I touched base with Dave Boots late last week about the upcoming season. (Never too early to talk a little ball.)
Nothing earthshaking to relay, other than my guess is at least a few of the incoming players will be redshirted. Obviously those decisions are way off under the best of conditions. Throw in the possibilities of injuries, etc., and any declaration on my part about who will play next year and who will not is meaningless.
Looking at the returning players, however, it seems to make some sense that a few would be on the sidelines.
Let’s begin with a starting line up and work our way backward…..Trevor Gruis and Tyler Flack look like they’re going to start at the four and five spots. It’s a no-brainer on Gruis, who has started for three years, and we can probably expect progress from Flack, who looked better toward the end of the year after a mid-season lull and has the tools to be a physical force.
“Tyler got a little more confident the last part of the season,” Boots said. “It’s a long season for someone coming out of high school. He was better at the beginning, then he struggled then he finished out pretty well. He had a good spring. Now he needs to have a good summer and keep improving. Both he and Casey Kasperbauer got thrown into the heat right away last year, which is tough. We’re getting the program into a position now where we’re hoping we won’t have to do that.”
The three spot would look like a three-year home for Adam Thoseby, the 6-5 Australian who sat out the entire season. He continually impressed coaches in practice last season after transferring from Utah State and looks like the real deal. He’s a rangy kid, jumps well, shoots well and could become a go-to player.
Brandon Bos, who spent a lot of time as an undersized but physical three last year, will return as the very likely choice to start at shooting guard, though he could spend a lot of time at point guard as well. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a kid make a bigger jump from his freshman to sophomore season at USD than he did. He basically went from a guy who was somewhere toward the end of the bench to one of the young stars in the Summit League. He can also play point-guard, which, given the Coyotes’ backcourt depth next year, could be a real plus.
If everyone stays healthy, it will be interesting to see how those backcourt minutes sort themselves out. Tyler Larson, who the coaches were digging prior to a knee injury, returns as a two-guard with two years of eligibility remaining. He appeared to be a very capable offensive player prior to the injury and coaches were particularly impressed with the way he rebounded and played defense from the shooting guard position.
Lost at times last year was the work of Kasperbauer. A 3-point whiz in high school, the kid delivered as advertised, hitting 42 percent on 3-pointers overall and a spicy .486 on 3’s against Summit League foes. Though there’s an obvious glut at guard with Larson, Bos, redshirt Trey Norris and Kasperbauer, it’s going to be difficult to not start a guy who hit almost half his 3-pointers in conference play as a true freshman.
We haven’t seen Norris play, but based on what I’ve seen in practice he’s from the true point guard school. Depending on the opponent, my guess is he’ll be a necessary part of the backcourt in certain games.
The Coyotes also have three guys who are three-four types in Eric Robertson, Karim Rowson and juco newcomer Tavian Pomlee. Robertson shot over 40 percent on 3’s in Summit League play. Rowson lost some confidence on the offensive end as the season went on last year but if he gets it back, he’s going to be a contributor at both ends. Pomlee is a strong player who can shoot it from the outside.
That’s 10 guys who look like they could get 15 minutes a game or more. If high school recruits Rico Thompson, Austin Sparks and Bounama Keita want to get on the floor next year, they’re really going to have to get after it.
At any rate, the battle for minutes within the team will be as fierce as it’s been in a long time. After a 10-20 season, it’s a scenario the Coyotes can benefit from.
“We’re going to have a very competitive situation, which is what we need,” Boots said. “We think we’re going to be better, but we have a lot of improving to do. We have to play better and we have to coach better.”