At 6-foot-3, 195 pounds Stephon Sharp will provide guard depth this winter.
When the Gophers lost their four guards for the last four games of the season Stephon played point guard and scored 54 of his season long 58 points in those four games. Sharp of course had played only 40-41 minutes over the year before playing 39 minutes against Illinois but his 19 points, four treys made, and 6 of 10 shooting excited fans.
Sharp played point guard for the first time since elementary school so the task asked of him playing point guard in the Big Ten with such limited options around him was an impossible one. But scoring 19 against Illinois, 16 against Wisconsin, and 13 against Rutgers was more than anybody expected.
The Not so Good
Tough to judge here. There is nothing really to talk about when it comes to the first 11 games and then in the final four we are judging a freshman walk-on wing playing point guard for the first time in about ten years.
Sharp shot 38 percent from the field for the year (19-50) so you would like to see that go up 4-5 percentage points, you would like his 29.4 percent three point shooting up a few (he shot 5 of 17 so out of his next 17 it would be great if he could hit six or seven), and the turnover number has to go down when the ball is in his hands although he didn’t have a turnover the first 11 games so we are judging that on him playing out of position when the team was in desperate need.
Focus on 16-17
When Stephon played three minutes against Oklahoma State, five against Nebraska, three against Michigan, and seven in two games against Indiana you saw a guy who came off the bench, defended Big Ten athletes very well with good positioning, a work ethic, and defensive IQ, and you saw a guy not turn the ball over. Everything he did was high IQ.
The role was different in the final four games but the point totals in those games combined with the work rate showed earlier in the year off the bench has fans thinking “does he deserve a scholarship?”
The answer to that is…let’s see. We think Stephon is the type of team guy that can be depended on day to day and down the road we think he has a good chance to earn a scholarship. We think it may be best to wait another year though to see what he can do this year but Stephon will definitely have a chance to help this team and likely play. How? There are four scholarship guys on the team that are likely to play guard: Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Akeem Springs, and Amir Coffey. All four of those guys are not likely to stay healthy (or whatever else) for every game of the entire season. Stephon will be needed.
Also, Sharp is an intelligent worker. He is a guy that can take the place of a player who doesn’t defend the right way, who doesn’t make the right choices on offense, and you can trust him when you put in him in the rotation for 3-4 minute stints off the bench. He provides this team depth and we at GI believe he will get a chance to play. Sharp will definitely push those in front of him and that is also very important.
Could he be a rotation guy? Nobody expected him to be solid off the bench in a reserve small minutes role but he did that fine. And nobody expected Sharp to hit for double figures three times late in the year but he did that too. Who is to say that his jumper won’t improve this year and that combined with his court IQ and work rate could definitely get him minutes. Needed minutes maybe too as he works in as the fifth guard and the past has shown that this team will likely need more than three or four guards throughout the course of a year.
Projected Stat Line. Tough to put one together because his role will be unsure early. If they are fully healthy as a team there are several guys that will be fighting for time. Consider that they have a senior (Springs), five juniors (Mason, Konate, Diedhiou, Lynch, Fitzgerald), four sophomores (McBrayer, Gilbert, Murphy, Sharp), and three freshman (Hurt, Coffey, Curry) who all could potentially see time. That is 13 names when the team is more likely to play nine guys, maybe ten. Injuries will bring that number down and there have been many suspensions so that could happen too. Watch for Sharp to play, but when they have a full roster or close to it we aren’t sure how much he will play.