Here is the projected rotation for this year's Wildcats.
Starting Point Guard Mustafa Shakur
Last Year: 9.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 51.9% shooting
This Year: 12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 6.3 apg, 46.2% shooting
Mustafa Shakur looks to be one of the most improved players on this year's team. Shakur retooled his jump shot and should be an extremely effective scorer. Last season Shakur did put up great shooting numbers, but was often unable to get off shots because of his awkward release. In the preseason, Shakur has shown deadly accuracy from all spots on the floor. His assist to turnover ratio should be significantly better as he has had a year to adjust to the speed and rhythm of the college game. Expect a dramatic increase in every single statistical category for Shakur this season.
Having spent a year learning, Shakur should step up and help to lead this team alongside seniors Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire. Last year's squad lacked chemistry and having a tested point-guard should theoretically help.
Season So-Far: Shakur has shown that he is able to dominate against lesser players, but needs to prove that he can play against talented point guards. He'll get his chance in New York. After the tough loss to Virginia he needs to show his leadership skills and get the team on the right track.
Starting Shooting Guard Salim Stoudamire
Last Year: 16.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 42% from three
This Year: 19.0 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 50.0% from three
Stoudamire will be entering his fourth season as the Wildcats' sharpshooter. Every year Stoudamire has increased his scoring and his assist numbers, and this season should be no different. With Shakur now being a greater scoring threat, Salim should get a fair amount of open looks. Through the preseason and first part of the regular season Salim has been inconsistent shooting the ball, but he often starts the season slow. He has shown an increased ability to get into the lane and dish the ball to open teammates in preseason play this year, and will probably penetrate more than he has in the past.
More importantly, Stoudamire has shown a desire to work within the team concept. Despite his sub-par shooting 1-7 performance against Sonoma State, he finished with 10 assists and 5 rebounds. It is crucial for the Wildcats that Stoudamire continue to contribute even when his shot is not falling. It is very early in the season, but Salim has been saying and doing all of the right things so far.
Season So-Far: Stoudamire has been inconsistent, but that is no surprise. Any player who lives and dies from the outside will be streaky. He had the incredible shooting night against Wright State, then disappeared against Virginia. He needs to continue to shoot well on most nights, while also keeping his head about him. His attitude has been good, but it needs to continue to be good during the tough times.
Starting Small Forward Hassan Adams
Last Year: 17.2 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 blocks, 1.5 steals, 54% shooting
This Year: 10.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.7 apg, 2.0 spg, 46.4%
Last year, despite his height, Hassan Adams primarily played power forward. With Isaiah Fox back from injury, Adams will be moved back to his more "natural" position on the wing. Adams has been consistent, but has yet to look stellar in preseason play. It should take him some time to adjust to playing the wing again, but expect him to flourish with time. Adams has improved his midrange jump shot and is consistently working on his ball handling. His numbers may slightly go down this season because of the new depth of the Wildcat team, but his overall contribution should be similar, if not more. Expect him to show flashes of brilliance and dominance this season.
Season So-Far: Adams has had a slow start. He looked terrible against San Diego and has slowly improved, but has yet to have the breakout game. It almost appears as if Adams is still trying to learn how to play wing after a year inside.
Starting Power Forward Ivan Radenovic
Last Year: 5.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 14.2 minutes
This Year: 10.3 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 29.7 mpg
The competition for most improved player will be between Radenovic and Shakur. This off-season Radenovic improved every area of his game. He added strength, improved his footwork, and bettered his jump shot. The starting position will most likely split between himself and Isaiah Fox depending on match-ups, but for the start of the season it is his. He will see double the minutes that he did last year if he can continue to play within the flow of the offense and, more importantly, grab rebounds. The Wildcats will need rebounds from the power-forward spot, and in preseason play Radenovic has been successful.
Season So-Far: Radenovic started off with a career high scoring and rebounding performance against San Diego and has played a little worse each ensuing game. He was virtually non-existent against the Cavaliers. He must take some of the pressure off of Channing Frye for the team to succeed.
Starting Center Channing Frye
Last Year: 15.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.1 blocks, 55% shooting
This Year: 12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.0 blks, 45.7% shooting
Throughout the preseason Channing Frye was the Wildcats' go-to guy offensively. With his repertoire of post moves, and deadly midrange jump shot, and added strength, Frye has proven effect anywhere near the basket. The Wildcats will certainly run a lot of post plays for Channing, but will also look to him for a basket when the offense fails to get an open look from the wing. He should lead the team in scoring this season if he can keep himself out of foul trouble. Last season Channing doubled his assist numbers from his sophomore year, up to roughly two per game. With him likely getting more touches in the post, and probably more double teams as well, it will be interesting to see if he can find the open man as needed. Frye is one of the more vocal players and popular leaders on this team. He will need to assert himself as a senior leader in order to help fix the chemistry problems that plagued the team last season.
Season So-Far: Frye has not lived up to the preseason hype. He looked like he was ready to have a monster year early, but so far he has fizzled. He put up a double-double against Virginia, but played soft against the more physical Cavs. He needs to be tougher for the Cats to have a stellar season.
Back-Up Guard Chris Rodgers
Coach Olson has elected, so far, to use Chris Rodgers at the two spot instead of as the back-up for Shakur. He has flourished in that role in the preseason. Rodgers has gained more confidence in his jump shot off the pass and off of a dribble, and should provide a major spark off of the bench. He is arguably the most effective defensive player on the Wildcats' roster, and will be used at times with Shakur and Stoudamire to trap teams defensively. Expect Rodgers to bring a "Terry-esque" spark off of the bench, especially defensively.
Season So-Far: Rodgers has looked much more under control offensively this season, and should be one of the team's more effective deep threats. His attitude has been great, but you have to wonder if he can keep this up if the starters continue to struggle.
Back-Up Wing Jawann McClellan
McClellan is a player who brings the complete package with his ability to shoot, finish, pass, and rebound. He is certainly not shy with the basketball in his hands and it will most likely take him time to adjust to Coach Olson's system. By the middle of the season, however, expect McClellan start to break out and solidify himself significant back-up minutes between the small forward and shooting guard positions.
Season So-Far: McClellan has shown flashes of his ability during the early part of the season, but has yet to reveal what made him a McDonald's All-American last year in high school. He has done very little on the offensive end, although he has been pretty solid on the boards.
Back-Up Post Mohamed Tangara
There is no doubt that Mohamed Tangara is a raw basketball player. Offensively he has little to offer when he is more than five feet from the hoop, and defensively he may have problems staying out of foul trouble. However Tangara is one of the most vicious rebounders on the Wildcat squad. He has an uncanny ability to get to the ball off of the glass, and his interior defensive presence can create problems for opposing teams. He should show consistent improvement as the season progresses and he works on his timing and footwork.
Season So-Far: Tangara just hasn't gotten it yet. He missed too much time with his back injury and is still learning some basic things that he should have learned in the preseason. You'd expect Tangara to make a difference at some point, but it will have to be later in the season than the team had originally hoped.
Jesus Verdejo has looked spectacular in the red/blue game, but came back down to Earth once the season started. He has great finishing ability and constantly hustles offensively and defensively. He will earn himself spare minutes depending on the rotation and foul issues. He is generally regarded as a "tough" player because he plays bigger than his 6'4" size. He can play any of the wing positions.
Daniel Dillon will get minutes primarily at the point guard spot because of his passing abilities. He is not a consistent enough shooter yet to play anywhere other than point, but he has shown an ability to finish near the rim.
The Closers: Matt Brase Bret Brielmaier
Except in rare instances of foul trouble, these two will be victory cigars.