Men’s hoops to rely on returners
Great teams in college basketball don’t rebuild, they reload. That being said, it is no easy task to find success after a major team transformation.
That may be an understatement for the Quinnipiac Bobcats, who got an extreme makeover this offseason, bringing in nine fresh faces.
The biggest task for head coach Tom Moore and the Bobcats will be coping with the loss of Justin Rutty.
Rutty has been the poster boy of Quinnipiac basketball for the last two years, playing pivotal roles in the two most successful seasons in school history.
Now it’s going to be up to the returning starters to help fill the monstrous Rutty-shaped void.
It may not be Tobacco Road, but Quinnipiac and Robert Morris are developing quite the rivalry. Two straight home losses to the Colonials in the waning minutes of the Northeast Conference tournament will no doubt have the Bobcats hungry heading into this season.
Based on ability, the one constant for the team will be senior James Johnson, a combo guard who anchors both the offense and the defense.
Johnson is a proven lethal scorer who averaged 16.1 points per game last season, fifth in the NEC. He can stretch defenses with his outstanding range and also get to the hoop around multiple defenders.
He also has the uncanny ability to stop on a dime and pull-up for a mid-range jumper but if he doesn’t get any help, he’s going to start feeling like Bruce Willis in “Die Hard,” alone in Nakatomi Plaza, having to take down entire teams by himself.
Junior guard Dave Johnson will be there to help James Johnson in the Bobcats’ backcourt.
Dave Johnson is a crafty, high energy player, who relies on his quickness and crisp ball handling to penetrate defenses and get into the lane.
Despite his small frame at 5-foot-10, Dave Johnson has the athleticism to finish around the hoop and get to the charity stripe.
However, his perimeter offense can be inconsistent and sometimes he relies a little too heavily on the three-ball.
Overall, Dave Johnson is a heady point guard with a high basketball IQ whose skill set allows James Johnson to play off the ball, where he can work off screens to get a shot.
Garvey Young steps into his junior year of college basketball eligibility, but his first year as a Bobcat. Young, a Vermont transfer, should be expected to fill the void left by Deontay Twyman.
The former All-Rookie and All-Defensive America East player is a slashing southpaw that can be a threat from the outside.
His offensive arsenal is highlighted by a signature move where he goes left and pulls up for a floater, similar to the one perfected by former Memphis player Chris Douglas-Roberts.
Look for Young to help take some of the scoring load off of Johnson’s shoulders.
Forward Jamee Jackson heads into his junior season and out of the large shadow casted by Rutty.
Jackson can rebound but his shot-blocking ability makes him a defensive force in the paint. Not only can he send a shot into the third row, his mere presence can alter shots.
He averaged 1.2 blocks per game last season, which was good enough for seventh in the NEC.
Jackson’s offensive post game is still a work in progress. He has showed flashes of brilliance but his footwork needs improvement.
What he does very well is use his body to shield opponents and prevent a potentially blocked shot.
As a lefty, he has a sweet little baby hook shot which can allow him to develop into a legitimate scoring threat down low.
Ike Azotam is expected to start in the frontcourt alongside Jackson. Azotam is a force in the post and never relinquishes an opportunity to dunk in two points with authority.
The rim-rocking sophomore hits the boards very well, grabbing 73 offensive boards last year, leading to second-chance points.
He is the best returning rebounder for the Bobcats and will see a rise in his numbers in the absence of Rutty.
Azotam has a wide frame and with an effective drop-step, he could pose major problems for defenses in the NEC and have some huge double-double games.
Beyond this projected starting line-up, there are not a whole lot of familiar faces. There is no question that it will take time to build chemistry and there are sure to be some growing pains along the way. Once the season is underway, it will be interesting to see which freshman will become major contributors.
The Bobcat faithful needs to be patient and realize the potential that this team has.
Quinnipiac has been on the brink of March Madness the last two years, and is just itching to get a taste. Hopefully, the third time’s a charm.