As part of our end-of-season hoops wrap-up, I'd like to take some time to take a look at our returning players and think about what the outlook for them is for next season. That'll help us get a better sense of what we can be next year and what we need to do to get there. Today, let's look at our three returning juniors, Johndre Jefferson, Sam Muldrow, and Austin Steed.
After the loss of Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, Jefferson found himself playing much more than I think he probably would have originally. It looked like he would ride the bench most of the year, and even after Archie and Holmes went down, it looked like Austin Steed would be getting most of the extra minutes. By the end of the year, though, Jefferson was our main big man off the bench.
Jefferson had a decent year in his role, all things told. I don't think Horn ever intended for him to get the minutes that he did barring disaster. Of course, disaster happened, so he got some playing time, and he did his best with it. He was a relatively reliable defender, showing promising shot-blocking skills. His rebounding could use a little work, but he was decent in that regard, too. On the offensive end, his effectiveness was largely limited. He lacks a strong shot or post moves.
Jefferson will need to improve some of the soft spots in his game if he wants to retain his minutes next year. Incoming freshmen Demontre Harris and R. J. Slawson will definitely push him for playing time, with both players offering skills that Jefferson doesn't seem to possess. If he can improve his offensive game, though, he could continue to be a factor off the bench.
Continue reading after the jump.
After he displayed strong shot blocking and defensive rebounding abilities in 2008-2009, we knew that Sam Muldrow would be a good defender. However, after the aforementioned loss of Archie and Holmes, Darrin Horn had to bank on Muldrow becoming a major player on offense, as well. At times, Muldrow didn't disappoint. He doubled his ppg from a year ago, averaging over 10, including two 20+ outings. He also continued to shine on defense, becoming one of the league's premier shot blockers. His performance this season is, without a doubt, one of the reason's we didn't completely sink.
Muldrow will go into 2010 as a potential NBA prospect. His defense and physical tools will draw looks from teams looking for a decent big man to provide depth. To maximize his potential, though, and to help us as much as possible, he'll need to improve a few elements of his game. A lot was made over the course of the season of Muldrow's inconsistency, his tendency to score 20 one night and 5 the next, and even to score a bunch in one half and none the next. To improve in this regard, Muldrow needs to develop more of a post game. He needs to put on a few pounds of muscle and develop some consistent moves that will allow him to be a sure-fire option on the block. If Muldrow continues to score most of his points in transition and on open shots when his jumper is falling, he will continue to play an on-again, off-again role in the offense.
It originally appeared that Steed would be the one getting lots of extra playing time after Archie and Holmes went down, but he eventually found himself spending all his time on the bench, playing less than 10 minutes in the final seven games, with Jefferson getting his time. I'm not exactly sure I understood Horn's reasoning here. Similar to Jefferson, Steed lacks any offensive game to speak of. However, he always seemed to have a knack for getting into place the right place at the right time and cashing in on turnovers and put backs.
The main reason that Jefferson got the extra minutes, I'm assuming, is that Jefferson is a better post defender. That means that if Steed wants to get back into the rotation, he needs to work on his defensive footwork and shot blocking. He also, like Jefferson, could use a wider variety of moves and an improved jump shot. If he doesn't do these things, Jefferson and / or the incoming freshmen will continue to get the minutes.