into the rotation in a few years.
Least Impressed (in no particular order)
1. Raheem Johnson- Lamonte Bearden mentioned in one of UB Athletics' videos that he was finally developing an offensive game. To be quite honest, I didn't see it. But, he continues to be a great defensive player (especially under this defense heavy system).
2. Ikenna Smart- Ikenna doesn't seem to be good enough to get a lot of minutes this year. He'll probably be near the bottom of the rotation. His defense is good, but his offense is a struggle and so is his ball handling.
3. David Kadiri- Kadiri is pretty weak at shooting nonetheless. His presence at the post also isn't the strongest in my opinion. I think he's still getting acquainted and that he has a lot of potential. He can definitely be a force fighting for rebounds and drawing fouls if he works on it.
4. CJ Massinburg- I don't think Massinburg is getting a ton of minutes this year. We have a plethora of good guards and his shooting isn't the best right now. His ball handling is good but a lot of his shots are forced and in bad situations. He definitely has the most potential in this list though.
Projected Starting Lineup
Based off of this practice:
PG- Lamonte Bearden
SG- Jarryn Skeete
SF- Rodell Wigginton
PF- Nick Perkins
C- Raheem Johnson
6. Willie Conner/Nikola Rakicevic (This could go either way)
One final quick note: It didn't seem like Diane was there. I also didn't see a ton from Conner because he was heavily guarded by Skeete.