Sure Georgia State was trying to make it back to the NCAA tournament without R.J. Hunter and Ryan Harrow, but things seemed promising without last year’s two leading scorers.
Stepping into their roles were Jeremy Hollowell, predicted by coach Ron Hunter to be a boxscore filler-upper from Indiana, and Isaiah Williams, formerly the freshman of the year in the Southern Conference.
But things didn’t turn out well.
There was no third consecutive Sun Belt regular season title.
There was no second consecutive Sun Belt tournament title.
There wasn’t yet another magical moment in the NCAA tournament.
Instead, the Panthers barely made it to New Orleans. Once there, they were dumped by Texas State 63-61 in the first round in front of a sparse (to be kind) Lakefront Arena crowd.
“This game was the story of our season,” coach Ron Hunter, something he repeated again later in his post-Texas State press conference.
What went wrong? (Read, Part I) Here’s part 2 of a five-part series:
Too late on point guard
It took the coaching staff the entire summer, the fall and two-thirds of the way into the season before they realized that their best point guard was Donaldson, or possibly more accurately, that it wasn’t Isaiah Williams or Isaiah Dennis.
So, why did it take so long? Hunter said the plan was to redshirt Donaldson, so it’s likely that he really wasn’t given a chance to run the team during the summer and the fall. That’s understandable. Why give someone who isn’t going to play time with the first or second team?
Instead, the coaches tried Williams and Dennis, neither of whom really play the position like a point. Williams is a shooter who needs to move into open space without the ball to be effective. When he had the ball at point, there was a lot of dribbling but typically not a lot was accomplished. He played well when moved to off guard, but it will be interesting to see what happens next year when Devin Mitchell, a transfer from Alabama, becomes eligible and D’Marcus Simonds, arguably the second-biggest signee in program history, arrive.
Dennis is a defensive-minded player who other teams rarely guarded because he’s loathe to shoot.
So, the good news the team knows that it has a point guard for the future. It just came too little, too late for this season.
Hunter tried to make Kevin Ware into a point guard. He did OK, but had six turnovers in the Sun Belt tournament game. Donaldson added three more. Ware isn’t a point, so he was doing the best he could. Donaldson simply didn’t get enough experience to be as effective as needed in a tournament game.