I thought after eight practices that I would give you a synopsis of each player today. I’ll provide each person’s strengths as well as what he needs to work on over the next few months to be where we would like to be for the opening of the season in November.
We’ll start with our best player at this time, Tello (Juan) Palacios. Tello’s in great physical shape right now. He outruns everyone up and down the court, and his ball handling and scoring is better than a year ago. His inside presence is much more explosive because he’s healthy again. At the defensive end, he understands what to do. He’s playing two positions right now: small forward and power forward. He’s beating everyone up and down the court, so the better we get out in transition, the better his game is going to be. He needs to work on -- and he’s been doing a good job of it lately -- is making sure that when he’s handling the ball, making his one-on-one move, that he’s in a crouched position to avoid losing his balance when he drives. Balance is the key when he drives. He has to have a low center of gravity. I’ve been very pleased with the shape he is in and his readiness to play.
Terrance Williams has made everyone better with his passing skills. He has the ability to rebound in traffic, is a tremendous athlete and has been shooting the ball much better. His ability to make others better is what will make T-Will a much better player. He just needs to work on his consistency. That’s the one weakness he has -- not doing it every possession. He could be spectacular in all phases of the game, and he could affect every play in the game at the offensive and defensive end if he would choose to do so. That’s what he has to do. He has to strive to be an offensive and defensive factor every time down the court.
Terrence Farley has finally kept his weight up where he can use his strength as a dominating force inside. He’s 238 pounds right now. We want to keep him between 236-240 pounds. If we could get him to 240 consistently, that would be a blessing. He’s a good shot blocker and rebounder and a good defensive player. He’s a better scorer this year with a nice touch from 15 feet and he’s running the floor well. He needs to work on consistently blocking shots and challenging every shot, not just two out of three or three of five. He also needs to be a second jumper. By that I mean that if he attempts to block a shot and the ball is reversed, he’s got to get to the other side and block it again. Overall, we’re very pleased with Terrence.
Jonathan Huffman is also very improved. He’s a much better offensive basketball player due to his increased strength. Strength is the key to all these big men’s good fortune. He has clever moves around the basket, had a good jump shot, is running the floor better and passes very well. He has to get stronger and become a better defensive player by using better defensive angles. He also needs to be a more aggressive rebounder, but he’s improving in that area.
Our point guards are battling it out and they’re both very different. If BJ (Brandon Jenkins) makes it back from his injury -- because both guys are just playing good -- he could beat them out at that position. That’s an option for us. Edgar Sosa is a very good playmaker and makes other people better. He gets in the lane and is a hard worker. His demeanor is very similar to Francisco Garcia’s. He has to learn emotionally as a point guard to keep his control of the game and not get too high or too low. He gets too down on himself when things don’t go well and he can’t do that. He’s like the quarterback in football. He’s got to worry about everyone else and not be concerned with how he’s playing. He’s also working on a more consistent jump shot. Edgar’s emotional stability is where he has to mature a bit.
Andre McGee is in good shape. He still doesn’t take the mid-range jump shot, and that’s what he needs to do. He has the ability to get by defenders. He’s more of a scorer than a playmaker. He doesn’t make people better yet and that’s something he needs to work on. He’s in great shape, is extremely quick and is working very hard.
Those are the six guys we’re primarily looking to start at this point. Now let’s look at the guys off the bench.
Derrick Caracter on offense is an immovable force and is unstoppable in the low post. He has great hands and has good moves down low because he’s so strong. He could be a good one-one-one player from the elbow to the basket. Although he can make the shot, if he would concentrate on not bailing out with a jump shot and go to a jab series, he’s unstoppable. No one can stop him when he’s facing the basket from 15 feet because he’s so strong and is a good ball handler for a man his size. The sky’s the limit to how good he can become. He has a few shortcomings right now: poor fundamentals, poor footwork defensively, he doesn’t see the ball in transition and he’s always getting outrun because of being overweight. He’s never played effective defense because he’s gotten away with being bigger than everyone else. He needs to understand angles, how to step up in the lane and rotate defensively. He’s as fundamentally weak of a basketball player at the defensive end as I’ve had. He’s relied on his size, but now that he’s at the level where there are players are as tall as he is, he has to learn to get better defensively. He’s a slow learner at the defensive end. He’s having a difficult time learning plays, too. I don’t think he’s had too many offensive sets; they probably just posted him up and threw him the ball -- which, when the shot clock is running out, can be a great bail out. If he is a sponge -- someone willing to soak in everything, constantly learning and then working on that knowledge -- and if he is humble, he could be one of the best players I’ve ever had from the high school ranks. But those are big "ifs," because he’s never done it before. His work ethic and defense are firsts for him.
Jerry Smith is probably the most mature of the freshmen. His emotional level is that of a sophomore or junior. He doesn’t get rattled and is very consistent in what he’s trying to accomplish both offensively and defensively. He’ll work hard at the defensive end, although he does commit too many fouls. He’s an improved shooter and will be a very good shooter someday. He can score, pass and is fundamentally sound. He’s the most ready to play as a freshman from a maturity standpoint. He gets it; you don’t have to constantly repeat things to him. He’s ready to play right now and with Brandon being out, that’s good news. He needs to work on consistency with his jump shot. He just needs repetition, shooting 400-500 shots a day on his own.
Earl Clark had his best day of practice yesterday. Prior to that, his fitness has gotten in the way of his progress. Yesterday he was tremendous. He got after it at the defensive end. He’s got to play two positions. It’s easier for him right now to play the four spot than the three. He would much rather play the power forward than the small forward, but he doesn’t realize that the power forward plays just as much facing the basket as a small forward. The only thing the power forward doesn’t have to do as much is running, sprinting to the lanes on the break, and he probably likes that as well. He’s very weak at the defensive end. He just doesn’t understand defense, but he’s learning it and is willing to learn. The biggest thing that he needs to concentrate on is his focus. He doesn’t focus in practice. I took out a sponge the other day in practice to show our team what they must be. They need to soak every single thing in so they can positively impact our team on Oct. 14. I’m hoping Earl can become a sponge because he has terrific ability.
Will Scott needs to play more like a Rip Hamilton or John Havlicek -- someone who is always moving without the ball, looking for the 15-foot shot, looking for the three-pointer and letting other people get him a shot. He gets into trouble turning the ball over at an old Brad Gianiny rate. We can’t have that. When pressured, he’s turning it over. His weakness is he has the ball in his hands. His strength is moving without the ball, getting open and scoring. That’s what he can do. We’ve got to get him in the offense constantly moving, passing it if it gets in his hands and he’s not open, and then moving again. Will is not overly quick, so he needs to really work on understanding angles defensively and becoming a better defender. He’s a big-time offensive threat with his range and has great passion for the game.
That’s pretty much the same with Chris Current, although Chris is a better defensive player. Chris is a little better athlete than Will, is tougher and not quite as good of a shooter, but they’re both similar. They’re both hard workers. Chris is struggling a bit right now with a sore back, but he’s a much improved basketball player from last year.
We have a fictional plaque on the wall stating that Brad Gianiny is the record holder for the most turnovers in the history of our practice facility. This year, Brad is not turning it over. Where he turned it over about 20 turnovers per practice last year, he’s only doing it about twice a game as a senior. He’s hoping that Stuart Miller can break all of his records. Brad’s very happy that Stuart is in our program right now because it takes the heat off of him from a turnover standpoint.
Stuart is another young man who needs strength. Like Will, he is a great shooter. The question about Stuart and Will -- as well as Brad and Chris -- is can they take the heat defensively? When somebody gets after them, can they make the play? And then after the play, can they move without the basketball? They can knock the shot down with a high percentage. They’re all pretty much in the same boat in needing to stay away from turnovers and playing good enough defense so that their shooting overpowers other weaknesses. That’s what they need to work on.
Perrin Johnson is dependable, playing both the small forward and power forward positions. He’s experienced. If you need him to go in and do the right things, he’s capable of doing it to win a game. We’re going to depend on him in that regard: someone who understands what we need done and will get it done at the right times.
Thursday is our mandatory day off this week. We will practice on Friday to get ready for Canada. We won’t report back to you from Friday’s practice because it will be more of a strategy session on what we need to do offensively against the teams we will play. We can’t prepare defensively as we would like because we know very little about the teams we will play. We’re going to work on the defensive principles of what we may see, as well as offensively what we are trying to accomplish in Saturday’s game. After the game, we’ll get back on this web site and tell everyone what we thought of our performance.