Explorers can turn things around next season

The 2006-2007 season is already in the past. What could have been, what should have been, and what was is behind Explorer fans. EHR gives two improvement ideas for each player and coach if La Salle is to become a much better team next season.

We'll start with the upperclassmen and work our way down:

Darnell Harris: Harris led the Explorers in scoring getting 14 points a night. When Darnell shoots the ball well the Explorers are a decent team. However, entering his senior year La Salle needs more from him. (1) Become a leader. When you are the best player you should demand respect, demand the ball, and demand others pull their weight. Darnell is far too happy and content shooting the ball and that is it. (2) Improve your defense. As a senior and the team's best player others will follow your lead. When they see you play defense the others will fall in line.

Sherman Diaz: Diaz brings one thing to the floor and that is the ability to shoot. He lacks the ability to take his man off the dribble and that forces him to become one-dimensional. (1) Improve your handle. Diaz has been prone to turnovers off the dribble. If he can improve his handle he would be able to take defenders off the dribble and force opponents to guard honestly. He is athletic and strong enough to break his man down and get to the rim. (2) Concentrate, concentrate, and concentrate. Sherman has been the victim of silly breaks of concentration. Such as losing his man off an inbounds play. Those mistakes should not plague a junior. If Sherman doesn't improve these areas his playing time will not increase.

Paul Johnson: Paul Johnson has two major issues that has reared its ugly head in his first two seasons as an Explorer. (1) Stop forcing penetration in the lane. I respect PJ's willingness to get to the glass but he is caught numerous times in the air with nowhere to go with the ball against bigger players. He is stripped of the ball against smaller players. A jump short or willingness to shoot the jumper will help loosen defenders from overplaying the lane. (2) Become a better free throw shooter. Because he does get to the line slashing to the basket, he will improve his ability to score just becoming a better foul shooter. He shot 54% this season going to the line an incredible 70 times in just 16 minutes per game.

Kimmani Barrett: Barrett had a solid freshman campaign. He has a terrific nose for the ball and knack for getting to the rim. To become a more effective player Barrett needs to do one thing offensively. (1) Improve his jump shot. No matter how much better he develops the shot he will immediately reap the benefits of at least attempting shoot the ball outside the lane area. Right now defenders knows he won't shoot the ball from the outside. Therefore defenders sag inside and close down passing angles. (2) Defensively Barrett needs to improve his lateral quickness. Quicker wings and guards have little trouble getting past Barrett. That allows opposing teams to pass to open defenders when Barrett gets help and well as putting pressure on La Salle's defense with drives to the basket.

Rodney Green: Green is coming off an A-10 All Rookie season. He started out like a bullet but slowed considerably as the season came to an end. Rodney has a ton of potential. Unlike the rest of the players I can come up with three improvements Green needs to make. (1) Get stronger. He is very thin and going up against A-10 frontcourt players a lot of minutes in games. The way he plays dictates going against bigger players. This had an effect on his ability to play the same way the entire season. Additional strength will allow Rodney to play through the rigors of college basketball. (2) Improve your jump shot. Like Barrett, Green would be much better served showing his defenders the ability to shoot the basketball. That would give him space to attack the rim, which Rodney does extremely well. (3) Come back focused on playing defense. This is something Rodney must want to do. Defense is all about effort. Rodney hurts the team when he does not defend. He will play a lot of minutes due to his offensive skills. Ignoring the defensive end negates a lot of what he does on offense.

Brian Grimes: Brian Grimes struggled with injuries and playing much of the season heavier than he has ever been. He has a lot of potential. He has good footwork, excellent hands, and the ability to step out and hit the jumper. He just didn't get the opportunity to show it. (1) Brian needs to continue to get himself in playing shape and sculpt his body to where it was when he was playing at Germantown Academy. (2) Continue to work on his handle and perimeter game. Grimes, although undersized in the paint shows a knack to rebound offensively and score down low. He does struggle getting his pocket picked when outside the lane against quicker players. A better handle and improved perimeter game will help Brian play against quicker players outside the paint. It will also give the team something the current forwards on the roster don't do particularly well which could help increase his playing time.

Ruben Guillandeaux: Ruben oozes potential. He is big and skilled for the guard position but so young and immature at this point in his development. The question is whether he will continue to be groomed to play the point guard position or will Giannini bring in a point guard in the spring. Irregardless Ruben still needs some additional seasoning. (1) Control his emotions. Guillandeaux cost the Explorers on several occasions due to his emotional immaturity. Once he grasps his emotions and develops the needed maturity he will be a very good player in this program. (2) Continue working on ball handling skills. He dribbles the ball too high at times and has been picked by smaller quicker guards. A big guard with the ability to protect the ball means trouble for smaller guards in this conference.

Yves Mekongo-Mbala: Yves Mbala showed flashes of being a future all conference player and then had fans wondering where he went in ballgames. Terribly inconsistent, but ultimately still productive, (1) Mbala needs to bring it every night and every minute he plays. He makes two to three plays that wow you and then makes no impact in the game. He seems to pick his spots to be a force. A more consistent Mbala means a much better La Salle team next year. (2) He also needs to work on his shooting. He is undersized for his position. He can actually handle the ball better than he can shoot it. If he can be more consistent shooting jump shots and foul shots he should be good for 5 additional points a night.

John Giannini: Coach Giannini by his own admission had a poor coaching season. The team never seems to consistently improve as the year proceeded. While the team was young and lacked experience, lacked several key assets in the college game like good shooters and defenders, Giannini sometimes took his team out of winnable situations with suspect substitutions. (1) Giannini needs to recognize when a player should stay in the game and when he should be taken out. Too often he takes players who are playing well out of the game just to get others into the game for the sake of playing time. (2) He needs to recruit players with certain skills this off-season. Whether it be a quicker guard with point guard skills, another shooter, a low post defender, or rebounder he needs to fill additional needs with his last two scholarships. He can't fill them all because he doesn't have enough scholarships but he must bring in a player or two with additional skills he does not have now in the program.

If everyone does just a little more work on their own game and Coach John Giannini re-evaluates what he has to work with and how to best use his talent, it will go a long way in giving the Explorers a chance for a much better season next year. Also, the addition of Jerrell Williams, Terrell Williams, and Kyle Griffin will give the Explorers more weapons along with another recruit or two. The possibility for a much better season next year is real, only the players and coaching staff can make it happen.

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