Explorers Have Questions, Few Answers

Those who asked Explorer head coach Dr. John Giannini how he felt La Salle would fare this year all got the same answer. An improved team full of more experienced sophomores and an influx of talented freshmen would push La Salle closer to a return to the way things used to be at 20th & Olney. After three games the results have been the way things have been rather than the way things used to be.

La Salle stands at 1-2 heading into Saturday's game with the St. Francis, PA Red Flash. Those three games have been played against less than formidable competition. Optimists could say La Salle had a chance to win all three games. Pessimists would say they could have lost all three games. The Explorers sit in the middle, probably where they should be. Overall the team has played very sloppy basketball committing 57 turnovers in those three games. Sophomore Rodney Green has taken over the point guard duties from the injured Ruben Guillandeaux which has not helped matters. Green is playing point guard for the first time in his career at the collegiate level so turnovers are expected. Despite his inexperience Green has been sloppy with the basketball and has been stripped numerous times from behind. In addition, he has been unable to deliver the basketball in the best spot for his teammates to score. The problems go much deeper than Green's play. 36 of the 57 turnover have come from the frontcourt which is entirely too much. If you take 19 shots away every game on average due to turnovers you had better shoot the basketball well. The Explorers are shooting just 40% from the floor in the first three games. Couple that with the propensity to turn the ball over and you have a struggling basketball team. Throw in a 3pt field goal percentage of just 28 percent and it is not difficult to sit back and see why this team is actually worse than last year's squad up until this point. Last year's team shot the ball at 46% from the floor, 35% from 3 point range and committed 16 turnovers per game.

Save a bad second half against Howard where they gave up a 17 point lead and 43 points in the second half against Howard, defensively La Salle has done a decent enough job holding their opponents to almost the exact percentages that they get themselves. One problem is that they have been unable to score a lot of points in transition off their defense which would lead to easy baskets. They have done a decent enough job stopping dribble penetration which was their Achilles heel last season. Fans must worry that if the offense continues to sputter when will the defense suffer from an offense that does not reward good defense?

So many questions abound through three games. Where are the answers? Quite frankly not many are present. The Explorers lack shooters, especially at the small forward position. Darnell Harris has struggled with his shot and that has hurt the offensive production. One has to think he will catch fire at some time. The problem is he is an easy player to guard for defenses. He rarely takes the ball into the lane and as the only experienced off the dribble shooter on the team he will get the primary attention of opposing teams. Kyle Griffin came into the program as a know shooter but he has gotten very little opportunity thus far. Without the threat of an outside shot defenses are sagging into the post to help out defenders who are posted up in the paint. Combine that with the lack of a guard to get into the lane with the basketball the Explorers have become very predictable and one-dimensional. The problem and ultimate question for Explorer fans is whether the team has the personnel to turn this around? It would appear to be difficult at best given the way the team plays now. Playing in the half-court set is far too difficult for a team that cannot penetrate the basketball or shoot the basketball consistently.

There is still more issues to address. The team has played stupid basketball as well. It is easy to blame the coaching staff for some of the team's deficiencies thus far. However, losing their man to back-door cuts, not protecting the basketball, not communicating with each other, and playing without urgency fall on the players. Most of these players have played organized basketball for a long time and should have a certain knowledge embedded into their play and how they should play. This disconnect appears to be missing from the team as a whole.

So where is the glimmer of hope? To start, I would expect the team to play crisper basketball once Guillandeaux returns. While he is still learning the position he still is La Salle's best option. Secondly, the emergence of Jerrell Williams should help add more production both offensively and defensively each week as he gains valuable experience. Third, and most importantly fans have to hope the staff changes the style of play to fit the athletes and depth the team has. Find a rotation that rewards those players that play well with increased time and responsibility. Status quo will not work and cannot be accepted. The questions and lack of answers are too obvious as things are now. The answers could come from change. Change could offer Explorer fans at least some hope.

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