Starters Lost: SG Salim Stoudamire
Key Returners: Jawann McClellan, Chris Rodgers, Jesus Verdejo, Daniel Dillon
Others Lost: none
Key Newcomers: Marcus Williams, Fendi Onobun, David Bagga
Seniors: Hassan Adams, Chris Rodgers
Sophomore: Jawann McClellan, Daniel Dillon, Jesus Verdejo
Freshmen: Marcus Williams, Fendi Onobun, David Bagga
The sure thing is Adams. The Wildcat senior shocked some by returning for his final year, but after the loss to Illinois Adams has something to prove. Adams was arguably the Wildcats' best player in the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 16.3 ppg and 8.3 rebounds in the postseason. Over the second half of the season Adams was a more well rounded player, showing an ability to drive to the basket and pass the ball that had not been a major part of his repertoire.
Two months ago it seems certain that Chris Rodgers and Jawann McClellan would be in a dogfight for the starting two-guard spot, now neither may be ready to play when the Cats open the season in Maui.
McClellan has been bothered by a foot injury for much of the fall but that appears to be healed. The big obstacle is that he failed to complete a much-needed math class over the summer and as of now is academically ineligible for the fall semester. However, McClellan will appeal the suspension since the reason he failed the course was that he was traveling back and forth to Houston much of the summer to deal with the sudden death of his father. A ruling could be announced as early as this week.
When McClellan returns he'll be a major part of this team. He made drastic improvements over the stretch run of the season. He scored in double figures in three of the last seven games and scored seven or more in all but one of the final seven games. McClellan is a good shooter and a terrific athlete and was starting to develop a real well-rounded offensive game. He has the versatility to guard either SF or SG and is the type of big wing that Olson loves to play side by side, so expect him to share the floor with Adams.
Rodgers is out, but the only question is for how long. He sprained his knee two weeks ago and the prognosis is 4-8 weeks. Supposedly he has made some good progress but it is too early to tell just how soon he'll be ready to play.
Rodgers has the versatility to play all three backcourt spots, but should see the bulk of his time at the two. He's a good enough defender to match up with a variety of perimeter players and Olson will likely use him as his defensive stopper.
The biggest knock on Rodgers is that he has never completely bought into the system. He has the offensive game to be something special, but he is much more effective when he plays in the flow of the offense. Before the injury his outside shot was looking particularly effective and the Cats will need reliable outside shooting to replace Salim Stoudamire.
If McClellan and Rodgers are not good to go, this will be a great opportunity for the younger wings to see early action and try to impress the coaching staff.
Jesus Verdejo has been saying since the summer that he expects to shock people and win a starting job. He has always shown the ability to get his shot off and now he needs to show the coaches that he can defend and play within the system. He's a long, athletic player with a lot of toughness and a nice work ethic.
Daniel Dillon was a combo-guard last season, but will get just about all his minutes at the two this year. Dillon is a terrific ball handler who uses his strength to get to the glass and rebound. He can get hot from the outside, but needs to develop a mid-range game.
The player who could benefit most from the Rodgers/McClellan situation is true freshman Marcus Williams. Williams has been better than advertised since arriving over the summer. His offensive game has really developed. He can stroke it from the outside and has gotten better at attacking the rim since he played AAU ball. The big question is whether or not he can pick up the system. It is not easy for freshmen to learn the intricacies of the offense and to be an effective defender, but if Williams can he may be able to crack the rotation.
Fendi Onobun will probably see most of his time at the four, but has the athleticism to play some at the three. Most likely the Cats will use him when they need additional rebounding or to go big.
David Bagga is a walk-on from Mater Dei High School is a versatile wing who will be a nice addition to the scout team, but probably won't see any duty in close games.
J.P. Prince has the size to play on the wing, but appears to be Mustafa's primary back-up at the point. Still he could be used to get more size out on the perimeter, especially for defensive purposes.