La Salle Basketball Preview: #55
Overall Rank: #55
Conference Rank: #3 Atlantic 10
2008-09: 18-13, 9-7
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: John Giannini (71-79 at La Salle, 368-228 overall)
It is pretty fair to say that La Salle got snubbed out of a postseason berth last year. The team finished the season with 18 wins, but it was a first round loss to St. Louis in the Atlantic 10 tournament that seemed to keep the team out of the NIT. And then the CBI and the CIT just never called. The postseason drought should end this year with a wealth of experience returning.
Key Losses: F Vernon Goodridge, F Paul Johnson, G Darryl Partin
The Explorers also have a great recruiting class, or at least one great recruit. Aaric Murray is one of the best center prospects in the nation according to most pundits and the 6-10, 250 pound Philadelphia, Pennsylvania product should make an immediate contribution. If he lives up to his potential, La Salle could forget about the NIT and shoot straight for the NCAA Tournament. Redshirt freshman Devon White will add more depth up front and guards Parrish Grant and T.T. Carey will give the team some much, much needed depth on the perimeter.
The best two scorers on the team are Rodney Green and Kimmani Barrett. Green averaged an impressive 17.8 points, 3.4 assists, 5.0 rebounds and 1.9 steals last year. The 6-5 senior deserves to be mentioned among the best players in the conference and the best players in the city of Philadelphia. Green will not take that many three-pointers, but he can keep the opposition honest with his outside shot. Most of his scoring is done around the basket and usually the only way to stop the 6-5 point guard is to foul him. Barrett, a 6-6 wing, was second to Green in the scoring column last year averaging 11.8 points per game. Like Green, Barrett will use his size to hit the glass and get to the basket, but he can also hit the outside shot with relative consistency.
The frontcourt has to replace Vernon Goodridge, but picking up Murray should immediately help the frontcourt. While Murray adjusts to the collegiate life, Yves Mekongo Mbala will carry the load under the basket. The 6-7 senior turned into a consistent scorer last year and led the team with 6.0 rebounds per contest. And he can even step outside and hit the three-pointer every once in a while. With the opposition worrying about Murray under the basket, Mekongo Mbala should get plenty of open looks outside the paint and he can knock those shots down. Jerrell and Terrell Williams both started at least a few games last year and the 6-8 juniors are ready to take on a bigger role when necessary.
Who to Watch:
The biggest question on this team is who is going to run the point. Green is certainly capable of doing it and it is never a bad thing to have the ball in the hands of your best player, but he would be more effective off the ball. The other option is Ruben Guillandeaux. Guillandeaux is not a true point guard either, but he did average 3.1 assists and just 1.7 turnovers last year. The 6-5 senior is also the team’s best outside shooter and knocked down nearly 35 percent of his attempts.
No matter who brings the ball up the floor, La Salle is a big team on the perimeter. Guillandeaux and Green are both 6-5 and Barrett is 6-6. Most A-10 teams had a tough time guarding those three guys. The biggest problem this team will run into is depth on the perimeter. Darryl Partin transferred leaving just about nobody left. That means the freshmen better be ready to contribute or Green, Guillandeaux and Barrett will be playing about 35 minutes per game.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Ruben Guillandeaux, Senior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Rodney Green, Senior, Guard, 17.8 points per game
Kimmani Barrett, Senior, Guard, 11.8 points per game
Yves Mekongo Mbala, Senior, Forward, 10.4 points per game
Aaric Murray, Freshman, Center, DNP last season
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