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Season Preview '09-'10

George Mason Basketball: Season Preview '09-'10

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Season Preview '09-'10

The season is set to begin soon, so let's dive right into this. I'll get the cliches out of the way since you will hear them all year long: 'This team is young but talented'. It's not that I don't agree with that statement, it's just that I feel like it's an excuse for the fans. There will be some growing pains this season, make no mistake, but any long time Mason fan has to feel pretty good about our Patriots being prepared for Richmond this March.

What's different this season for Mason? Last year's team didn't have a whole lot of depth, and I think that might be the biggest change in this year's team. Redshirt freshman Kevin Foster could be playing three different positions this season and is a future starter in the making. He will have to shake off some rust from not playing in games last season but having him this year gives the bench a huge boost. Yes, most of the bench consists of freshmen players, but this year's class is arguably the most talented group to ever walk into Fairfax. Sherrod Wright and Johnny Williams can probably step in right away and provide a spark.

Will leadership be an issue this year? Make no mistake, Cam Long is ready to step up and lead this team. Long spent the summer at Chris Paul's Elite point guard camp and is poised for a big year. Both he and Birdsong played with some serious leaders during their careers at Mason and this year it's there turn. Both are not as outspoken as some this team's past leaders but they lead by example on the court. Pearson, Morrison, and Cornelius instantly become veteran guys this season and will have to be leaders as well to all the new guys. Also, let's not forget Larranaga is and always will be the team's biggest leader.

Biggest question mark? The biggest issue this season could be how this team comes together and if they can find an identity with all the young talent. How will the team respond to growing pains it might face? It will be interesting to see how Larranaga uses all the options on his squad, he will have to experiment a little bit early on. Another issue is if the squad is able to learn Larranaga's scramble defense right away. He has the horses to run it effectively this season but the freshmen could struggle to pick it up.

Class by Class Breakdown:


Vertail Vaughans: The lefty point guard is quick and good in transition. He will need to work on his defense a little better to get minutes this season. Also not as strong a shooter as Whack or Hancock.

Rashad Whack: Larranaga says he's already equipped to help this team out on defense and that will help him earn playing time this year. A very good outside shooter, could remind some of Lamar Butler type player. Very smart and sound all around player.

Paris Bennett: Some think he will crack the starting lineup this year, I'm not gonna go there but he will be an important role player. He's ready to play because of the talent he played with at his high school and that will help his transition into the college level. He could get more playing time because he's really the team's only true small forward. Every team needs an unselfish guy like this, could remind some of Gabe Norwood.

Luke Hancock: Very athletic forward who has good shooting range, an extra year of prep school gives him that basketball savvy Coach L loves. What his role will be on this year's team is uncertain.

Sherrod Wright: A prolific scorer who can slash to the basket and hit the long range jumper. The knock on him is that he got away with some moves in high school that he won't be able to at this level. How will he adjust? I see him as the squad biggest offensive weapon off the bench but worry he could be erratic like Dre Smith was in his early years. But in the end he could be too talented to be kept on the bench for long.

Johnny Williams: Will probably see the most playing time of the freshmen this year. Amazing physique for a freshman, definitely has the bulk to bang with the bigger conference forwards. Plays very physical, something this team lacked last season and will hopefully dominant on the boards. Is a little bit better shooter than Morrison and has some great low post moves.

Kevin Foster (redshirt): The staff redshirting him last year could pay huge dividends down the road. It was a smart move because he was transitioning from the power forward spot to more of a small forward role. He's versatile enough to play three different positions it will be interesting to see where he plays most this year. Rebounds well enough to play in the front court and shoots well enough to play at the small forward or wing spot. He will be an integral part of Larranaga's attacking style of defense, could be very fun to watch and wouldn't be surprised if he cracks the starting lineup at some point in the season.


Jimmy Nolan: Returning walk-on from last season, probably one of the best three-point shooters on the team. A scout team player who will routinely help the 1st team prepare for it's next opponent.

Andre Cornelius: How he develops this season could be huge for the team's success. I really think Larranaga prefer him to run the point so Cam Long can play wing and be more of scoring threat. He had some hiccups last year bringing the ball up but showed flashes of brilliance all season long. Now that he's had a season to adjust to the college game I'm curious to see how he will use his speed this season. Probably the team's best straight up defender now that John Vaughan is gone, because of this he will be on the floor most of the season.

Ryan Pearson: Was the most consistent of the freshmen last season and has great touch around the basket. Looks as if he trimmed down a bit and we will see him more at the small forward spot. Not superb at any one thing but talented in many areas and his rebounding was key in games last season. Plays defense very well and that should keep him the starting lineup.

Mike Morrison: If he's not a fan favorite already he will be very soon. Looked powerful and dominant at certain moments last season. Plays aggressive around the rim after taking some time to adjust to the college game. He will end up being the go to guy inside at some point this season. Needs to work on his free-throw shooting but it still could be a breakout season for him.


Isaiah Tate: Has kind of been a disappoint thus far in my mind. Is one of the best three-point shooters on the team but struggles to create his own shot. Plays defense well enough to get playing time but the new talent that came him could leave him the odd man out in the guard rotation.

Cam Long: Hands down the team's most valuable player. Did it all last season as he led the team in scoring, assists, steals, and three-point percentage. There was a lot of games last season that I thought he should have shot the ball more, especially after watching his 24-point performance against VCU where he even dunked on Larry Sanders. A lot of this year's team success will rest on his shoulders, he will have to take the big shots this season and not hesitate. I would like to see Cornelius bring the ball up and set Long out on the wing but I'm not sure if that's how Larranaga sees it just yet.


Louis Birdsong: The teams lone senior is probably the teams best inside defender. He led the team in blocks and doesn't have trouble guarding bigger forwards. Has a good enough shooting range to play a little outside but won't consistently score from there. Does a lot of scoring inside by using his quickness to get by bigger players. Didn't see any improvement in his rebounding last year and I would have to wonder if his playing time will decrease of that this season. I always felt Birdsong was a bit of a tweener, not tough enough inside to play the power forward and not a good enough shooter to play small forward. Be that as it may Larranaga has said he will move to a perimeter forward role this season. I still think he will start because he's a senior but don't expect him to play more minutes than last year.

Projected Starting Line-up:

Cam Long
Andre Cornelius
Louis Birdsong
Ryan Pearson
Mike Morrison

Sixth Man: Kevin Foster



Blogger C Hirsch said...

Great preview man, starting to get excited.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Beach Dreams said...

Good stuff. There is a lot of talent. Perhaps more running this year and implementing more players. There are a bunch of nice possible combinations.

6:00 PM  
Anonymous JD said...

Nice work on the season preview. Good to see Cam working hard over the summer and get a little more info on the new guys.

Noticed a a brief but odd Mason reference in the beginning of this article.

10:58 PM  
Blogger Ryan said...


Saw yesterday, commented about it on twitter.

10:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Tate will get hot this year. I wouldn't lump him and Jimmy in the same boat as "one of the best three point shooters". Isiah is by far a much better shooter and in my opinion the best three point shooter on the team.

I like Birdsong, but his minutes have to come down this year.

2:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tate has not proven himself to be the best 3 point shooter as of yet. He is hit or miss anywhere at 3 point range. He just isn't consistent thus not a 3 point threat

9:09 AM  

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