Explorer's Struggling, Recruiting Notes

Seven games into the 2007-2008 season, and the young La Salle Explorers look no better than game one of the season. Despite the return of Ruben Guillandeaux for the Bucknell game La Salle has continued to play bad basketball. Poor decisions on and off the floor, missed lay-ups, poor foul shooting, and an overall sense of chaos surrounds the team.

When head coach John Giannini started the rebuilding process at La Salle he had a plan to find athletic players who could play a multiple positions on the floor and use their athleticism to their advantage by beating bigger players to spots on the floor and making it hard for smaller guards to work the against the bigger guards covering them. In year two it is becoming painfully obvious that plan is not working and not going to work in the future. While the hope was the recruited players could play a variety of positions it is apparent they struggle to play just one position. The sophomore class of Rodney Green, Ruben Guillandeaux, Kimmani Barrett, and Yves Mekongo-Mbala still, after 37 games don't appear to have a defined role in this program.

Green is now the point guard who does not have this skills and court awareness to play the position by most fans observations. His role been taking the ball up the court, make a pass, and then try to post his man up in the lane. Pretty simple for most defenses to figure out. To his credit he is more willing to shoot the jumper and by some degree has improved his shot making more three point baskets in the first seven games this year than all of last year. Still he has been careless with the basketball which gives the opposing team easy baskets. Mbala came from highly touted St. Patrick's high school and won a state championship, one would think he understands how to win games and do the little things it takes to win games. He is a very cerebral student in the classroom but sometimes loses focus during games. Much like Green he has made critical mistakes that lead to momentum changes which benefit the opposing team. It appears Mbala doesn't understand if he should be a power forward or small forward. Sometimes he will do strong work in the low blocks and other times just hang around the perimeter and not move with basketball on the other side of the floor. Guillandeuax just returned to action on Monday after a wrist injury forced him to miss the first five games. He is the only recruit in the sophomore class to make the expected jump from freshman to sophomore from a basketball skill standpoint. He played the point last season but this season has played more shooting guard until he was moved to point during the last few minutes of the Morgan State game. He has not started any games but from his performances does deserve to start. He is also La Salle's best option at point guard at the moment. Just like Green and Mbala, he is searching for a role and position on the team. Barrett has not gotten ample opportunity to show his development from freshman to sophomore. For whatever reason, he has been designated to the bench for most of the season not understanding or defining his role. With his recent suspension and lack of action many fans wonder what will happen with regard to Barrett's role within the team going forward.

Another problem facing the program this season is a lack of leadership on the floor. There is no leader the team can lean and rely on when the game gets tight and things don't go well. No go-to guy you can depend on to get a bucket when the team is struggling to score, no vocal player to confront other players who are not doing what they should be doing, and no player who extends from the team to the coaching staff. The substitution pattern remains a concern for most. Removing players every two to three minutes does not promote cohesion on the floor and does not reward players who are playing well and does not show players playing poorly that they need to pick up their play to get the playing time they desire.

So after one quarter of the season in the books it appears the program is no closer to turning the corner into competitive A-10 basketball than last season. While the Explorers were labeled as too young to be a factor in the conference last season, this season they may be facing the reality that they are not good enough to be competitive in the A-10 conference. That is a colder reality in that it may mean a much longer journey from the bottom to the top than many Explorer fans may want to endure.

Recruiting Notes: - Sources tell ExplorerHoopReport that La Salle recently took a visit to go watch New York point guard Trinity Fields last week. Fields, 6"1 from Benjamin Cardozo High School in Bayside, is a proto-typical point guard who looks to get his teammates involved. Providence is also involved but the rumor is that Fields wants to go to a school and get playing time right away and make an impact. The Philadelphia area is very weak at the point guard position this year with only Chester's Karon Burton considered A-10 level. Burton however has some off the court issues that has hampered his recruiting. It looks like La Salle's coaching staff is starting to realize a point guard is now a priority.

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