The basketball season is here. Despite a subpar finish, the Seawolf men’s team is coming off a hot run in 2012-13, which included a stellar showing at the Great Alaska Shootout and a 14-3 record at home.
On paper, the team has a strong enough build to mirror last year’s performance. If all goes well, they could realistically surpass it.
These are three decisive factors heading into the next hoops campaign.
The three most important pieces for the Seawolves live in the backcourt — senior Kyle Fossman and juniors Teancum Stafford and Travis Thompson. All three guards were selected to the GNAC Preseason All-Conference Team. And UAA’s place at second in the preseason GNAC coaches’ poll is largely a result of that trio.
Thompson is returning to the team after taking a year off from basketball to focus on school. He and Fossman are a lot like. They can play both the guard spots, and they’re accurate shooters from everywhere on the floor. Thompson’s edge as a passer will lock him in as the point in most lineups.
Stafford is a 6-foot-5 shooting guard/small forward hybrid. He can stretch the court and score from inside. Thompson’s return could create endless looks for Stafford from the corner, which is a deadly proposition.
Fossman and Stafford were superb last year. Their efforts as scorers hasn’t truly been appreciated, though.
What made these two so special was their efficiency. Simply put, they were stupid efficient. Usage rate (percentage of offensive possessions used by a player during his time on the floor) is a nice stat that can be used to back this up. Usage is not perfect — its main flaw being that it doesn’t cover assists. But in this situation, it tells us enough.
Fossman closed last season with a usage rate of 17.9 percent, while Stafford’s was 15.98 percent. These two percentages are slightly below the general average a player uses (about 19 percent). So, using less than the average percent of possessions, Fossman and Stafford each produced over 14 points per game.
To hammer this home, here’s Abebe Demissie’s usage rate from last season: 22.10 percent. He averaged eight points.
There’s a very obvious argument that can made from this data: Fossman and Stafford should shoot more. Even with Thompson coming back – who is also quite efficient – those two have a real case for deserving a bigger chunk of the pie.
Losing center Liam Gibcus and forward Abebe Demissie will create a void in the Seawolves’ frontcourt. Some of the incoming players — who are mentioned in the next section — could fill that space, but nothing is certain.
While Demissie’s shortcomings were noted earlier, he was a gritty role player who brought an edgy presence to the court. The ‘Wolves will miss his Joker capabilities on defense (able to match up with multiple positions) and reliable three-point shot.
Gibcus leaves the largest hole. He ended 2013 with a total rebound percentage barely under 17. This means that, during his time on the court, he was responsible for 17 percent of the team’s total rebounds. That’s a high number considering how balanced the average rebounding stats were per player.
Two other strengths Gibcus brought were his sure hands and efficient scoring. He had the seventh most turnovers on the team. For a big that saw plenty of touches on the block and off rolls, that’s a win. His 58 percent shooting from the field made him an extra reliable player.
The Seawolves realized their need, and recruited wisely. Four of the new additions stand at least 6-foot-7. You can teach many things, but size isn’t one of them. Making these bodies count will be the coaching staff’s challenge.
In a previous TNL article, we ran down some of the guys who are debuting for the ‘Wolves down low. Jackson McTier, Brad Mears, Jacob Craft and Kalidou Diouf (redshirting) all bring their own qualities to the table.
McTier and Mears are the most enticing prospects, and should see the most floor time, rounding out the frontcourt alongside sophomore forward Christian Leckband.
McTier measures in at 6-foot-8 and averaged 17.7 points and 9.7 rebounds as a high school senior. Mears is an inch taller, and is finally getting a chance to spread his wings after sitting behind a top conference player at Snow College.
The final move came a couple weeks ago when head coach Rusty Osborne announced the addition of DeVante Baisa. Baisa is a balanced guard from Tracy, Calif., who averaged 16.3 points, 5.2 assists and 3.1 steals as a high school senior. He’ll create even more depth at the guard spot.
Getting serviceable basketball from the crop of UAA rookies is key. Given the group of studs still wearing green and gold, there won’t be any pressure for a hero to emerge.
The Seawolves start regular season play at the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic down in Anaheim, Calif. from Nov. 8-10. They’ll open at home with the AT&T Jamboree Nov. 15-16 at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.