As we wait for football to heat up, it’s as good a time as any to analyze the coming basketball season. Over the next few weeks, we will analyze the logical rotation and depth chart, based on position. We analyzed the point guard position last week. Next is what should be the Pack’s weakest position (unless Degand isn’t healthy) – shooting guard.
At first glance, this might seem a bit counterintuitive – after all, NC State returns a senior who has started almost every game at the position for the last two seasons (absent a few dreadful games trying to run the point in Atsur’s absence). But Courtney Fells is most definitely not a guard – at least at the ACC level.
I don’t believe it’s hyperbole to label Fells as the worst passing guard that I have ever seen start at the ACC level (outside of senior day pity starts – and maybe not even then). His passes are lazy, and his instincts are horrendous. Making matters worse, he has a tendency to get into a mental fog and completely stop moving without the ball. Especially with poor creators like Javi and MJ at the point, this ground the offense to a standstill. Even Fells’ defense started to slip – although he often shut down the opponent’s top guard for 15-20 minutes, he would just as frequently lose focus and allow his man to explode late in the game.
So, we have to make some strategic decisions. We have already dictated that we will leave Farnold Degand at the position where he can have the most success – PG. Now, we do the same with Fells, treating him solely as a forward. That’s the easy part. What’s hard is finding another credible option at the 2.
As the Pack’s season swirled down the toilet last February, Trevor Ferguson started to play. It was perhaps an act of desperation, but certainly called for. And Trevor responded by busting his ass every minute he was on the court. Sometimes he was good, sometimes he was bad. But he always gave max effort, and showed flashes of a reliable outside shot. He has trouble creating shots for himself, but perhaps he could feed off the chaos created by Degand’s speed. Ferguson’s lack of quickness is a significant defensive limitation, and he is not a good secondary ballhandler. However, with Degand on the court (who is a plus defender and doesn’t need help bringing the ball up the court), Trevor’s liabilities could be minimized. Ferguson is tall enough to at least get a hand in a shooter’s face, which is better than nothing. More importantly, his passing (which had been on the Fells level) has significantly improved with added confidence and experience. Because of his effort, he also runs the floor reasonably well (and I don’t think speed is a problem for him – just quickness).
Julius Mays is the other possible candidate to start – but it is very dangerous to rely on a fringy “high major” recruit to contribute much as an underclassman. One only needs to look at Javi’s uneven performance last year for proof. [NOTE: Yes, I know you all just love Javi - but how many games did we win with him playing a significant role?] In any event, I would prefer to see Mays paired with Javi, as Mays hopefully will be steadier as a secondary ballhandler (which Javi needs). CJ Williams is more of a combo swingman (that sound like Fells to anyone?), and is at least as fringy as Mays. MJ has a slow, awkward shot, and is a disaster with the ball. I suppose Simon Harris could at least go in and hit people, but he’s even more of a forward than Fells.
Still, Sidney Lowe and staff must resist the temptation to play Fells at guard, even for a minute. The SG position will be weak no matter what, and shifting Fells or Degand would cause a chain reaction weakening the team elsewhere – without solving the problem.
Who should start? Trevor Ferguson, by default. He has experience, and seems to best complement Degand’s game. It’s hard to imagine a limited athlete like Ferguson playing such a significant role on an NCAAT-caliber team, but he’s the Pack’s best option (and we are not an NCAAT-caliber team). It also sends a message to the more “attitude challenged” that effort will be recognized and rewarded at NC State.
What should the rotation be? Based on his defense, Trevor could log anywhere from 20-30 mpg, with 25 being the likely outcome. Backup SG is anyone’s guess. We imagine that Julius Mays would get the first crack at it (especially when Javi runs the point), but he might not be ready. CJ Williams is a similar unknown, but probably even less likely to be ready, especially considering the obligations required as a secondary ballhandler. The default choice would be Marques Johnson, who would at least be able to play passable defense. One would expect him to be a complete cipher on offense, though – and it’s hard to produce offensively with a black hole at the 2.
Position Grade: D-