Why JJ Hones Will Be the Starting Point Guard

Another year, another round of debates shall ensue surrounding the Stanford backcourt. Senior Candice Wiggins is set for a fourth and final All-American season, but can Stanford's megastar play off the ball? To resolve that question, the Card turn to a trio of young point guards each with one season of college experience. Who will win that battle? We present their stats and our answer: JJ Hones.

In the upcoming season, Candice Wiggins is likely to play the point guard for small or large portions of Stanford games.  But who else will bear this burden?  There is a strong likelihood that one of three experienced point guards will be in the starting line-up with major point guard responsibilities.

This amateur and only moderately bold prediction that Hones will be the starting point guard is based on how each of Stanford's experienced players (other than Wiggins) have performed in their one year of experience at the position.  The three players are JJ Hones, Melanie Murphy, and Rosalyn Gold-Onwude.

As a fan, I love each of these players.  Each has unique strengths.  Each has areas that could be improved.  If healthy and motivated, each will have a prominent place in the rotation, either as a point guard or as an off-guard.  But given what the team needs at the point guard position, the statistics suggest that JJ Hones has so far played that role the best.  If healthy, she will play the point guard position the most.

Here are some statistics that attempt to measure a player's productivity on the court.  For Hones and Murphy, the statistics are from last season.  For Gold-Onwude, the stats came from her freshman season (2005-06).

    Pts/Min   3Pt%   Stl/Min  A/TO  A/Min Reb/Min   FT%

JJH  .186  14-49(29%)  .05    2.81   .16   .07   22-31(71%)

MM   .150     -        .04    1.43   .16   .08   22-34(65%)

RGO  .213  27-69(39%)  .03    1.60   .14   .15   33-49(60%)

The comparison is not totally fair.  Last year's team had Jayne Appel, which made it easier for a point guard to gather assists.  Gold-Onwude did not have this advantage.  On the other hand, she had Krista Rappahan, which may have allowed Gold-Onwude more relatively unhindered three-point attempts.

Here's an overall assessment of each player:

JJ Hones  -  Hones has an Oregon, blue-collar game, very much like her mate Jillian Harmon.  She seems mentally in the game every second.  Her assist to turnover ratio is substantially better than either of the other point guards.  She plays solid defense and generates steals slightly above the rate of her mates.  Her three-point percentage is promising, but still has room for improvement..  Hones lacks explosive quickness and occasionally had difficulty bringing the ball upcourt against a pressure defense, but she is quick enough and shows potential for moves that allow her to drive the basket.  When she does, she can score with either hand, which makes her more difficult to defend.

Early in last year's season, I saw Hones lead the team in road victories over the two L.A. teams.  For both games, Candice Wiggins sat injured on the bench.  Hones showed leadership, shot well, and made a real difference on the court.  Without her, Stanford would not have won both of those games.  Indeed, Stanford could well have won the California game if Hones had not been injured.

Melanie Murphy  -  Murphy is a great talent who will not be kept off the court.  She stepped up big time after Hones was injured last year.  I love Murphy's quickness and her ability to create on the drive.  I can't recall Murphy scoring with the left hand (I did not watch all the games).  That would be something for her to work on, along with her three-point shooting.  As a point guard, Murphy's assists per minute were equal to Hones'.  Murphy's assist to turnover ratio was good, but not as formidable as Hones'.  In fairness to Murphy, a lot of her stats were gathered during the Pac-10 Tournament and the NCAA tournament, where defensive pressure from strong teams probably forced more turnovers.

Here's an obscure stat that shows Murphy's potential and why she's a fan favorite.  If you examine the number of free throw opportunities generated per minute on the floor, Murphy comes out at .075, above Gold-Unwude (.06) and Hones (.055).  Murphy's upside potential is very strong indeed.  Consistent three-point shooting would add immensely to her game.  If Murphy does not start at point guard, she is still likely to be a part of the rotation.

Rosalyn Gold-Onwude  -  Gold-Onwude is another favorite and great fun to watch.  She played point guard with aplomb in her freshman season.  She did two things much better than her mates.  Her three-point shooting (.391) was exceptional and sorely missed during this last season.  Gold-Onwude was also a very effective rebounder, clearing the boards in 2005-06 at roughly twice the rate of either of her counterparts in 2006-07.

As a slasher, Gold-Onwude seems to score predominantly (solely?) with the right hand.  Perhaps that's something to work on.  Also, her free throw shooting needs a boost (60% in her freshman season).  But at full strength, Gold-Onwude's scoring proficiency will make it difficult to keep her off the court.  An off-guard role may be best suited for her.

Three experienced guards who can play the point guard position if needed.  Let's hope they are all healthy, motivated, and contribute mightily to a great season.


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