This was the second practice of the season and the first one I’ve attended. There’s not much going on in practice right now from a schematic standpoint for me to report on, as far as changes/tweaks from last year. I’m sure there will be some going forward and will report on those in future practices I attend.
I was able to watch each individual player, however, and here are my initial impressions:
Thieneman was brought in the play the role of Austin Loop. He is more athletic, longer, and a better 1-on-1 defender and rebounder than Loop was. However, until he can shoot at least 35% from behind the arc (he was 4-15 27% last season), Thieneman brings a lot of the same deficiencies Loop had, while not having the ability to compensate in other areas. Thieneman will have an opportunity to prove himself early on in non-conference play while Watson is out.
A little different type of player than what I was expecting. I don’t think he’s quite 6’8, like he’s listed on the roster, but regardless if he’s playing the 3 or 4 position, he’s definitely going to give us more height and length than Ryan Taylor and Austin Loop had. Koljanin is also very quick for his height and is a decent ball handler. Just from watching one practice, I came away unimpressed with his shooting ability. Understanding the system and developing continuity with Elmore will determine how much and how soon he’ll be able to produce starter type numbers with the amount of minutes he should get.
Williams was a pleasant surprise when I first saw him in practice early last season. His recruitment flew under the radar and was seen as another frail big man who would at best take a few years to develop into anything meaningful. However, from the first practice, he showed that he was explosive and had some range on his shot. Williams could have provided us some minutes last season as a true freshman, but I agree with Coach D’antoni’s decision in redshirting him. Williams will develop into a really nice player down the road. As far as what I saw from him yesterday, Williams has gotten stronger (although he has a lot of room to grow there), is developing a nice mid-range game, and has improved his 3pt shooting. Getting the system down and developing continuity will be key with him as well.
Penava has put on 45 pounds since signing with Marshall. He came in as a skilled player who just simply didn’t have the strength to compete at the D1 level. Now that he’s added the necessary weight, he’s capable of competing. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a weaker big man, but he looks like a different player. Penava mentioned in the preseason press conference how it wasn’t just him not being strong enough, he wasn’t playing tough. From what I saw yesterday in practice, you can see him playing with more confidence and he’s playing much more aggressive. Penava also has developed a nice mid-range game. I know it’s just practice, but when shooting from the elbows, whether it be catch and shoot, off the dribble, turnaround, or fading away, he was almost automatic. Of course I wasn’t there charting shots, but I would say he made 80% of his mid-range shots. With his length, that could be something to watch for this season.
West is a true point guard. In just his second practice, he was out there directing and coaching other players where they needed to go when running live offense. When it comes to competing, there’s nobody who will out do him. If any of the guards think they’re going to take a possession or a drill off while going against him in practice, he’ll make them look bad. However, he is just 5’11 and will need to adjust to the speed and size of D1 college basketball. His growth and development during his freshman year should be fun to watch. By the end of the year, I think Marshall will have a second legitimate point guard plus a lock down defender coming off the bench in West.
I see a different C.J. Burks this year. I see a player who is hungry to take advantage of the opportunity to finally start. I’m sure sitting behind Browning/Loop the past two seasons have provided plenty of fuel for that fire, but it’s good to see a more engaged Burks. Burks averaged 9.6pts/gm last season in 25.6 min/gm. He should easily get into the 30+ min/gm range, especially while Watson is out. However, his role will be drastically different this season. A projected 25% increase in minutes and filling the off guard role left vacant by Browning, I don’t think it’s out of the question to expect Burks to average north of 15pts/gm.
The most explosive player on the floor. George is actually a lot stronger and more physically ready than the type of player I thought we were getting. The plan was to have him prep for a year at Hargrave before bringing him in, but Coach D’antoni was worried about losing him. With the scholarship numbers that opened up, it was a no brainer to go ahead and bring him into the program, redshirt him, and let him develop for a year in our system. However, it looks like he may be fighting to keep the redshirt off this year. George is very athletic, but he’s also very raw as a player. It would be nice to redshirt him and allow him to further develop his ball handling and shooting, while learning the system. It’s a similar situation to Jannson Wlliams last year, where he can contribute as a freshman, but you’re trading a year of contributing as a true freshman for a year where he could be special as a redshirt senior.
Watson will provide another athletic wing player to the lineup once he returns. He’s not as athletic or explosive as Burks, but he’s in that mold and he provides a little more length than we’ve had from our guards in Burks and Browning. He has an odd delivery on his shot that I think takes too long to get off in catch and shoot situations, but I also think it helps him create space to get up shots off the dribble. So there’s some trade off there. I see Watson as a talented player who Marshall will need to produce in conference play if they expect to make any noise. With him having to sit out last season and not being able to knock off any rust, develop continuity, and get settled into his role during non-conference play this season; I’m not sure how ready Watson will be to fill that role.
Not sure what I can say about him that isn’t already known. He’s the obvious leader of the team and will put up the numbers to be in the running for CUSA POY. One thing I noticed yesterday in practice that was a bit difference about Elmore is he seems more explosive this year. He seems to have more juice in his legs. On more than one occasion, during live action, I saw him throw down reverse dunks with ease. Not saying he couldn’t do it before, but I haven’t seen him attempt something like that during live action.
When Marshall recruited Bledsoe, I thought he fit into the Ryan Taylor mold. I know he was just a freshman, but I had doubts last year that Bledsoe would be able to develop into the type of player we needed him to be. However, from watching one practice, it looks like Bledsoe may be on that track. He’s added good weight, he’s playing stronger and more aggressive, and it looks like he’s finally playing instead of thinking. He probably could have used a redshirt last season, but didn’t have the luxury of doing so. He should be able to contribute some quality minutes off the bench this year.
Mijovic looks to have trimmed down a little from last season. I don’t see much improvement from a skill standpoint, but he does look a little more comfortable. Mijovic’s minutes on a night-to-night basis will probably be determined by the amount of foul trouble Penava finds himself in. As far as knowing where to be, playing hard, and having the size, Mijovic has the ability to throw in some quality minutes for Marshall this year. He just lacks the skill to provide any kind of production to the box score.