#143 Norfolk State Men's Basketball 2017-2018 Preview

Norfolk State Spartans
2017-2018 Overall Rank: #143
Conference Rank: #1 MEAC
 Norfolk State Logo
Norfolk State was well tested heading into MEAC action. Following an opening game loss to Mississippi State by a score of 78-74, the Spartans did not look all that great in non-conference play. Of course the schedule was tough though and Coach Robert Jones’ squad came out of it with very few wins, but a better team. That paved the way for a 12-4 mark in conference play and a nice run in the MEAC tournament that ended with a loss to North Carolina Central in the championship game. The Spartans went to the CIT, where they lost at Liberty in the first round. This year Coach Jones returns plenty of experience and brings in enough depth for the Spartans to take the next step and make it to the NCAA Tournament.
2016-17 Record: 17-17, 12-4
2016-17 Postseason: CIT
Coach: Robert Jones
Coach Record: 73-63 at Norfolk State, 73-63 overall
Who’s Out:
However, Norfolk State will need to find another scorer to replace Jonathan Wade. The 6-4 guard led the team with 19.4 points, 6.8 rebounds and 61 made three-pointers. He would take all of the big shots for the Spartans, but the good news is that Wade averaged just 5.4 points as a junior and stepped up when the team needed him to step up. The hope is now somebody else can do the same. The backcourt also lost regular contributors Kerwin Okoro and Carrington Ward. Okoro missed the first month of his senior season, but still earned 19 starts and ranked third on the team with 7.3 points per game. After spending time at Iowa State and Rutgers, Okoro finally was able to show off a little bit of what he could do. Ward missed most of his senior season with an injury, but did provide some quality minutes early in the campaign. Micah Goss, Stavian Allen and Alex Brown are all leaving after transferring in from the junior college ranks. All three failed to make a big impact during their first season with the Spartans.
Who’s In:
Coach Jones hopes this group of junior college transfers will pan out better. Three junior college transfers join two incoming freshmen and Robert Morris transfer Steven Whitley. Whitley, a 6-3 guard, spent one season with the Colonials and averaged 3.3 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.2 assists. He was starting by the end of the year and is the type of big, versatile guard that Coach Jones likes. The incoming junior college transfers are Derrik Jamerson Jr., Nic Thomas and Tre’ Maloney. Jamerson is yet another big guard who can score in bunches. He is a superb shooter from everywhere on the floor and could emerge as one of the team’s best scoring threats this season. Thomas spent one year at Howard College and has three years left at NSU. He is a good all-around player who can shoot, play solid defense and handle the ball. That makes it quite likely that he will find a role on this team. Maloney, a 6-7 sophomore, may not do much scoring, but he does add frontcourt depth and toughness. The incoming freshmen are C.J. Kelly and Mastadi Pitt. Kelly was a great signing for Norfolk State and the 6-5 combo guard will have a great collegiate career. He can score in bunches, run the point and use his size and strength to help out on the glass. Whether or not that potential turns into production right away remains to be seen, but at the least expect Kelly to show flashes of his promising future off the bench as a freshman.
Who to Watch:
There is room on the perimeter for any of those newcomers to step into a starting role. Zaynah Robinson will start at the point after averaging 13.5 points, 4.5 assists and 1.6 steals during his junior campaign. NSU you really needed Robinson to step up and turn into a consistent scorer and a leader on the floor last season and he did not disappoint. There will be more of the same in 2017-2018. Kyle Williams proved to be a very dangerous shooter off the bench. In his first year out of the juco ranks, Williams made 42 long balls and averaged 6.2 points per game. He should remain a dangerous shooting threat from the bench. The return of Preston Bungei gives Coach Jones even more versatility. The 6-6 wing missed last season with an injury and averaged 5.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and nearly one block per game as a part-time starter two years. However, it is possible for Norfolk State to play even bigger than that with the 6-6, 240 pound Jordan Butler or the 6-8, 210 pound Alex Long starting at the small forward spot. Having those two on the floor along with one of the centers would severely limit the offensive shooting though, but it is a possibility early in the year while the new perimeter players are learning the ropes. Butler is a beast on the glass and averaged 6.7 rebounds on top of his 7.2 points. He also led the team with 1.9 blocks last season. He may be undersized, but he is tough. Long had a superb sophomore season, averaging 7.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks. He should be able to average double digits in the scoring column and give Norfolk State a consistent interior threat.
Final Projection:
When playing bigger, Bryan Gellineau and Dan Robinson will get the call. Gellineau, a 6-11, 280 pound senior averaged just 10.3 minutes per game, but is a solid rebounder and defender. Robinson, a seven-footer, started a dozen games last season and averaged 3.3 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. With so much size on the perimeter and in the frontcourt, most teams in the MEAC will have trouble containing Norfolk State on both ends of the floor. Another trip to the CIT would be nice, but this group should have NCAA Tournament aspirations.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Zaynah Robinson, Senior, Guard, 13.5 points per game
Nic Thomas, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Derrik Jamerson Jr., Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Jordan Butler, Senior, Forward, 7.2 points per game
Alex Long, Junior, Forward, 7.5 points per game
By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 69.8 (252nd in nation, 7th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 71.5 (155, 3)
Field-Goal Percentage: 42.4 (266, 3)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.6 (27, 2)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 6.6 (241, 7)
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 33.9 (227, 4)
Free-Throw Percentage: 68.1 (258, 7)
Rebound Margin: 1.9 (121, 2)
Assists Per Game: 11.0 (315, 9)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.8 (313, 12)