Postcard from Texas A&M (cont.)
Posted: Friday October 26, 2007 12:39PM; Updated: Monday October 29, 2007 4:58PM
Breaking down the Aggies
Heart and Soul: Jones. I hadn't imagined Jones as an outsized personality; the last time I saw him, at the pre-draft camp in Orlando in June, he was serious, somber, reserved. On Wednesday he was both the most ebullient and most physical player in the gym. He came back to A&M because his draft stock wasn't high enough to warrant going pro, but instead of making his senior season a personal mission to showcase a broader array of talent, he appears to be relishing a role as team leader.
X-Factor: Kirk. His defensive skills aren't in question, but the Aggies' success will depend on whether he emerges as a quality point guard. "Dominique is becoming a great leader," said Turgeon. "He understands when to go fast, and when to go slow. He just understands, which is very important for that position." Kirk will need to get more vocal to thrive there; he's considered a leader within the team but presently, it's more by example than by talk. Turgeon also said that if Kirk plays the point full-time, he'll be more inclined to use a combination of Carter, Sloan and Roland to guard an opponent's top perimeter player. Will they be able to provide the same lockdown effort that Kirk did last season?
Glue Guy: Davis. Here's something that surprised me: In the race to fill the Aggies' second starting post spot, which was vacated by Antanas Kavaliauskas, Davis is way ahead of Jordan, who was hailed the nation's No. 3 center in the Class of 2007 by Rivals.com. "If we played a game today, [Jordan] would not start," said Turgeon, still leaving the possibility open that the situation could change before the Aggies Nov. 9 opener. Meanwhile, Turgeon said Davis "fits our system perfectly," because he does all the little things such as hustling, rebounding, setting screens and being another physical post presence alongside Jones. Davis only played 7.1 minutes per game as a freshman, but he's poised to become a key cog in A&M's attack this season.
Most Improved: Davis would be the clear pick here; I hadn't noticed him much in '06-07 but he appeared to have developed into a well-polished power forward when I saw him on Wednesday. But my fellow Postcard-writer Seth Davis set a one-category-per-player rule that I apparently have to follow, and thus the pick is Carter. Playing on an Athletes in Action team in Australia, as well as attending the Kobe Bryant Basketball Academy over the summer, Carter has developed a mid-range skills to go with his lights-out perimeter shooting. Said Jones, "Josh has worked on putting the ball on the floor more, and changing up his game."
Lost in the Shuffle: B.J. Holmes. A three-star point-guard prospect out of Houston, he's team's most pure floor general -- but he's also a bit undersized at 5-foot-11, and stuck behind better athletes on the wing in Kirk, Sloan, Roland and Carter. It's still plausible that Holmes could get playing time if Kirk or Sloan don't emerge as true points, but more realistically he'll have to wait until his sophomore season to get significant minutes.
Bottom line: The Aggies have one of the nation's best marksmen in Carter, good wing athletes in Sloan and Roland, an elite group of posts in Jones, Davis, Jordan and even Chinemelu Elonu. They'll play some of the toughest defense in the country. The difference between them finishing in the top 15 and making at least another Sweet 16 run, or just being a second-tier team behind Kansas in the Big 12, will come down to the development of Kirk as a point guard, Carter as a clutch scorer, and also Jordan as a post presence who lives up to his five-star billing.
The good thing is, the Aggies will be tested right out of the gate: By Dec. 2, it's likely that they'll already have faced Oral Roberts, UTEP, Washington and Ohio State in the NIT Season Tip-Off, as well as Alabama and Arizona. That's a very un-Gillispie-like non-conference slate.
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