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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: September 2011

Friday, September 30, 2011

How important is Ryan Pearson to George Mason this season?

With all that has gone down with the program over the last couple of months it's difficult to predict just what kind of season the Patriots will have on the court this year. However George Mason is still considered to compete in the CAA and maintain their mid-major elite status despite what has happened.  With Cam Long, Luke Hancock, and most likely Andre Cornelius gone the team's back court situation is currently up in the air.  With that in mind, a strong front court presence will be vital to help the younger and less experienced guards at the beginning of this season. This puts pressure on Ryan Pearson, Mike Morrison, and even wing Sherrod Wright to produce more and not just on the scoreboard. Of those three I think most would be in agreement that Pearson is the most irreplaceable guy on the roster and a lot will be expected of him this year.

It goes without saying that George Mason will need more than just an All-CAA performance from Ryan Pearson to win the conference but I think a lot of what they will try to do this year will start with him.  Over the last two seasons Pearson's effectiveness in the post created numerous opportunities for his teammates, most notably from behind the three-point line.  In the early goings this year I'd imagine teams will double Pearson and force the younger guards to beat them from the outside. Luke Hancock and Cam Long made a living off this last season and hopefully someone like Sherrod Wright can this year.  

Statistically the Patriots were an efficiency machine last year and as Michael Litos writes, it will be hard to replicate that.  Ryan Pearson was a big factor in their efficiency and with him on the floor they have a chance to get close to those numbers again.  Three-point shooting was a big part of those numbers and although Pearson took the occasional shot from behind the arch that task will rest on the shoulders of Bryon Allen, Corey Edwards, Vertrail Vaughns, Vaughn Gray and Sherrod Wright. However it difficult to think this team will start off hot from the three-point line in the early part of the season under Hewitt.

Speaking of statistics, below is a chart with data by John Pudner of Cracked Sidewalks of the top returning Mason players and how they rank nationally in terms of what % of his team's overall scoring he added to and the % of points he took away from his opponent's scoring. For more explanation on the stats and how this was calculated you can read up on it here. As you can see Ryan Pearson is ranked 62 out of 4,472 players in college basketball (Drexel's Samme Givens is 31) and I think Pudner's work shows how valuable certain players are to the team's overall success. You can also see that Pearson is almost just as valuable on the defensive end as he is on offense.

Pearson is the team's most valuable player because of the different things he does on the court. Say what you want to about his leadership skills but he is a lefty who can score in a variety of ways, get to the free-throw line, and be a relentless rebounder against bigger forwards.  He also possesses more intangibles than anyone else on the team. However, the question this season will be can he make the younger players around him better?

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

George Mason in the running for a 7-footer?

Rivals recruiting profile
When reading the scouting profile for Blaise Mbargorba, the 7-0 230-pound center out of Highstown, NJ, you'd think the Patriots or any other mid-major would have no shot at landing him. However according to, George Mason is in his top 5 and he wants to make a decision before the season begins.  Virginia Tech is the biggest name also in the running and is coming at him hard but I think Paul Hewitt and his staff have a legitimate shot at landing him. From reading the write-ups on him it seems that he would certainly be a project and Mason could have an advantage with new assistant coach Roland Houston, who is labeled a big man specialists.  Mbargorba might be raw but his physical attributes would something we've never seen in at George Mason.

UPDATE 10/21:

Blaise commited to SMU

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Paul Hewitt's speaks to the George Mason supporters

Last week Paul Hewitt spoke to the Patriot Club supporters about this upcoming season and the state of the basketball program. He briefly discusses the Andre Cornelius situation, his coaching philosophy, Mike Morrison's diet, the backcourt, and more.

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Paul Hewitt and his staff are targeting Greece's Ioannis Papapetrou

This summer we talked about how Paul Hewitt coaching the U19 United States FIBA team could help bring some international players to George Mason.  The first international recruit's name that has been linked to Mason's staff is 17 year old Ioannis Papapetrou. A 2012 prospect from Greece, Papapetrou is described as an outstanding outside shooter. He has played some high school basketball here in the states in Melbourne, Florida but the bulk of his recent experience comes from the 2010 U16 FIBA European Championship were he averaged 11.4 points per game.  He already has interest from Florida, Texas, and Kansas so there will be some stiff competition for his services. Rumor has it the Hewitt and his staff are flying to his home in Greece this weekend to meet with his parents. 

At 6'7" Ioannis Papapetrou is the ideal type of shooter Paul Hewitt often covets.  He likes taller players that can shoot well from the perimeter (i.e. Brian Oliver) and will no doubt be looking for this type because of the  mismatches they pose in the CAA. Papapetrou is also described as having a "tremendous basketball IQ" and being a good facilitator. We've heard about Hewitt's recruiting abilities and we will soon start to see just how much talent he can bring to Fairfax. 


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Paul Hewitt talks about his impressions of the team

Yesterday Jon Rothstein talked with Paul Hewitt about his impressions of this year's George Mason squad and his new opportunity in Fairfax.  Rothstein who works for the MSG network and CBS, often comments on George Mason basketball and always provides good insight.  Here are some of the highlights:

On this year's team:
"I'm really impressed with what I've seen so far because they're so open to new ideas and new philosophies. We're not changing everything that was done here but we're going to add some new stuff"
On freshman Vaughn Gray:
"He's shooting the ball really well in indivdual workouts. It's been a nice surprise."
On freshman Erik Copes:
"He's where I thought he'd be. He's got a great jump hook but I know freshman have a learning curve."
On freshman Corey Edwards:
"Our big men are going to run harder because of how he pushes the ball. He makes you go faster."
On Ryan Pearson:
"He's got some outstanding face up skills. He's great from 17 ft and in.  He can fade and use the up and under as well."
On Sherrod Wright:
"He's got an unbelievable motor and work ethic. He's shooting it better than people said he would."
On Vertrail Vaughns:
"He's shooting the heck out of it. There's no doubt the experience he had last year helped him."
On the makeup of the team:
"I like our front court but Andre Cornelius is our only perimeter player with experience."

[via @JonRothstein, CAAZone]


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

It hasn't been a great couple of months for George Mason basketball

Back in early March the George Mason Patriots were flying high and achieving feats that even bested the 2006 Final Four squad. They finished 16-2 in conference play and held the nation's longest active winning streak for weeks until eventually falling to VCU in the CAA tournament semifinals. Despite the early exit from the conference tournament the Patriots still earned an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament as an #8 seed, the highest seed ever achieved in school history. 

The team went on to face Villanova in their first game in Cleveland and we all know how it ended.  Sophomore Luke Hancock had a heroic three-pointer to all but seal the victory for George Mason and giving them their first NCAA tournament win since 2006. After which fans had nothing by high hopes for Jim Larranaga and the Patriots as they began to break out their Final Four t-shirts and hats.  But as we all know soon after Hancock sank that three-pointer and George Mason became that first round darling again things started to head south for the team. Things are not spiraling out of control but they aren't good.

Let's recap:

Luke Hancock gets a food illness before the Ohio State game. Minutes before the tip-off of the Patriots second tournament game we learned from local media that Luke Hancock wasn't even at the arena warming up due to an illness.  Apparently it was so bad he could barely get out of bed and the team started the game without him.  The hero of the win over Villanova and all around "glue guy" was sidelined leaving the already over-matched Patriots a man short. We later learned it was some sort of food illness/poisoning and it gave us another reason to hate the city of Cleveland.

George Mason gets absolutely dominated by Ohio State in their second tournament game. The excitement didn't last long from the thrilling Villanova win as the under-manned Patriots got throttled by the Buckeyes three-point shooting and strong inside play. There was not an area of the game the Patriots weren't dominated in. After the dust settled the boxscore showed a 98-66 beat down that was the team's worst tournament loss in school history.  

Head coach Jim Larranaga bolts for University of Miami and the ACC. After 14 years in Fairfax and bringing a program out of the CAA basement to NCAA glory, head coach Jim Larranaga left for Miami.  Fans and media were shocked as most thought he would end his career in green and gold but he stated the lure of the ACC, where he started as an assistant at UVA, was just too much of an opportunity to turn down. Later we found out Larranaga and athletic director Tom O'Connor didn't quite see eye-to-eye on where the basketball program was going at George Mason.  That left fans wondering if Larranaga could have been retained if the school had showed more signs of investing in the basketball program. Which also brought up the question of how committed the university is to having a continually winning basketball program.

Paul Hewitt is hired, mixed reviews follow.  Overall the hiring of Paul Hewitt is probably the best the program could have done to keep things running smoothly.  However the fact remains that they have taken on a coach that hasn't owned a winning conference record since 2004.  A lot fans wanted a young up and comer, the next Shaka Smart or Brad Stevens maybe. Instead the program got someone whose last employer  is coughing up $7.2 million just to get rid of them. Not quite the back story you want from your new head coach, especially considering he often possessed rosters with future NBA talent. Can he replicate Larranaga's success in the CAA? It's certainly going to be quite a task for him.

Photo by John Powell
Luke Hancock transfers to Louisville. Paul Hewitt was able to retain both of Larranaga's 2011 recruits but not returning starter Luke Hancock. This one hurt almost as much as Larranaga leaving because the hopes for next season were high with the squad returning most of their core from a promising season. It didn't help that the speculation of whether he was staying or going went on for what seemed like weeks. While Larranaga didn't have much coaching left, an encore to follow up the 2010-2011 would really boost the program and junior Luke Hancock was expected to be a big part of that. At the time media members were projecting Mason in their Top 30 rankings for next season. He was probably the most irreplaceable guy on the team other than maybe Ryan Pearson. He just simply made things happen and would have been the team's top assist leader and second scorer. He and Cam Long facilitated a lot of the Patriots' offense in one form or another.  With Long gone a lot was expected of Hancock in the backcourt entering into this season.

Johnny Williams is most likely going to redshirt this season.  The promising junior forward showed flashes of his scoring talent against Villanova but off season shoulder surgery might very well keep him off the court this year. There's a quote from Hewitt in yesterday's Post article on the redshirt situation saying "It's very much a possibility". Fans were hoping for a break season from Johnny, who might not be a bruiser like freshman Erik Copes but definitely has a scoring touch the Patriots will need after Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison leave. It's great to keep him for another season after those two leave in retrospect but it does leave the team a little thin at forward this year. Many times last season I wondered how much better the team could have been if Sherrod Wright was playing and I have a feeling I will be wondering that about Williams this year.

Photo via John Powell
Senior guard Andre Cornelius is arrested for credit card fraud. And this brings up to the present where we are only left with more question marks heading into the season.  Mason Madness is 24 days away and yesterday we found out the team's starting point guard was arrested and summarily suspended by the university. It's dark cloud over the program and something they don't need as they will be looking for a new identity in this post-Larranaga era. Even with Cornelius, who isn't quite a true point guard, the backcourt had many question marks.  I talked about the point guard position back in June and now it's even more up in the air. Best case scenario is that Cornelius misses a few games at the beginning of the season, worst case is that he's is dismissed from the team. Either way they are most likely going to have to try to win games without their most experienced guard in the rotation. As one of three seniors on the team with a new coach there was no doubt that the staff was expecting him to be one of the team's leaders. Cornelius hasn't really played that role in his career here and if the charges against him are true than the point is more than validated.  Regardless, it will most likely open the door for a few young players, especially sophomore Bryon Allen and freshman Corey Edwards, who played well over the summer.

Things can only go up from here right?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Apparently Andre Cornelius was arrested for credit card fraud

We have learned that senior guard Andre Cornelius was arrested and will be arraigned tomorrow on felony credit card fraud charges.

Not news you want to hear with less than a month to go before official practices start.

Here is the official statement from the University I received:
"[Andre] Cornelius has been summarily suspended from the team as a result of the charges filed against him. The suspension will be in effect until the legal and University judicial processes have been completed."
If you are keeping score this isn't the first time Cornelius has been suspended by the team.

More on the story here from the Post's Steven Goff.

9/20 UPDATE: Cornelius was arraigned today and agreed to appear in court in November, where he will then enter his plea. I think it's safe to say he won't be available for the all important NIT Tip-off games which start November 14. Would have to imagine he ends up pleaing to a lesser charge and doing community service. All this would most likely result in him being suspended for anywhere between 3-5 games this season. That's just my guess though as their could be a bunch of other circumstances we don't know about.

[via @Cody_Gaines, @NOVAsOwnJP]

Friday, September 02, 2011

Breaking down the 2011-2012 schedule

Last night the team released their schedule for the 2011-2012 season and if you've been following this blog there were no surprises of the listed non-conference opponents. That's because their is still a home non-conference game to be added.
"Mason may also add another home non-conference game, either in mid-November or December."
There is no way the school and the coaching staff would pass up a chance to add another home game, they obviously just haven't found a good match-up yet.  Although at this point with most schools having already released their full schedules I can't imagine their options are great.  I'm guessing it would be sometime in mid-November because as of now, they only have two home games slated for that month, one of which being the exhibition match against Lycoming. The preseason NIT games make it difficult to squeeze an extra game in but I'm sure they will find a team to come to Fairfax.

While the non-conference opponents won't wow you again this season, you can't discount how good potential wins against Virginia Tech and Virginia might end up being.  Those games have been getting some press as the better non-conference games within the ACC and will no doubt be excellent early tests for this revamped Patriots squad. Tech might be taking a step back this year from a team that narrowly missed the NCAAs but Virginia will be a much improved team as they have started to bring in some top recruits. Let's also not forget that success in the preseason NIT can bring them some really solid opponents at Madison Square Garden (Syracuse) during Thanksgiving time. Fans ragged on last season's schedule and it turned out to be a good enough resume to make the dance as an at-large and finish the season with an RPI of 24.

Bucknell was in the NCAA tournament last season and usually atop of the Patriot League standing year in and year out.  Radford and Manhattan are nothing to get excited about but wins are the resume are wins on the resume.  Duquense and Charleston are usually in the top 100 RPI and sometimes the top 75.  And there's always the Bracketbuster game to boost the team's RPI and resume.

The CAA slate is where the real excitement is as the team tries to repeat last season's success of a 16-2 record.  After the first conference game at Towson in early December the Patriots will have two tough roads games at ODU and Drexel in the beginning of January.  Since they only play Drexel once, that could an important stretch during conference play this season. Throw a road in at JMU and it could very well be their toughest month on the schedule.

After only playing VCU once in recent years they finally get them twice this season; both in the span of 11 days.  The Rams come to the Patriot Center February 14 and then Mason travels to Richmond February 25. The ODU, Drexel road games will be important in January but these two against VCU at the end of the season could really determine where the Patriots are in the final CAA standings.

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