The Georgia State men’s basketball team held its media day on Tuesday.
I’m going to post blogs for the next few days from it, but I thought I’d start by focusing on what coach Ron Hunter had to say.
The team went 25-10 last season and advanced to the third round of the NCAA tournament after defeating Baylor in the second round. They will host Oglethorpe on Monday in an exhibition game and then host Middle Georgia State on Friday in the season-opener.
Here are four talking points from Tuesday. I’ll post three more talking points in one blog on Wednesday, followed by Q&A blogs with several players throughout the week:
The health of the team is good
Hunter said they scrimmaged last week and the backcourt got banged up but everybody is mostly healthy.
Isaiah Williams, a transfer from Samford, has been dealing with a tendonitis issue in his foot.
“His timing right now isn’t quite where it needs to be, but it will be by midseason,” Hunter said.
Markus Crider is recovering nicely from a knee issue that is causing him to move stiffly.
“Markus will progress as the season goes,” Hunter said. “Whether he’s healthy or not, Markus has always been that way: he kind of slowly gets going and then by midseason he’s ready to roll.”
I think Markus is looked at the team’s leader this season after averaging 9.7 points and 6.4 rebounds last season. I think he’s underrated on offense and on defense, where he plays taller than his 6-foot-6 frame.
The goals for this year’s team are…
“We could do this for the next 20 years: Win our conference championship, get to the NCAA tournament and win games in that tournament,” Hunter said.
Georgia State has never gone to the NCAA tournament in consecutive years.
The starting 5
Hunter doesn’t know, or won’t say, who the starting five will be for Monday’s exhibition game against Oglethorpe.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “The competition is fierce. What’s made it fierce is something I did not expect. My two freshmen have been absolutely outstanding. You know I do not like playing freshmen.”
Me: You always hype them up at the beginning of the year.
“I have no choice right now. I will say this. A freshman will start. I just don’t know which one.”
Me: You’ve said that too and I then I look out there and no freshmen.
“Last year they (NCAA) took the freshmen from me. Jeff (Thomas) and Malik (Benlevi) are in a battle for that starting spot.”
Me: That’s not just a motivational thing. This is legitimate?
“Jeff Thomas or Malik will start on Monday.”
It’s a tiered team
Hunter said the team is filled with three sets of players: experienced guys, young talented guys and those guys who have sat out and need to keep going.
The experienced guys are: Kevin Ware, Crider, T.J. Shipes, Isaiah Dennis, Jordan Session and Jalen Brown.
The young guys are: Malik Benlevi, Jeff Thomas, Austin Donaldson and Alario Thomas.
The guys who sat out: Jeremy Hollowell and Isaiah Williams.
“I need to put all three of those together and come up with something,” Hunter said. “That’s been hard, probably the hardest since I’ve been at Georgia State. We are so talented. I love experience, you know that. But my talent level from the younger guys … my assistants have done a great job bringing talent into this program.”
It is an interesting team that is very versatile.
Hunter could put a group of five out that are good at hitting 3-pointers: Williams, Brown, Thomas, Hollowell and Ware.
He can put a group of five that are good at defense: Ware, Crider, Shipes, Session and Dennis.
He can go small and run: Dennis, Williams, Ware, Benlevi and Donaldson.
He can go somewhat bigger: Thomas, Hollowell, Shipes, Session and Crider.
I think the starting five on Monday are:
I think Crider may only play a few minutes to avoid wear and tear. I think Thomas gets the nod over Benlevi to make sure that there are at least three players on the court that can hit 3-pointers.