#133 Winthrop Men's Basketball 2015-2016 Preview

Winthrop Eagles

2015-2016 Overall Rank: #133
Conference Rank: #1 Big South

Winthrop Team Page#133 Winthrop Men's Basketball 2015-2016 PreviewBuy Winthrop Basketball Tickets

Each year, Pat Kelsey’s Winthrop Eagles teams seem to be getting better and better. His first season was a bit of a struggle back in 2012-13. An offensive-minded coach, his Eagles were one of the worst defensive teams in the nation, often times letting up over 70 points per game. The team ended with a sub .500 overall record (14-17) as well as a 6-10 mark in the woeful Big South. However, he made improvements in his next season (2013-14) and although the Big South got better, so did his Eagles. His team stepped it up on defense and remained a force offensively. They didn’t take the title, but Kelsey’s team finished with a 20-13 overall record and finished tied for second in the Big South as well (10-6). He didn’t win as many games last season (19) but his team finished with a career best 12 wins and made the Big South Tournament Championship game where they lost to Coastal Carolina. The loss was a stinger, but might just make the Eagles stronger in 2015-16. With a ton of returning talent and a surprising amount of incoming talent, the Eagles are the favorites to take the auto-bid in the Big South this year.

2014-15 Record: 19-13, 12-6
2014-15 Postseason: none
Coach: Pat Kelsey
Coach Record: 53-43 at Winthrop, 53-43 overall

Who’s Out:
Winthrop was an exceptionally deep team last season. Sure, some players like Keon Moore (33.1 mpg) saw more time than a bottom of the rotation guy like Josh Davenport (13.7 mpg) but Kelsey had ten players that played in 27 or more contests last season, a much higher number than most other teams. This goes both ways. On one side, it’s a great thing because a lot of players saw the floor and therefore should be able to see a bump in their workload without being too thrown off. On the other end, however, some players can take this the wrong way. The starters all played significant minutes last season (over 20 mpg) but because the Eagles had such a deep bench, some guys that would otherwise see 20+ mpg as the sixth or seventh man barely saw any time (9-12 mpg). This helped cause two players (Derrick Henry, Joseph Lopez) to transfer out. These two guys didn’t do a whole lot that showed up on the stat sheet last year (combined for 26 mpg, 7.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg) but were solid players in their own right. Henry, a rising junior, was an effective defender, using his size and speed to stay in front of opponents while simultaneously using his quick speed to get easy buckets in the transition. His shooting was woeful (34.8% FGP, 18.9% three point percentage) which really hurt his overall value, but he was still a guy looking at 20-23 mpg for next season based on his defense alone. The other player, rising sophomore Joseph Lopez, is a bit of a different story. He played only 9.9 minutes per game last season, but was surprisingly effective in that miniscule time slot. He averaged 3.0 points per game, but more importantly grabbed 2.5 boards in that short time period, which translates to just about 10 per 40 minutes. He also shot better than 50% from the field (59.3%) and was a decent defender. His defense was pitiful at best, but he had three more years to work on improving that part of his game. He transferred out with three more years of eligibility. The other two players leaving (Keon Moore, Andre Smith) both graduated this past year. Unfortunately for Kelsey, he is losing two very, very good players (and leaders) who are both going to be very hard to replace in the upcoming years. Andre Smith, a four year point guard (and three year starter) out of Tampa, Florida, had arguably his best season last year. His field goal percentage dropped from his previous season (4.7%) but he scored a career high 11.3 points per game, dished out a career best 4.3 assists per game, swiped a career best 1.3 steals per game, and hit a career best 84.1% of his free throws. Notice all the “career bests” above. He wasn’t the most talented or athletically gifted guy on the floor, but his dependability and ability to hold on to the ball (2.26 assist-turnover ratio) made him a great option for Kelsey day in and day out. The other player leaving is last year’s MVP: Keon Moore. A JUCO transfer out of North Carolina, Moore simply was the best guy on both sides of the floor for the Eagles last season. Offensively, he could beat defenders in just about any way imaginable, whether that was behind the arc (43.2% three point percentage) attacking the basket (4.2 free throw attempts per game) or hitting from the midrange (44.3% FGP, 18.5 ppg). He also snagged a team best 1.4 steals per game and was always active on that site of the floor. More importantly, he showed up in the big games. In the championship game against Coastal Carolina, he was the best guy on the floor, going for 16 points and 7 boards. Smith’s going to be hard to replace, but that’s nothing compared to trying to find a replacement for Moore.

Who’s In:
We’ve learned this in recruiting before: bigger isn’t always better. A coach can go out and grab seven unranked recruits and not look into their respective games, therefore they struggle at the next level. Another coach grabs 2-4 recruits but knows them well, and therefore they become solid DI college basketball players. Kelsey is going for the latter. He has only three incoming players on next year’s roster (Jimmy Gavin, Adam Pickett, Bjorn Broman) but they’re all very good in their own right. Of course, they’re still unranked, meaning none of these guys are going to go out next season and score 15+ ppg. Jimmy Gavin (senior), the only one of the three who is not a freshman, probably has the best chance of playing significant minutes next season for Kelsey. Mature, talented, and smart, Gavin is a knock down shooter at the shooting guard position who demands attention from whoever’s attempting to cover him on the perimeter. He showed range out to the NBA arc throughout his high school career and has a quick trigger. He doesn’t have a big time body (6-3, 190 pounds) but he’s strong enough to still draw contact inside. His defense is miles behind his offense, but he is an instant spark plug of offense who should find his place in next year’s rotation. The other two freshmen recruits are point guards. The first, Adam Pickett, has a chance of being something really special at the next level. Big, strong, athletic, and talented, Pickett passes the eye test, and then some. An excellent shooter, especially for a point guard, Pickett uses his strength and athleticism to really elevate on his shot, making it extremely difficult to defend. More importantly, however, are Pickett’s grade “A” handles. He handles like a 5-10 guard, keeping the ball exceptionally low to the ground while always playing in control. He may not dominate next year, but this kid definitely has a bright future ahead of him if he can stay healthy. The final recruit is Bjorn Broman. Broman, although small in stature (6 feet, 170 pounds), plays like he thinks he’s Kobe Bryant. Confident, smart, and talented, Broman beat defenders throughout his high school career with his knock-down outside shot and first move to the rim. Broman’s most famous high school ball moment had to come on February 20th when his Lakeview Christian Academy team was facing off against a tough opponent, #3 Maranatha Christian Academy. Lakeview lost the game, but that wasn’t what generated all the buzz after the game was over. No, the buzz was about Broman, who scored a jaw-dropping 74 points in the game. He hit over 10 threes, was relentless attacking the lane, and looked like a man possessed. Will he be a 15+ppg scorer next year? Absolutely not. In two or three years? It’s a possibility with his smooth stroke and killer instincts.

Who to Watch:
Although they lost their two leaders from last season, a number of really solid guys are still returning. The player most likely to fill Keon Moore’s role from last season is another Keon: Keon Johnson. A two year starter at the shooting guard position, Johnson was the second leading scorer on last year’s team (11.5 ppg) but didn’t do a whole lot other than score. That’s going to have to change for next season. Moore, although most easily recognized by his scoring ability, also rebounded (5.2 ppg) and was an elite outside shooter (43.2%). Johnson didn’t get dirty on the boards last season (2.4 rpg) and was a good but not great outside shooter (36.2%). Still, he has a very complete offensive game, complete with a capable first move to the basket (3.4 free throw attempts per game), a reliable midrange jumper (40.2% FGP) and an improving feel for the point guard position (1.9 apg). Johnson doesn’t look like a star (5-7, 160 pounds) but his quick feet, shiftiness in the lane and pesky hands on the defensive end make him the most obvious choice for taking over the scoring role for the Eagles next year. Another guy that’s going to be there to help is rising sophomore Xavier Cooks. Cooks didn’t do a whole lot of scoring last year (7.8 ppg) but he was an elite rebounder (6.1 rpg) in just 25.8 minutes per game. Also, he was a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, blocking a team high 1.5 blocks per game. Listed as a small forward coming out of high school, Cooks seems to be headed more and more towards Power Forward country each time he steps on the court. He doesn’t have elite size down low (6-8, 200 pounds) but his ability to draw contact down low (2.6 free throw attempts per game) and his incompetence from downtown (18.8%) screams power forward. If he can lower his fouls per game (4.6 per 40 minutes), Cooks could be the starting power forward come opening day. The other three notable returners (Tevin Prescott, Duby Okeke, Jarad Scott) aren’t quite as talented as the previous two, but they all still bring something to the table. Prescott, although only 6-5, 180 pounds in stature, plays like a 7-foot center. He dominates in the midrange, doesn’t miss a lot of shots (57.5% FGP) and is a reliable defender. Duby Okeke, a rising sophomore, got better as the year progressed last season. He’s a beast of a defender on the block (1.4 bpg) but is still pretty raw offensively. Still, defensive minded centers are definitely an asset in today’s game. The final returner is junior Jarad Scott. Scott still has a ways to go before he can be considered even a decent perimeter defender, but he’s already a reliable outside shooter (42.5%) who can hit with a hand in his face.

Final Projection:
Back in March, the Eagles shocked the Big South world by advancing all the way to the Championship game before losing to a talented and rested Coastal Carolina team. This year, the tides could be turned. Winthrop doesn’t have as much returning talent as the Chanticleers, but they have a couple big time recruits that should all make a difference in their first season. Also, never underestimate the undersized Keon Johnson. He’s only 5-7 (on a good day) but his ability to command the offense and knock down big shots should be huge for the Eagles. The X-Factor for this team has to be rising sophomore Xavier Cooks. Cooks was great last season (7.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and could turn into a go-to presence down low if he can develop a more refined offensive game. These two are going to have to lead the Eagles if they hope to hold off the pesky Chanticleers.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA Tournament

Projected Starting Five:
Keon Johnson, Junior, Guard, 11.5 points per game
Jimmy Gavin, Senior, Guard, DNP last season
Tevin Prescott, Senior, Forward, 6.9 points per game
Xavier Cooks, Sophomore, Forward, 7.8 points per game
Duby Okene, Sophomore, Center, 4.4 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 73.6 (36, 2)
Scoring Defense: 67.5 (197, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 44.9 (92, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.9 (78, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 7.8 (42, 5)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 35.8 (103, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 72.4 (66, 3)
Rebound Margin: -0.5 (209, 8)
Assists Per Game: 12.1 (208, 7)
Turnovers Per Game: 12.1 (131, 5)


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