With the imminent arrival of power forward Willie Clayton from Charlotte, Georgia State has used all of its scholarships for next season.
Two of the four, Clayton and guard Devin Mitchell (Alabama), will have to sit out next year per the NCAA’s rules about transferring.
So, coach Ron Hunter now knows exactly what he has to work with next year as the Panthers attempt to defend their Sun Belt regular season and tournament titles.
And what is it the Panthers have?
“From one to 13, this is the most talented team I’ve had at Georgia State,” Hunter said.
They have a team that has the potential to score a lot of points, even though it lost more than 40 points with the departures of R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow.
Here is my projected starting lineup:
G Kevin Ware, R-Sr.
G Isaiah Williams, Jr.
F TJ Shipes, Sr., or Markus Crider, Sr.
F Jeremy Hollowell, Sr.
F Jeff Thomas, R-Fr.
You may look at that squad and wonder if I’ve been out in the heat too much, especially since I said it could feature a lot of scoring.
Plus, why isn’t Crider, the leader of next year’s team, a lock to start?
Let me get to those questions.
Ron Hunter has always wanted to have three guys on the court who can hit 3-pointers.
He didn’t really have that luxury last year because the NCAA wouldn’t clear Thomas to play. He will be eligible to play this year. Even R.J. Hunter, the leading scorer in school history, said that Thomas could give him a run for his money shooting 3-pointers.
So, the three shooters in the starting lineup would be: Williams, Thomas and Hollowell, a 6-foot-8 3-point shooter.
Ware and Shipes would be in there for their defense. Plus, if there are three guys who are hitting 3s and stretching defenses, Ware will have room to penetrate for layups, which is the strength of his game.
Crider could also start in place of Shipes at center. I think that starting spot will likely come down to matchups most of the time, particularly the defensive scheme the opponent will use.
Crider, who developed a reliable 10-foot jump shot as well as cross-over dribble drive from the free-throw line, would be strong against a man-to-man scheme, with Shipes better against a zone.
There could be a debate about Crider replacing Thomas in the starting spot, but it would again depend upon that game’s matchup. Plus, I’m not sure Hunter would want all three of his best big men on the court at the same time. However, Hunter usually favors veterans over underclassmen early in the season, so that’s another check in Crider’s favor.
Jordan Session and Isaiah Dennis would be the next two off the bench. Session would be part of the rotation at power forward or center, with Dennis rotating at point guard. Both players really came on strong toward the end of the year.
The two incoming freshmen, Malik Benlevi and Austin Donaldson, would seem to be redshirt candidates (though Hunter’s not a fan of that) so that they can learn the defensive schemes.
Who are your picks to start? Share your thoughts in the comments section.