2008-09 La Salle Basketball Preview: #121
La Salle Explorers
Overall Rank: #121
Conference Rank: #10 Atlantic 10
2007-08: 15-17, 8-8, 7th
2007-08 postseason: none
Is this the year La Salle becomes a factor in the race for the Atlantic 10 championship? If so, the team will have to be much more consistent than they were last season. Besides a nice five, four if you do not want to count New Jersey Institute of Technology, game winning streak in February, the 2007-2008 season was marred with mediocrity. If point guard Ruben Guillandeaux is consistent, the rest of the team will follow. Guillandeaux is good scorer and shooter and improved late in the season, but his decision making needs to improve now that he is an upperclassman.
The good news is the team was very young and should be more consistent with another year of experience, but the bad news is Darnell Harris is gone. Harris hit nearly 48 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and knocked down almost four per contest. He ended his collegiate career as the conference’s all-time leader in made threes. Nobody is going to come close to replacing Harris’ long range shooting skills this year or any time soon. Forward Sherman Diaz is the other departure. His numbers were never overly impressive coming off the bench, but Diaz was a decent shot blocker.
Depth up front was one of the needs of this recruiting class and it was pretty much the only one addressed. The biggest name is Vernon Goodridge, a transfer from Mississippi State. A 6-9 forward, Goodridge averaged less than ten minutes per game with the Bulldogs two years ago, but he is a solid rebounder and shotblocker and should make a much bigger impact with more playing time. David Baroum and Devon White, as well as walk-on transfer Steve Weingarten, will give the team plenty of depth in the paint.
Who to Watch:
A majority of the scoring left behind by Harris will fall to Rodney Green, Yves Mekongo Mbala and Kimmani Barrett on the wings. Green is the star of the future and the future is now for the junior. He will not hit too many outside shots, but the 6-5 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania product does a great job getting to the basket. With the 6-7 Mekongo Mbala by his side and 6-5 Guillandeaux running the point, the Explorers have size in the backcourt that few teams in the Atlantic 10 can match. Even Barrett is 6-6. However, most of the players on the perimeter are not shooters. Everybody can hit the long ball, but Green, Mekongo Mbala and Barrett are slashers first and shooters second. If somebody does not start taking more outside shots, the opposing defense will have an easier time collapsing in the lane and stopping the La Salle offense.
What propelled the Explorers to a .500 conference record last year was the rebounding. Jerrell Williams led the way averaging 6.4 boards per contest. His production slipped as the season went on, but Williams is also a solid scorer who should tally plenty of double-doubles before his collegiate career is through. Add Paul Johnson to the mix, who started 32 games last year but likely lose his starting gig to Goodridge, and the team has plenty of depth, experience and rebounders in the frontcourt. Besides the youth and inexperience excuse, last year’s mediocrity can almost exclusively be blamed on poor defense. Another year will fix some of those problems, as would utilizing the team’s length by running more zone, but there is a long way to go between giving up 76.2 points per game and competing for a conference championship.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Ruben Guillandeaux, Junior, Guard, 7.7 points per game
Rodney Green, Junior, Guard, 13.4 points per game
Yves Mekongo Mbala, Junior, Forward, 8.3 points per game
Jerrell Williams, Sophomore, Forward, 9.1 points per game
Vernon Goodridge, Junior, Forward, DNP last season