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What to expect from the redshirt players next season

George Mason Basketball: What to expect from the redshirt players next season

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What to expect from the redshirt players next season

The season is over for George Mason and that is a disappointment. However, 24-9 is hardly a terrible year for a program going through a transition with a new  head coach. We can play the "what if?" game all day long when looking back at this season but at some point it's time to move on and forward to the future of this program. Something I'm really interesting in seeing progress are the two players that had to sit out this season, Johnny Williams and Anali Okoloji. Williams took a redshirt year to recover from shoulder surgery from an injury he says he played through his freshman and sophomore year:
"I played through it freshman and sophomore year," said Williams, who has two years of eligibility remaining and is better known as J2 to his teammates. "It got really bad sophomore year. They were like 'Hey, you have got to get this taken care of or it's going to ruin your future.'
Williams now says his shoulder is 100% and he will certainly get an opportunity for a ton of minutes in the front court with Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison gone. We have seen flashes of his ability during his freshman and sophomore years and I think he be great complement to bruising forward Erik Copes in the Patriots front court.
Williams has dropped about 25 pounds, now weighing 245. "I'm jumping now a lot better," Williams said. "I'm running up and down the court faster. My shot is a lot quicker. Everything is progressing."
Okoloji is bit more an unknown to Mason fans, as they isn't a lot of tape on him from his freshman season at Seton Hall. Below is probably the only highlight you will find on him:

Okoloji didn't fit in Seton Hall's system, which was mostly half-court based: 

Okoloji, a 6-8 forward from Brooklyn, is sitting out the required season after playing last season for Seton Hall, where he appeared in 16 games, averaging 1.9 points and 1.0 rebounds a game. He decided to transfer after a postseason meeting with head coach Kevin Willard.

"The best decision for me was to go elsewhere and do really well," said Okoloji, a Sports Management major who has three years of eligibility. "Their style of play was more half court. Here it's more up and down. I kind of like that. It fit me perfectly."
He is definitely more of a Paul Hewitt guy, one who has size and a lot athleticism. Here is what Hewitt had to say about him:
Okoloji could give the Patriots versatility inside and out by playing more at the 3 spot. "Anali is a great athlete," Hewitt said. "I think you'll see us be more of an up-tempo team with his addition. In our pressure defense we can put him on the ball in our 1-2-1-1 full-court pressure. I think he can be an active, athletic guy.
Boy wouldn't it be great to see next year's team during more full-court pressing, especially considering we are used to watching other teams effectively do it to Mason? I love the idea of having a 6'8" guy like him at the 3 spot and helping the team play uptempo basketball. He will hopefully help fill some of the void left by Pearson who played both inside and out.

Johnny Williams will most likely be in the starting lineup from day one next season, perhaps with either Jonathan Arledge or Erik Copes. They will be a ton of question marks heading into next season, but Williams being able to come in and provide low post scoring and rebounding shouldn't be one of them. Copes is a much better shot blocker and rebounder and hopefully Williams can learn from his toughness around the rim.

Anali might have to earn his playing time against a bench of good shooters next season. Vertrail Vaughns, Vaughn Gray, and Patrick Holloway are all better shooters than him but Anali brings size and hopefully better defense. It will be interesting to see if plays a role like Paris Bennett did towards the end of the season but in more minutes. 


Anonymous Dale Van Wagner said...

Should be very interesting to see the lineup for next season that Hewitt uses.  So many options at the Guard/Wing spots but SOOOO few at Forward/Center.  Here's how I see it:PG - Allen, Edwards, Holloway (guessing he'll come in as a PG, maybe play some SG)
SG - Wright, Gray, Vaughns
SF - Okoloji, Bennett, GujanicicPF - Williams, ArledgeC - Copes

11:04 AM  
Anonymous Think About It said...

SO Excited for next season. COPES, ARLEDGE, WILLIAMS, OKOLJI, We just need to figure out the point guard position and we will be set. I think this team has the potential to make a run the REAL TOURNY next season. 

We saw how productive ARLEDGE can be in the CAA Tournament this year. He will be a big contributor to our teams success 

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Charlie T said...

It is so important for each and every one of them to work on their game in the summer. If they truly love the game of basketball they will. Hours spent alone does bring rewards plus knowing just what to improve on. It may have been 50 plus years ago but shooting by moonlight at baskets without nets plus running 6 to 8 miles seemed to work for yours truly. Now they have so much more but it has to come from their heart. Oh,one final note. I love your site but try not to react to some of the comments with a degree of anger. You could be writing about a cure for Cancer and you still would get fire the Doctor or tear down the hospital. Every one see things in their own way and at some point the blinders will go away.

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

It took Sherrod a while to get on track this year coming back from shoulder surgery, I hope it doesn't take Johnny that long but to be fair he's been out a year.  If Anali has to play the bench behind VV then he may not be that great!  VV was not the shooter of last year, maybe he'll return to form but I think he could easily come in off the bench.  Patrick is a 2, as are all other guards except Edwards if he doesn't progress I suppose Allen stays at the 1 but I'm sure he'd rather be a 2.  Lots of possibilities but we'll definitely struggle to develop the new identify with out Ryan (and really Mike too) as the anchor.  Starters??: Allen, Wright, Anali,Williams, Copes 

11:48 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Hirsch said...

Next year will be tough, VCU and Drexel bring back most of their teams. Wouldn't mind Shaka taking the Illinois job.

12:20 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

Not saying Anali is directly behind Vaughns, but that is one of the guys he will be in the rotation with in that 2-3 spot.

If I had to pick a starting lineup today I'd guess Allen, Vaughns, Wright, Williams, and Copes. I'd rather not see Vaughns continue to start personally but it will probably start out that way. Also think Jonathan Arledge could a starter at the 3 or 4 spot at some point.

12:30 PM  
Anonymous StopWearingPurple said...

Our guard play was sketchy at best all year and our two monster front court players just finished their careers. 

Someone hold me and tell me that everything is going to be all right.

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Think About It said...

why dose every one count out Arledge. he put ups numbers with his very limited playing time. 

12:40 PM  
Anonymous GMURULES said...

I agree that I would not have VV starting.  Love the kid, but front line of Copes, Arledge and Williams with Wright at 2 and Allen at the 1.  Are you kidding me.  Then having Gray, VV, Okoloji, Edwards, Gujanicic, and Holloway off the bench. Great position to be in that 11 solid players, not to mention Bennett as a glue guy when needed.  This team is primed for a really good season.  I am Jacked!!!

1:44 PM  
Anonymous GMURULES said...

I don't think we saw enough of him, but what we saw we loved and we are so used to the 2 fwd's and 3 guard lineup, that is how everyone thinks.  I think next year you will see a traditional lineup with a C, 2 F's and 2 G's.  Huge competition.  Arledge can be very good!

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Think About It said...

With our STRENGTHS  being our big men, I think this is what we need to do. We need to utilize this strength and minimize our our weakness. 
Our WEAKNESS is our back court.  

3:10 PM  
Anonymous CN said...

This is my take on the depth chart (based on the current roster, plus Holloway & Gujanicic, less RP, MM, AC):
PG -  Allen, Edwards
SG - Vaughns, Gray, Holloway
SF  - Wright, Okoloji, Gujanicic
PF - Arledge, Williams, Bennett
C - Copes

Being that the CAA has usually been a 3 G, F, C starting lineup, I think Wright will round out the backout w/ Allen & Vaughns, who would return as starters. 

I think Arledge has a leg up on Williams, given that he's played in Hewitt's system. Copes starts at center and Williams provides depth behind Arledge & Copes. I think Williams is more suited for C, as he's got a wider body and will come in north of 250 lbs.

Bennett will serve as a deep reserve at both F positions as he did this year. I honestly have no clue how Okoloji & Gujanicic fit in the system.

I see Holloway eventually filling in and providing instant offense the way AC did, but with Gray having a solid freshman season, I think Holloway may redshirt given the depth at the 2 & 3 positions.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

I disagree, most of the production is going to come from Allen, Wright, Vaughns, and Gray. Hopefully Johnny Williams down the road but he might need some time to shake off the rust.

Front court will be good in terms of rebounding and blocking shots with Copes maturing some but I'm not ready to call that group with him, Willliams, Bennett, Arledge, and Okoloji their strength for next year.

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Rmjank said...

The really cool thing here is that, correct me if I'm wrong with all the redshirt action, but all the players we are talking about have at least 2 more years with the team!  So while next year has a lot of possibilities, the year after that looks all the more inviting.  Holloway, Okoloji, and Gunanicic are all unknown quantities, and as for Arledge, Edwards, Gray, Williams and Copes, who really knows how much they will develop with an increased role.  We're bound to have struck gold with some of these guys.  While there are question marks in both the front and backcourts, it seems we've been able to coach our bigs a little better than our guards.   We need one good ball-handler!

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Since comments on the other page are closed, I'll post here.

End the profanity.  Unless you are a middle school boy, using profanity is just tacky.  It really comes off as low class.  We can make points and arguments on this blog, without using profane language and personal attacks.

My 2 cents.

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

This is all well and good, but the question on the mind of everybody is what will happen at point guard. 

6:59 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

But they don't have a gym to go to.  There is not a basketball facility.
I kid, I kid! :)

7:01 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

I doubt he'll go.  Even if he does, it still doesn't change the fact we can't break a press!

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

 Not me.  I say start Arledge.  He and Morrison played with the most fire and passion of anybody in Richmond against VCU.

7:04 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Correction.  We need THREE excellent ball handlers on the court at all times.  But I'll start at one.

7:08 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

 And TWO adequate ones. :)

7:13 PM  
Anonymous gmuhoops said...

Valid point but I don't think they have the luxury of trying someone else out at point. Do they bring in someone on the last scholarship or a JUCO transfer? Doubt either will happen. I think Allen will improve a lot next year but I also have my doubts.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Moses said...

With the talent and size we have, if this team does not do VERY well next year, it's on PH and the system. I like him and wish him luck. It's one thing to talk about running the floor and playing uptempo, and pressing, it's quite another to do it with intensity and desire.
With the large talent, bringing the ball up against pressure can be done, helping the guards. That can be solved. Running a crisp half court offense, that MUST get the ball to the bigs is much tougher. Our guards haven't done that and our perimeter game is inconsistent. Even Duke dies by the 3 eventually.
We shall see. Going to be tough deciding on a line up and PH cannot spend the season trying to keep everyone happy.

7:59 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Agree with your thoughts Moses.  We certainly have a longer, taller team all around then I can remember.  We have no PG and if our guards can't score consistently, Copes will really struggle on O (where he needs to develop anyway)as Ryan did as times.  You can swarm the bigs when the guards can't score.  Guards also have to do a better job of penetrating zones and getting the ball into the post.  I watched BYU late last night slide one pass after the next into the post and that's how they got back in that game.  Lots of talent, lots of possibilities I wonder if we wouldn't be better off seeing some gold team/green team type subing so at least there is that type of cohesion on the floor!

8:38 AM  
Anonymous GMURULES said...

I disagree in that it may not be our "strength" but I think we bring a ton of balance.  Reminds me of 2006 where we had inside with Lewis (Copes) and Thomas (Williams/Arledge), outside with Skinn (Gray) and Butler (VV, Holloway) and slasher in Campbell (Wright/Okoloji). I think this team has more potential than any we have had for a long time, esp. if we can figure out the outside shooting.  Huge weakness this year was not being able to open up middle with outside shoooting.  Several home games were I would look up at the Jim McKay 3 point shooting chart late in the game and only 1 or 2 "3's" would be on the chart.  Vaughns has to become more consistant with his shooting and Gray is about an inch off on his shots, he corrects that and who knows our upside. 

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Christopher Hirsch said...

Would likely change VCU's philosophy though, they won't play the same system with a new coach.

12:49 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Their philosophy has been beating us in Richmond Tournament every year, so if that philosophy changes I'm all for it!

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

We could start Patrick Ewing, Hakeem Olajuwon and David Robinson in the front court, but if we can't break a press we can't get them the ball to begin with!  Priority #1 (and 2, and 3...) should be ball handling and breaking the press. 

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

We don't have that luxury.  But we better find it.  From where?  I don't know.  But I don't get paid the big money to figure it out.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous A Patriot said...

 Neither Ryan nor Mike were back-to-the-basket big men.  Both Erik and Johnnie have shown that potential in their game.  As much as Hewitt says he wants to get up and down next year I think we really struggled in half-court sets this year because we had no low post option.  I think most teams would rather operate inside-out, rather than jacking up jumpers which can quickly shatter a guard's confidence if they don't fall.  So, well I don't think the transition will be easy I think we will gain from addition by subtraction with regard to our front court and the loss of our seniors.

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Addition by subtraction?  As in, we'll be better without Pearson and Morrison?  I'm confused.

8:18 PM  
Anonymous BoredInClass said...

Bryce Lewis!!!

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Tim Casebere said...

On the VV starting or not thing, I've thought for some time that I would not start him, but bring him off the bench.  Only reason for that is I thought he did I lot better when not starting.  I wouldn't give him less minutes, just change the rotation.

9:56 PM  
Anonymous Tim Casebere said...

Interesting comments on our talent.  We've got a ton of it.  The biggest problem that I see is that one week after VCU handed us our ass by pressing us, we came out with exactly the same losing strategy in the CAA tournament...hand Bryon Allen the ball and wish him luck against a very impressive VCU press.  Who was the mental giant behind that stategy:  Hewitt. 

10:06 PM  
Anonymous baller said...

Curious to all above...I thought B. Allen, recruited and with West Va., was to be THE point guard.  If he can cut down on the turnovers, looks like he is fine.  Please respond anyone: are you all saying that Allen looks to be less than expected and not capable of holding the pg spot with success?

10:25 PM  
Anonymous A Patriot said...

Pearson, especially.  Hewitt gave him free rein offensively which was great when he was motivated, focused, willing to participate, etc.  Unfortunately for us, though, there were times (sometimes entire games) when he didn't feel like passing, playing defense, taking smart shots, and the team suffered as a result.  His performance in Richmond this year pretty much summed up his senior season, in my eyes. 
Morrison's defense will be tough to replace.  Copes definitely showed potential and Arledge needs to beef up.  Johnnie's still kind of an unknown so we'll have to wait to see. 
Like I said, I don't think it'll be easy to replace the conference player of the year but I think the rotation of big men we'll have next year will make the transition much less painful. 

10:42 PM  
Anonymous Moses said...

Both Pearson and Mo are left handed and never developed their right. So there was never a natural spot for both, really. Person was unstoppable on the left block but good teams kept him off it.

Pearson was a complete horse on offense and carried this team many times this year especially when he rebounded. How soon we forget. Mike made the most from his career and had a nice senior season.

As for Allen, he's talented and a slasher but so far has been shoot first, dish and distribute second so he may be better on the wing than point. But def could develop into a very good floor general.

10:53 PM  
Anonymous A Patriot said...

 There's no denying that there were times that Pearson carried this team offensively.  There were also times that Pearson's refusal to involve other teammates when double, or triple-teamed really hurt the team.  He entered Mason as a terrific scorer and he ended his career as a prolific one, but he never showed any progress in figuring out how to involve his team on the offensive end of the floor.  How much of the offense this year was isolating Ryan and letting him do his thing?  Too much, apparently; because when teams took him out of the game (see CAA tournament) we looked terrible.

4:53 AM  
Anonymous Moses said...

He was not a good passer. Once he was going to the hoop, he was going. And the team did try to ride him offensively too much, hence my earlier comments regarding next years team needing to run a real half court offense and not looking to isolate one scorer. I don't disagree with you on this. My point was that over the course of the season he stepped up big (especially late in games) when no one else could or would. I'm betting 5 more losses without him, and his free throws and rebounds.

7:12 AM  
Anonymous Mooky_l3d said...

Those guys would be way to old to be competitive now.  We need better recruits than that plus I don't think they have any eligibility left.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous GMURULES said...

If Holloway and Gujanicic can shoot like they say, VV may never hit the floor again.  Love the kid, but has to be more consistant.  I agree with you, more spark off bench than starter.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous A Patriot said...

 That's a bet I'm not gonna take.  My contention is that he cost us some games, too.  Pure speculation; and I'm ready for next year.

3:23 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

I doubt it will happen, but I wouldn't object if I saw him on the court in the first half of an exhibition game.

4:17 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

Sketchy?  That wasn't the adjective being used by the Mason crowd at the tournament in Richmond.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

I didn't mean literally them right this second!  Let's go with the Dwight Howard, Kevin Love and Brake Griffin comparison instead.  Fact is, we need help at point guard more than anything.

4:24 PM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

After your first two sentences I thought you were talking about somebody else on the team!

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Mooky_l3d said...

I know I was just kidding ya.  

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Mason fan since '03 said...

Ya, I think we can all see that Hewitt probably isn't the best coach in the world as he didn't change up the strategy against VCU after getting beat down a week prior, as was evidenced by a 22-0 lead by VCU in the first 8 minutes.  But hopefully Hewitt spends the off season wisely and does some awesome recruiting because it seems like that is the one thing he can do extremely well!  I am not saying his coaching is the worst i've seen, the way he kept everyone on the floor throughout the season I think was good, if only VV and AC would have been the slightest bit consistent we would be in the tournament right now!  YOu can't blame it all on Hewitt!

9:26 AM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

The worst thing about us George Mason fans is that we are too "nice."  We won't hold anybody's feet to the fire.  At what point do we expect (and strive for, but EXPECT) excellence?

1:54 PM  
Anonymous Dsndsn said...

Ahhhhh......too bad VCU

9:23 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Interesting commentary on Pearson!  Didn't see much of that kind of posting during the season.  comments about Ryan being lazy on the boards at times but not all this selfish commentary.  Two things to think about: when did the guards shoot-even when open-with any consistency that would have suggested they were a better option? and when did you feel like Hewitt had a plan out there that Ryan should have been responding to?  At the end of the day there is a coach for a reason and you can't hang all of that on Pearson.  Pearson and Morrison played well this year given the absolute lack of an outside threat, we feel short this year for a lot of reason but many come before blaming the overall play of the bigs!

9:44 AM  
Anonymous Taylormade703 said...

We won at least 5 games this year solely because of Pearson.  There is no way we would have been better off without the CAA POY.  If only we had a true point guard rather than making a shooting guard play point.

3:30 PM  

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