Rodger’s retrospective on Juice Thompson’s excellent NU career brings up a big question for next season: Who will replace the team’s MVP in the lineup?
This has been discussed on this blog in various comments, but let’s dedicate an entire post to our speculation.
While the Princeton O doesn’t necessitate a point guard per se, it’s important to have a guy bringing the ball up the court who’s capable of breaking a press, and it’s also helpful to have an on-court general to calm things down and reset if a play is breaking down.
Thompson played both of those roles to near perfection throughout his four-year career, and without an obvious successor, I would suspect that Carmody will look to fill Thompson’s shoes with a committee approach, depending on matchups and who has the hot hand.
The candidates are junior Alex Marcotullio, sophomore JerShon Cobb and two incoming freshmen, David Sobolewski and Tre Demps. Both Sobolewski and Demps played point guard for their high schools, and Cobb and Marcotullio are also being groomed for point guard play.
Carmody so far hasn’t tipped his hand as to who he plans to start or who might get the most minutes at the 1, and given that preseason practices haven’t even started, that’s no surprise. Training camp will likely shed some light on the battle for minutes, but it could be a competition that extends throughout the season.
Hit the jump for a closer look at the candidates.
Alex Marcotullio is the veteran of the bunch, entering his third year in the program. Marcotullio served mostly as a spark off the bench his first two years, with his three-point marksmanship and some defensive hustle. (He also acts like he’s been shot every time he’s fouled, which is entertaining for NU fans but likely doesn’t endear him to the opposition. Fortunately, Mirkovic is around to be Public Enemy No. 1.)
Reports out of Europe, where the 6’3" Marcotullio is playing for the Great Britain U-20 national team, indicate that he is spending time at the point guard position. While he hasn’t looked like the smoothest ball handler at NU and sometimes forces passes, I think he could be competent at bringing the ball up the court, and the experience he’s gaining in Europe will be valuable.
Numbers-wise, Marcotullio averaged 5.2 points in 21.5 minutes per game during BigTen play. Expect his minutes to go up to the 25-28 minute range and for him to continue gunning from deep.
JerShon Cobb played mostly two-guard in an injury-wracked freshman season for NU last year, but Carmody has indicated in interviews this offseason that Cobb will get a shot to play the point.
The 6’5" Cobb has easily been the Wildcats’ most hyped recruit to join the program, but a wonky hip slowed him early in the season (he sat out the season opener against NIU), and a vicious hack by a St. John’s player in December also dinged him up.
If he’s healthy, look for Cobb to display more of his silky smooth moves. Cobb averaged 8.8 points in 28.6 minutes in BigTen play. I’d expect his minutes to go up slightly, as he’ll probably occasionally slide over to the three-spot to give Drew Crawford a breather.
We didn’t get to see a lot of Cobb’s ball handling this past season. The question in my mind is if he can be an efficient ball distributor, since Cobb was known more as a scorer than a passer in high school.
Then we have the freshmen. Most scouting services list Sobolewski as a PG and Demps as a SG or combo guard. But Demps has been quoted as saying he wants a chance to run the point, and it seems Carmody is open to the idea.
High school recruits are always a bit of an unknown, so take these scouting reports and ratings for what you will. Demps is rated as a three-star SG by ESPN, Scout.com and Rivals.com. Sobolewski is rated as a three-star PG by Rivals and a two-star PG by ESPN and Scout.
Sobolewski is touted as a heady player with leadership and poise, who has good vision with the ball but could stand to bulk up his 6’1", 175 pound frame. The 6’2, 165-pound Demps, whose father is the GM of the New Orleans Hornets, is not described as particularly athletic or quick, but he also has a high basketball IQ and is a good floor leader. Both freshman are said to have good three-point shots, which is a definite needed skill in the Princeton O.
I think that unless one or both guys really stand out during fall practices, Carmody will probably ease them into the lineup at 10 minutes or so a game.
There is certainly precedent for Carmody to insert freshmen into the starting lineup right away, but with so much on the line this season (this could finally be his make-or-break year, as he enters Season 1 of his two-year extension) and potentially viable veteran options in Cobb and Marcotullio, I can see Carmody going with experience.
Anyway, that’s how I see things shaking out. The nice thing is that we should finally have some depth at the guard position, which has been lacking for some time. With four players to fill two guard spots, if a starter’s shot is off or someone gets into foul trouble, Carmody will have options.