MGN Basketball Breakdown: Analyzing the Roster Needs

Right now North Texas is in the midst of a late season collapse, so lets take our minds off of that. Instead lets look to the future.  Lets analyze the roster.

Scholarships

Right now North Texas only has one open:  Shane Temara’s spot. There are probably going to be other departures that we can’t forsee at the moment. Typically programs lose 3-4 scholarships every year. Right now it looks like NT is planning on only having that one available as we have not seen them active in offering scholarships at the moment.

There will be conversation about DJ Draper, and his reward. He deserves a scholarship but he cannot be the only scholarship addition this off-season. If I were Grant I would it make perfectly clear to Draper that the staff will work as hard as they can to get him a scholly but it is best for the team if he waits.  Its a tough world for walk-ons. Draper has gone above and beyond my expectations. I sincerely hope he gets one this off-season.

Breakdown of the Returners

  • Woolridge – Rim Attacking Ball Handler
  • Smart – Shooting Ball Handler
  • Duffy – Shooting Ball Handler
  • Gibson – Shooting Ball Handler
  • Lawson – Rim Attacking Ball Handler
  • Holston – Defensive Ball Handler
  • Miller – Defensive Ball Handler
  • Draper – Shooting Ball Handler
  • J. Simmons – Rim Attacking Ball Handler
  • Tikhonenko – Shooting Rebounder
  • Simmons – Rebounding Scorer
  • Arikawe – Rebounding Scorer
  • Fuller – Benchwarmer Rebounder

Getting Gibson and Tikhonenko will help perimeter scoring. Gibson is a guy who should average double-digits next season. When healthy Duffy is a guy who can be a double-digit scorer. Duffy has been banged up all this year. He will be part of a high-scoring duo with Roosevelt Smart once he has an offseason to heal.

Tikhonenko is a bit of a mystery. He looks like a guy who be a stretch 4, hanging around the perimeter shooting threes. The hope is that he can be more dynamic than Temara. Temara was more of a spot up shooter while Tikhonenko should be a guy who can also do some damage off the dribble. Thats what makes a stretch 4 into a special player. I don’t expect Tikhoneko to be a rim protector.

North Texas will also be getting Jahmiah Simmons next year. He will add some ability to score inside. He is a smaller, bulkier guard that can finish around the rim and honestly anyone that can finish around the rim for this team is a welcome sight. Simmons will enjoy playing with Woolridge. Ryan should get him good looks like he gets the other Simmons.

Speaking of Woolridge, he is a guy that needs to find one spot on the floor that is his money-maker (so to speak).  So many teams refuse to guard Ryan off the ball. If he could make them pay from beyond the arc it would really enhance his game. He can also add to his game by adding a mid-range shot. For a guard with his quickness adding a floater would do wonders. It would make finishing around the rim a lot easier. He could also use it as part of his hesitation game.

Miller and Holston are valuable on the defensive end. They are versatile high energy guys. They also are liabilities on offense. Much like Ryan each one of these guys needs to find that money shot. Miller seems to like the baseline 3, but he hasn’t been close on those . Holston is a guy who should focus on the mid range shot. Holston is pretty good at getting to the rim, adding a spot on the floor from where he can hit a mid range jumper would add some diversity to his game.

Simmons and Tope both have had their moments. I would ike to see Zach develop a few low post back-to-the-basket moves. A baby hook would be nice. That left hand shot he has now needs work.

Tope has a nice smooth stroke. North Texas coaches need to get him hitting from that range along the baseline. If Tope can develop that shot, he will help open up driving lanes.

Smart is a guy who needs to be the on-court leader of this team. For him to go to the next level, he needs to do more work at all levels. He can’t just rely on 3pt shooting. He has showed that he can score at all levels. I think if he balanced out his shot taking it would increase his scoring.


Top 3 Needs

  1. Rim Protection
  2. Low Post Scorer
  3. Perimeter Scorer

At first glance, Zach Simmons seems like the ideal candidate to become the rim protector. I do not see it. North Texas is in desperate need of a true shot blocker, someone that allows the defense to be more aggressive  on the perimeter.  No opponent in CUSA respects NT’s post defense at the moment. Outside of free throw shooting, it is the one area NT ranks near the bottom of D1.

For as many minutes as he has played Simmons is 24th in blocked shots in CUSA. As a team NT is ranked 10th. It is easier to find a shot blocker than a post scorer. Everybody is looking for a big guy that can score inside.  It is easy to find guards and swingmen that can fill it up. It is much harder to find guys that can score with their back to the basket.

Thats why I went with a post scorer as a second priority. North Texas will not have many options here in the recruiting world. All the true post scores are going to get scooped up. North Texas is most likely going to be filling its top priority need with a JUCO product. North Texas should be looking for an undersized guy. Someone that is 6’7-6’6 and can hit a mid-range jumper, but can also play with his back to the basket. Is that guy already on the roster? No. The closest right now are Lawson and Jahmiah Simmons. (For the record I know Lawson doesn’t play the way I described, but he should. He should dedicate this offseason to getting healthy, finding a mid range jumper, and playing with his back to the basket.) If North Texas could find a poor man’s PJ Tucker, it would be a great addition.

Finally, you can never have too many perimeter scorers. CUSA is a league made up of talented guards. Adding depth in the backcourt should always be a priority. Next year Duffy, Miller, and Holston will be seniors. Duffy should become a primary scorer next year, so if possible North Texas should look at adding a high school guard.


Summary

Everyone is going to have their argument on which direction North Texas should go. Mine is based on what I’ve seen so far this year, and stats.  I really believe that a shot blocker could turn North Texas into a top-four CUSA team next season.  NT will have enough scoring and offensive threats, that finding a true low post scorer would not be necessary. There is enough talent between Simmons and Arikawe to get 12-18 points a game from those two. Woolridge, Smart, Gibson, and Duffy are all capable of averaging double-digits. Lawson, Draper, J. Simmons, and Tikhonenko are your supplemental scorers. Draper is a good scoring threat off the bench. J. Simmons and Tikhonenko are unknowns.  J. Simmons averaged 6.4 at Arky St. So it is not hard to see him putting up similar numbers or better here at North Texas.

It all sets North Texas up for a balanced roster if they can get that rim protector.