Saturday, July 31, 2010

Looking at Moscow's Vandals

No, there aren't eight million stories in the WAC basketball cities (you might need to be of Social Security age to understand that reference) but certainly plenty of interesting ones. Determining a favorite or favorites will be colored by fan allegiance but here's a story line that everybody should find worthy of following: the 2010-2011 Idaho Vandals have less overall talent than last season but will a higher finish be secured through more cohesive team play? Or, with more flourish, will a Famous Potatoes-sized version of "Hoosiers" happen?

We're not sure what all went down last season (Coach Don Verlin and his staff may have similar feelings), therefore the why of 15-16 overall, 6-10 in conference play records are unexplainable by PTW.

We do know this: the WAC coaches predicted a fourth place finish for the Vandals last pre-season and Idaho ended up tied for sixth. There were some big wins and some inexplicable losses.

Now, starters Mac Hopson, Marvin Jefferson, Steffan Johnson, Luciano de Souza and Kashif Watson have all moved on, leaving a number of question marks returning and a handful of unproven newbies coming aboard.

But it would be inaccurate to give the impression that Verlin's squad is lacking in potential -- it isn't. The situation is more one of proven producers having departed and returnees and newcomers needing to step in and step up.

However, sometimes in sports and elsewhere, the sum can thankfully turn out to be greater than the parts.

So who will be taking the court in Moscow?


Djim Bandoumel
, 6-foot-8 210,  junior, Monroe JC, NY

He should be the top run-and-jump athlete in the Vandal frontcourt and the expectation is that he'll provide rebounding and a defensive presence -- though not a lot of points

Kyle Barone, 6-foot-10 220, sophomore

Barone is the best point producer of the big bigs. Additional weight and bulk will only increase his productivity which included shooting 60% as a redshirt freshman. The big question: can he defend?

Joe Kammerer,  6-foot-9 240, redshirt freshman

He is more of the paint prototype but little is known about him. Kammerer possesses the necessary physical aspects for inside play in the WAC but his basketball skills are playing catchup -- hence last season on the sideline.

Renado Parker, 6-foot-6 240, junior, North Idaho JC

It's going to be between Barone and Parker for the leading scorer spot on the squad -- the latter will be the bull in the paint. But how well Parker can defend his more-than-likely taller opponent will also be what to watch.

Luiz Toledo, 6-foot-8 225, junior

He lacks a lot in the category of ball skills but he's athletic, strong and can score inside (shooting 64% on the season).

Brandon Wiley, 6-foot--6 218, senior

He was the ultimate glue guy the season before last, contributing in so many categories while accepting his role as the fifth option offensively (which means not being one). His selflessness was too often missing in 2009-2010. He'll either be back in the starting lineup or playing significant minutes in the same role come 2010-2011.


Who emerges in the back court is really anyone's guess at this point but there are plenty of candidates.

Idell Bell, 6-foot-2 180, North Idaho JC

His community coach called him an "intense competitor" and he scored over 20 points per game as a JUCO freshman in Florida (45% overall from the floor, 44% from beyond the arc and 72 3-pointers made. He originally signed with Florida Southern out of high school. Bell is the likeliest candidate for the starting role at shooting guard.

Travis Blackstock, 6-5 206, senior

A walk-on who won't see much playing time

Matt Borton, 6-foot-5 175, West Valley HS, WA

Fundamentally sound, his knowledge and display of what to do and when is exceptional. Our sense is he is more of a system player (relaying on screens and creation by others) than someone who is going to be successful hammering his opponent one-on-one. It may take some time but we envision Borton as a very solid WAC player.

Deremy Geiger, 5-foot-11 (on his 'lengthy' days) 165, Grayson County JC, TX

He's very quick and a solid shooter (44% overall, 44% on treys with 157 attempts in 31 games) -- the key for his success will be his defensive effectiveness and creating/passing proclivities. At Grayson, his squad was last in points per game average but also tops in points allowed per contest so he scored well in a limited offensive scheme and participated in a strong defensive effort. Geiger was North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference most valuable player last season.

Shawn Henderson, 6-foot-3 180, senior

He enjoyed his moments of effectiveness last season but he doesn't shoot all that well for a backcourter -- 40% overall, 0-3 from long range and just 20-34 at the foul line. Those numbers may improve if he can garner more consistent playing time. The opportunity is there but lots of competition.

Jeff Ledbetter, 6-3 195, senior

He catches and shoots from long distance (he shot better from long distance than overall, plus 68 of his 89 shots on the season were trey attempts, only 16 free throw attempts) -- Ledbetter needs to up his accuracy

Stephen Madison, 6-foot-5 200, Jefferson HS, OR

The body looks WAC ready and the inside/outside skills are intriguing -- it looks like he just needs to keep working and honing his talents and a starting spot should be his more than likely as a sophomore.
Landon Tatum, 5-11 196, redshirt junior.        

Short but strong, it's leadership and ballhandling that are his strong points. He's never been a big scorer anytime during his basketball playing -- that won't change and also won't have to change come 2010-2011. PTW sees him as the top point candidate.

Gary Winston, 6-foot-1 170, Walla Walla HS, WA

He won't need to contribute every night -- redshirting is a possibility -- but that will probably be dependent upon how well Bell and Geiger can fill in at the point.

A wild guess at the Vandal starting five:

* Kyle Barone
* Renado Parker
* Brandon Wiley
* Idell Bell
* Landon Tatum

By the way, it may be worthwhile to fly in or drive to Bob Kustra Night on January 22. That's when Boise State hoops comes to Moscow.

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