Friday, October 24, 2008

The "Getting No Love' players in the WAC

There are a few players in the WAC who aren't getting any love from the media. We're not sure why but it probably has to do with the fact that nobody as yet has seen them play. It's much easier and convenient and certainly understandable to pick returnees to the various pre-season All-WAC teams because they are the familiar.

But curiously, this lack of exposure hasn't limited the flow of accolades towards Nevada's Luke Babbitt, who 95% or so of the WAC beat reporters have yet to witness on a court. Do not take this as any knock towards Babbitt as he will be everything most are saying about him but it's interesting that his high school rep has thoroughly determined the thinking of many, including us.

Here's the recent player predictions from the media:

Preseason All-WAC Team

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico State
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Preseason Player of the Year: Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Newcomer of the Year: Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada

But even the league coaches are in on this to a degree while selecting first and second team all-league squads.

Preseason All-WAC Teams

First Team

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico St.
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Player of the Year: Armon Johnson, Nevada

Second Team

Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada
Brandon Fields, Jr., G, Nevada
Anthony Thomas, Jr., Boise State
Tai Wesley, So., F, Utah State
Jahmar Young, So., G, New Mexico St.

So the first 'overlooked' player we are featuring is 6-10, 220-pound Magnum Rolle of Louisiana Tech.

In 16.7 minutes a game while a soph at Louisiana State in the very tough SEC, Rolle averaged 4.0 ppg., 4.1 rpg. and 1.1 blocked shots a contest. He shot.431% in obviously limited playing time and made nine starts.

Those aren't 'dump-upon' numbers for a player in the midst of his second season especially in such a conference. But what wasn't noted was that then LSU Coach John Brady wanted less mistakes and errors from Rolle and probably also wanted him to physically mix it up more. The latter aspect just may not be part of his game.

Now there may be some degree of rust to his game due to his sit-out last season but we feel the appropriate expectations of Rolle should be that his numbers projection will be a very healthy one in 2008-2009.

This is because:

*** he'll be playing 30 or so minutes a game
*** he'll be a featured player, meaning he or Kyle Gibson will lead the Bulldogs in shooting attempts
*** he'll be going up against lesser opponents than he faced in the SEC and enjoy many more height and quickness mismatches
*** 6-10, 260-pound starting center Kenneth Cooper will be primarily focused on defense and rebounding, allowing greater freedom for Rolle on the court

BACKGROUND: Rolle is a native of the Bahamas who verbally committed to Florida State before attending prep school for a year. Then he signed on with LSU and spent two years in Baton Rouge. Rolle is marvelously athletic and gets up and down the floor well -- he's one of those types assistant coaches out scouting fall in love with immediately. But he also is a latecomer to basketball and it will be curious to see what rawness remains evident.

Rolle aimed too high after his prep days, that is if he wanted or expected to be an immediate prime time player because he wasn't mentally ready nor was his skills set polished enough for major playing time. This is why he played so little at LSU...well that plus having Glenn Davis (Boston Celtics) and Tyrus Thomas (Chicago Bulls) in front of him.

Now Rolle is 22 and the Draft Express site has him ranked at #68 on its list of juniors vis a vis the NBA draft. But take it to the bank that such a rating is currently meaningless because nobody really knows what Rolle will display this season -- except for the LA TECH coaching staff -- because nobody else has seen him.

What is concerning is Rolle's free throw shooting proficiency. 'Reports' indicate that Rolle has nice range and a good faceup game but he shot 46% from the foul line as a freshman and 56% in his sophomore season while at LSU. These 'Shaq-like' numbers obviously must improve as well as his overall shooting consistency from the floor.

There's also the need for greater aggressiveness/more physical play out of Rolle. Scouts will be projecting him into the next level from the opening LT game and displaying too much reliance on finesse will not be beneficial to his professional rankings.

OUR TAKE FOR 2008-2009: Rolle earns second-team All-WAC honors this season at the minimum -- inclusion into the first team isn't out of reach. He's in perfect surroundings for his game and the emergence of a point guard for LA TECH will only enhance Rolle's production. Rumor has it that Rolle may be a one-and-done in Ruston -- his athleticness is already at an NBA level although greater strength would only be beneficial -- let's see just how far his skill development has progressed.

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