Furthermore, even if a team does have a true center, it can be difficult to distinguish which of two individuals might be labeled a 3 and which a 4. Georgetown, for example, may play Jeff Green alongside either Vernon Macklin or DaJuan Summers at the two forward spots. All three are listed in most publications as “power forwards,” but two of them can’t both play power forward at the same time. Listed below are 14 returning players I think are likely to start at the 4 this year.
1 - Lamont Hamilton (St. John’s): 12.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg. Hamilton has improved each of the past three seasons. This year he should become one of the true impact players in the conference. Offensively, he can score around the hoop, hit the mid-range jumper, and even step out and drain three-pointers. Hamilton combines athleticism and aggressiveness around the boards on both offense and defense making him a real challenge for opponents. He does need to shore up his free throw shooting. Anyone who can hit 48% from behind the arc should be able to do better than 60% from the foul line. Hamilton also has to show he can compete against the best front line players in the league. Last year he had an excellent game against Pittsburgh (24 points and 8 rebounds). However, in a total of five games against UConn, Georgetown, Syracuse, and South Florida, Hamilton averaged 7.0 ppg and 2.4 rpg in only 20.6 mpg and made just nine of 30 field goal attempts (30%). He fouled out of one game against UConn in only 13 minutes with three points (1 of 7 shooting) and zero rebounds. In short, if Hamilton is going to be ranked among the best big men in the conference, he has to at least hold his own against other quality big men.
P-5 score = .769
2 - Jeff Adrien (Connecticut): 6.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg. At first glance, Adrien’s stats don’t appear impressive, but to get an idea of how productive he was when he was on the court last year, merely extrapolate his stats to 30.0 mpg from the 16.0 mpg he played. The results would be 12.0 ppg and a very impressive 9.2 rpg. The 6’6” sophomore is, quite simply, a beast on the boards. He doesn’t possess much range, but he doesn’t have to because he is so strong and has such excellent leaping ability. He is both fearless and relentless working in the paint, and his touch within eight to 10 feet is surprisingly soft. The result: he made 61% of his field goal attempts. Besides scoring and rebounding, Adrien will also have to assume a leadership role for Coach Jim Calhoun. On the court, that won’t be a problem because Adrien plays hard every minute. He will also likely be Calhoun’s “go-to” guy when the Huskies absolutely need a hoop. There aren’t many players who can go from back-up to impact player in a year, but that’s exactly what should happen in Storrs this year. After playing behind first-round draft choice Josh Boone last season, Adrien has a legitimate shot at making one of the Big East all-conference teams this year.
P-5 score = .781
3 - Wilson Chandler (De Paul): 10.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg. The 6’8” sophomore is more of a natural 3 than a 4, but given the abundance of perimeter players and the dearth of quality interior players on the Demons’ roster, he will be forced to play power forward once again. Chandler is an excellent athlete with solid skills. He is at his best facing the basket and taking his man one on one. He has a decent handle and a variety of moves that allow him to get to the rim or to pull up for a mid-range jumper. He has a nice touch to 15 feet, but his long-range game needs improvement as he shot only 21% from behind the arc. During the conference season he averaged 13.2 ppg, a figure which should rise to at least 15-16 ppg this year. Chandler’s height and athleticism combine to make him one of the top rebounders at his position in the league. Defensively, Chandler sometimes had problems with bigger, stronger power forwards, but reportedly he has added some weight, which should help in this regard. He is a good shot blocker (1.6 blocks per game), and with experience he should become even more adept in this area. One area Chandler definitely needs to improve is free throw shooting as he made only 67% for the season. Chandler has the potential to eventually have a nice NBA career, though it will probably be at small forward, not power forward. For now, however, Coach Jerry Wainwright needs him to be a force on the interior, not on the wing.
P-5 score = .661
4 - Juan Palacios (Louisville): 10.2 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 1.9 apg. The 6’8” 245 pound junior was hampered by a serious foot injury last season, though he did not miss any games. Reportedly, he has completely healed, which is bad news for opponents. Palacios could easily average 15-16 ppg and 7-8 rpg this year. He has a nice touch around the hoop and from mid-range. He also likes to step out behind the arc, where he is respectable (33% overall though only 30% in conference games). However, Coach Rick Pitino would likely prefer Palacios spend more time around the hoop where at times he seems almost unstoppable. Palacios is also a good passer for a big man though he sometimes forces passes which leads to turnovers. There is no questioning his tremendous potential. However, he has yet to meet the expectations that come with being ranked as a Top 20 recruit (#15 on RSCI). It is time for him to raise his game a level or two. If he does, he could be an all-conference selection; if he doesn’t, super-talented freshman Derrick Caracter could cut into his minutes.
P-5 score = .683
5 - Russell Carter (Notre Dame): 11.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 1.5 apg. Carter played the 4 quite a bit last year, especially after Kyle McAlarney earned a spot in the starting lineup alongside Chris Quinn and Colin Falls. If freshman point guard Tory Jackson shows he can run the team this year, then Carter will once again find himself matching up with other power forwards, despite being undersized at 6’4”. Carter is a multi-dimensional player. He is strong enough at 225 pounds to battle under the boards, and he’s quick and athletic enough to play on the perimeter, take his man off the dribble, and drive to the basket. What makes him even more difficult to defend is his long-range marksmanship. He made 41% of his trey attempts last year (41 out of 100), so if his defender doesn’t come out to guard him, he can make opponents pay the price. Carter is also a solid defender though at times he struggles against taller power forwards. Still, he has the physical and mental toughness to make his presence felt on the defensive end. Carter improved during last season as much as any other player in the league. During the first eight games of the conference season, he averaged 8.8 ppg; over the final eight games he averaged 17.8 ppg. If he continues to progress, he could become one of the leading scorers in the league.
P-5 score = .679
6 - Geoff McDermott (Providence): 8.9 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.6 apg. This 6’6” sophomore unexpectedly burst onto the Big East scene last year, becoming one of the better rebounders in a league filled with solid boardmen. He ended up fifth in the league for conference games with an average of 9.3 rpg, and he is the second leading returning rebounder this year, behind only 7’0” center Aaron Gray. Last year, he collected double-digit rebounds in nine of 16 Big East games, including highs of 16 (twice), as well as another game with 14. Those are dominant performances for anyone, but for an undersized power forward, they are phenomenal. Scoring, however is a different issue. McDermott scored in double figures only three times (10, 11, and 14 points) in 16 conference games on 33% shooting (36 of 108). Also, he made only 57% ( 36 of 63) of his free throws. McDermott has to do a better job of finishing around the hoop, as well as develop a better mid-range game. If he can do both, he will become an elite player in the conference.
P-5 score = .711
7 - Terrence Roberts (Syracuse): 10.6 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 1.6 apg. Roberts has been criticized by many Syracuse fans who expected considerably more from a player who was ranked #42 on RSCI coming out of high school. Still, Roberts was productive last year. He averaged in double digits on a team with three other bona fide scorers in Gerry McNamara, Eric Devendorf, and Demetris Nichols, all of whom also averaged more than 10 ppg. During the conference season, Roberts averaged only 9.2 ppg, but what was most discouraging was his inconsistency. He would score 16 one game, then two or three the next. Coach Jim Boeheim needs him to provide consistent points at the 4. Roberts was considerably more consistent on the boards. He ended up 10th in this category for the conference season (7.3 rpg) and is the fourth leading returning rebounder behind Aaron Gray, Geoff McDermott, and teammate Darryl Watkins. He had double-digit rebounds in four of 16 conference games and nine boards in three others. Still, that hasn’t been enough for the Orange faithful. They want Roberts to become a dominant force in the league.
P-5 score = .699
8 - Cedric McGowan (Cincinnati): 8.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg. McGowan had a surprisingly solid year for the Bearcats last year after coming out of the juco ranks. He was thrust into a starting role when prized fellow juco recruit Ivan Johnson bailed out after Coach Bob Huggins’ departure. McGowan’s scoring average doesn’t seem impressive, but it’s not bad considering he was usually the fourth or fifth option on offense. He showed glimpses of what might be in store for Cincy fans when he scored 20 points in the NIT against Charlotte, 19 against Syracuse, and 18 against South Florida. He can’t be counted on for that type of production every game in, but he could easily average 11-12 ppg this year. McGowan’s real strength, however, is rebounding. He’s the third leading returning rebounder in the league for conference games at 7.8 rpg. He had an incredible total of 20 rebounds against De Paul, as well as other games with 11, 13, and 14 rebounds. McGowan is also a solid defender. The 6’7”, 225 pound senior combines decent athleticism and aggressiveness to hold his own defending taller power forwards on the interior. Yet he is also quick enough to defend on the perimeter as well. Besides his on-court production, McGowan must also become a leader for new coach Mick Cronin and be a role model for the myriad of newcomers entering the Bearcat program.
P-5 score = .630
9 - Levon Kendall (Pittsburgh): 6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 1.5 apg. The 6’9” Canadian import did a solid job last year in his first season as a starter. He’s not flashy, but he is steady. Coach Jamie Dixon doesn’t need Kendall to score much since all-conference center Aaron Gray is the primary option on the interior. In fact, only twice in 16 league games did Kendall have double-digit field goal attempts. However, he is efficient as his field goal percentage of 49% in the conference illustrates. His range is limited. In fact, he was only 1 of 17 (6%) from behind the arc against Big East competition. Kendall is a decent rebounder, especially on the defensive end. Though not a great athlete, he works hard and understands positioning. One of his best qualities is his ability to work in tandem with Gray. Not many power forwards can boast more assists than turnovers, but Kendall’s 1.3/1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio shows he can take care of the ball on one hand and make good passes to the post on the other. Kendall’s minutes may decline somewhat this year as talented sophomore Sam Young gains more experience and, most likely, more playing time. But that probably won’t be a problem as Kendall is the consummate team player. Though not a star, Kendall is a valuable member of the Panther program and a key to its success.
P-5 score = .680
10 - McHugh Mattis (South Florida): 9.6 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.1 apg. Mattis proved to be a pleasant surprise for Coach Robert McCullum last year. The juco transfer not only came close to being a double-digit scorer, but he more than held his own on the boards against quality opponents. In fact, he had five games with double-figure rebound totals, which isn’t bad for an undersized (6’6”) power forward. He was also extremely efficient on the offensive end as he shot 61% from the field for the season (60% in conference games). Mattis is one of those “effort players” who seem to get the most of their talent/ability. His role this season will likely expand now that Solomon Jones has moved on to the NBA. He will be called on to raise his scoring average into the 12-14 ppg range. It will be interesting to see whether or not he can rise to the challenge if he becomes the primary focus of the opponent’s interior defensive strategy.
P-5 score = .598
11 - Will Sheridan (Villanova): 5.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg. This former Top 50 recruit (#45 on RSCI) will have a completely different role than he had his first three years for the Wildcats. Playing alongside three and sometimes four extremely talented guards, Sheridan was not needed to score. His role was to set picks, hit the boards, and play tough defense in the paint, usually against taller opponents. In fact, last year he averaged only 5.0 shots per game for the conference season. This year, Sheridan will have to raise his scoring average, hopefully into double digits. He won’t be the first or second option on offense, but he won’t be the fifth either. He also has to raise his shooting percentage (43%) as most of his shots come from 10-12 feet and in.
P-5 score = .500
12 - Frank Young (West Virginia): 7.4 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 2.0 apg. Young is the only returning starter for the Mountaineers. In fact, he is the only player among the top six that returns. Last year, despite being undersized at 6’5”, Young played the 4 in Coach John Beilein’s offense. He will likely do so again. Young is capable of becoming a solid scorer, at least 10-12 ppg game this year, as he will no longer be the fourth or even fifth option on offense. However, he has to shoot a higher percentage than he did last year when he averaged a rather pedestrian 41% from the field overall and only 31% from behind the arc. Perhaps the most amazing statistic, however, is Young’s total of 24 free throw attempts in 33 games, or .7 attempts per game. That is an incredibly low figure and underscores the need for Young to attack the basket more frequently.
P-5 score = .505
13 - Stanley Gaines (Seton Hall): 4.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.8 apg. On many teams, Gaines would be an ideal sixth or seventh man coming off the bench to play solid defense and grab a few rebounds. For the Pirates, however, he’ll almost certainly be the starter at power forward unless medical red-shirt freshman John Garcia recovers sufficiently to challenge for the position. Gaines is not much of a scorer, primarily because he has trouble creating his own shot and he’s not a very good shooter to begin with (only 41% from the field, which is low for a 4). From three-point territory, his average was a dismal 20% (seven of 35). What Gaines does give is 100% effort. Given the lack of frontcourt players on the squad, that should be enough for Gaines to get 25-30 mpg.
P-5 score = .515
Ollie Bailey (Rutgers): 4.4 ppg, 3.3 rpg. Bailey came off the bench last year and averaged 16.4 mpg after being a starter for much of his freshman year. This season he could regain his starting position if Courtney Nelson does not secure the starting point guard slot. That would mean Anthony Farmer remains at point, Marquis Webb would be at the 2, and J.R. Inman would likely move from the 4 to Webb’s former small forward spot. Bailey is limited offensively, but he is active on defense and aggressive on the boards. In fact, in the Big East Tournament, he had 11 rebounds in 30 minutes against Villanova and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes against Seton Hall. New coach Fred Hill would be ecstatic if Bailey can come even close to that kind of production this coming season.
P-5 score = .448
(I expect either of two freshmen, Vernon Macklin or DaJaun Summers, to start at the 4 for Georgetown alongside Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green. I also envision freshman Lazar Hayward – assuming he gains clearance from the NCAA – taking Steven Novak’s place at the 4 for Marquette.)
* A P-5 score (Potential Point Production & Prevention Profile), which I devised, is calculated by adding a player’s points, rebounds, assists (times 2), steals, and blocks, then subtracting the number of turnovers. This total is then divided by the number of minutes the individual played. The higher the P-5 score, the more productive statistically the player was. Of course, like all statistical analyses, the P-5 score does not present the entire picture of a player’s contributions to his team.