It’s that time of year, basketball is back, baby! We lost six players that started games for us last season, 4 of our top 6 scorers, 4 of our top 6 rebounders, our top 3 in steals, and our top 2 in assists. We’ve got some work to do! Let’s begin to look at how we’re going to address those big holes.
Upcoming Men’s Basketball Key Dates:
· ACC Tipoff media event – Wednesday 25th
· Prime Time with the Pack (Reynolds) – Thursday 26th
· Exhibition Game (PNC) – Wednesday November 1st 7:00 - Opponent: Mt Olive
· Season Official Start (PNC) – Monday November 6th at 7:00 - Opponent: The Citadel
· Experience? Check! 10 of 13 players are Juniors, Seniors and Grads.
· Size? Check! If we want to play big, we have players at 6’9” & 6’10” each, at both Center and Power Forward positions
· Depth? Check! Keatts has said we could be two deep at every position this season
· Quality depth? Check! This team averages 62 games played across our 13 players, and we have 7 players who started for P6 teams last season
· Scoring? Check! We have five players who averaged 11 or more points per game last season
· Returning – Breon Pass – PG – 6’0” 175 lbs – Talented junior who has spent his two seasons behind major Pack stars, his freshman season behind Dereon Seabron (New Orleans Pelicans) and last season Jarkel Joiner (Atlanta Hawks).
· Returning – LJ Thomas – PG – 6’2” 205 lbs – Sophomore – ACC Honor Roll – led the team in 3PT shooting at 47.4%
· Returning – Casey Morsell – SG – 6’3” 200 lbs – Grad – Started every game last season, 41.1% 3PT, improved his game in every statistical category over his junior season. Buzz from practice is he is working to improve his scoring off the dribble.
· Transfer – DJ Horne – CG – 6’2” 180 lbs – Grad – 2nd leading scorer last season as a starter at AZ St with 12.5ppg. 35.5% 3PT shooter – hit 72 3PT last season (FYI Morsell hit 78) – career high 34 points
· Transfer – Michael O’Connell – PG – 6’2” 195 lbs – Grad (2 years eligibility) – Graduated in 3 years from Stanford, started 28 games, averaged 3.1 assists, career highs 12 assists against UW and 22 points against AZ. Buzz from practice is that he is a very good, physical defender and great entry passer. Could break into the starting lineup.
· Transfer – Jayden Taylor – SG – 6’4” 195 lbs – Junior - From Butler, started 20 games last season, led the team in scoring at 12.9ppg. Scored career high 24 points vs Georgetown, including 6-8 from 3PT. Buzz from practice is that he is our best defender.
Forwards / Centers
· Returning – Ernest Ross – PF – 6’9” 200 lbs – Junior - athletic forward who was key player in OT win over Miami last season with career highs in scoring at 17 and rebounds with 9.
· Returning – DJ Burns – C – 6’9” 275 lbs – Grad - “Big 30” was Honorable mention ALL-ACC, led the team in FG% at 56.1%, Led team in scoring eight times, in rebounding nine times, in assists three times, in steals nine times and in blocks 10 times. Buzz out of practice is he is noticeably slimmer, but will still not be called “Slim 30.” He has been photographed on campus wearing a walking boot. He was held out of Saturday’s scrimmage against UGA. Details are sure to come out as he and Casey will be representing the Pack at ACC Media Day.
· Transfer – Ben Middlebrooks – C – 6’10.5” 240 lbs – Junior - We traded (the evil) Clemson Jack Clark for Ben. Played behind PJ Hall last season, started the 7 games PJ was injured. Averaged 3.1 ppg and 2.7 rpg. Buzz from practice is that he is a much better shooter than anticipated, including a 3PT shot. Looks and plays similar to Mahorcic.
· Transfer – Mohammed Diarra – PF – 6’10” 215 lbs – Junior – Played 1 season at Missouri. Former #1 JUCO recruit, it took him about half of last season to adjust from JUCO to D1, but after that he led the team in rebounding five times – three of those with double digit rebounds. Buzz from practice has been he’s a solid ball handler, defender and rebounder. Keatts called him the most improved player over the summer.
· High School Recruit - Dennis Parker, Jr – SF – 6’6” 205 lbs – Top 100 player out of HS, National Honor Society. Buzz from practice is, high IQ, good shooter, ahead of schedule, he does not play like a freshman and he will play meaningful minutes at the 3 and/or 4 this season. He is definately our #1 freshman!
· MJ Rice – SF – 6’5” 215 – 2022 McDonald’s All American - One of the more highly ranked players Keatts has had on campus, he is a transfer from Kansas. He only averaged 7.6 minutes per game last season (FYI same as Breon Pass), but played behind one of their better players and had some physical issues. Rice is currently away from the team addressing some personal issues. He has missed about a month of practice, and the associated off-court team building activities, so at best will not be ready at the beginning of the season. He will have an enormous amount of catching up to do. Insiders continue to believe he will play this season. His social media posts suggest that he is working out with his trainer and that he is still committed to the Pack. He has 3 years eligibility.
· Kam Woods – Guard – 6’2” 185 lbs - A two time transfer most recently from NCA&T. He will need a wavier to play this season and has no strongly persuasive case to get one, so is unlikely to be approved, but you never know with that looney NCAA. Kam was a one-man army last season at A&T leading the team averaging 17.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.3 assists, and 1.6 steals. He has 2 years eligibility.
· Larry Dixon joined the Pack as an assistant coach in August from USF. Dixon has notable credentials as a defensive player and coach. He was the defensive player of the year as a senior at Johnson C Smith University. He was instrumental in the development of the 2019 AAC Defensive Player of the Year, Rideau. He has helped USF become one of the better defensive teams in the country during his five seasons on staff.