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George Mason Basketball

George Mason Basketball: October 2012

Friday, October 26, 2012

Analysis from last night's exhibition against Bowie State

It was great to see Mason basketball back in action last night. However things didn't get off to a great start after Steven Goff of the Washington Post tweeted these two nuggets:
His next tweet stated that Wright would be eligible for the November 9 opener against UVA, which is a relieft. After the game Paul Hewitt didn't seem certain about Bryon Allen's status and said regarding his return, "It could be 3 days, 7 days, 10 days, I don't know". 

But as for the actual game last night, here are my observations:

Turnovers still an issue. I know they were missing two starters from the lineup but this was a Division II team they were playing and still turned over the ball 19 times. Johnny Williams coughed it up five times, but he hasn't played in long time, what's the rest of the team's excuse? This is something we had hoped would have been a point of emphasis in the off-season and needs to be remedied. 

Marko Gujanicic is legit. Both Jonathan Arledge and Marko Gujancic looked impressive last night but Marko stood out the most leading Mason with 16 points. His court vision and overall demeanor will remind Mason fans of Luke Hancock's freshman season. Remember both prepped an extra year after high school and the added basketball IQ shows. He helped out all over the court, with inbounds, breaking the press, on the perimeter, and inside on the boards. His outside shooting, for someone standing 6'8", will be a huge asset for Mason this season and Hewitt has to be pleased with what he saw last night.

Younger players need to tighten up defense. For most of the night we saw Mason's "B team", and they looked pretty awful on defense. Yes, Bowie State had 27 turnovers but you wouldn't remember that considering they had one player score 30 and as a team knocked down 10 three-pointers (Mason only hit 3). Perimeter defense, like last season, was especially concerning as they gave up a ton of open looks. These exhibition games are tune-ups but some of these problems were glaring weaknesses. When your bench players can't cover anyone, you're not as a deep a team as you may think you are on paper.

Where's my uptempo? We didn't really get to see Hewitt's faster offensive last night and that's mostly because they couldn't make enough stops on the defensive end to get things going. There were some impressive breakaways from that included Anali Okoloji and others, including a big time slam down the middle by Erik Copes. When Allen and Wright are back in the lineup things should look much better.

Corey Edwards has progressed. Despite some quick early fouls that sidelined him in the first half, Edwards looked very good out there. He only had two turnovers and dished out eight assists while taking on the full point guard duties. There were a few lapses on defense but overall you can tell he's making strides in his second year.

Johnny Williams returns. Last night we saw J2 play in a Mason game for the first time since 2010 and he had some rust to shake off but was still impressive. Jonathan Arledge started and ended up doing more in less minutes but there's no denying Williams' pure talent and soft jump shot  He hit some beautiful 15-footers that I really hope we see a lot more of this season. I think he will need a few games to get back in the full swing of things but he certainly is looking like he will be a big part of Mason's offense this season.

Discussion on the exhibition game can be found here

[Photo by Stephen Kline].


Thursday, October 25, 2012

What to look for in tonight's exhibition game against Bowie State

The Patriots return to the court as they will host an exhibition game tonight against Bowie State. There will be a live stream of the game here. Among seeing how the younger players have progressed and Paul Hewitt's Ryan Pearson-less offensive strategy, here are some things to watch for tonight:

A faster, more uptempo offense. We've heard the company line about how Hewitt wants to run a faster, up and down the court offense this season. What to look for here is how point guards Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards are handling this different style of offense. Which one will look more comfortable out there? Will they be able to run an uptempo offense at the beginning of this season, or is it still a work in progress? No definitive answers will be given after tonight but we might have a better idea of what this team will look like offensively November 9 against UVA.

Which newcomers stand out? Anali Okoloji and freshman Marko Gujanicic looked very good in the open practice/scrimmage last weekend for those that got to watch. It will be interesting to see how they and the other new guys perform tonight and how they are used. 

Jonathan Arledge and Johnny Williams. Jon Rothstein predicted an early starting lineup for George Mason that included Arledge over Williams. Could definitely see the season starting off this way, especially when you consider Arledge played well at the end of last season and Williams might still be fighting off some rust. Williams might have better post moves but Arledge could be better in transition. Whichever one looks more comfortable on offense could be an early indicator of who might be starting against UVA.

Leadership. Who will be this team's leaders this season? With no senior scholarship players and a lot of young guys, this could be a big issue this season. Sherrod Wright is someone you'd hope to fill this role but his name not being announced during Mason Madness raised a few eyebrows and we still don't know the real story there. Bryon Allen and Vertrail Vaughns might need to step up and be the vocal leaders and hopefully we see them take control tonight.

Discussion on tonight's exhibition game can be found here.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Jon Rothstein visits George Mason practice

Jon Rothstein, of CBS Sports, is a great college hoops insider and analyst to follow. He isn't BCS biased and will go into detail describing good squads, regardless of which conference they are in. He recently visited Drexel and today he was in Fairfax to observe a George Mason practice:

Friday, October 19, 2012

Johnny Williams' younger brother doesn't pick George Mason

Johnny Williams' (J2) younger brother, Jonathan Williams III (J3) is a very talented young prospect. Last night he announced his college choice, which ended up being Missouri. Michigan State, Georgetown, and Tennessee were also in the mix and at the last second the Williams' mother placed a George Mason hat on the table, right in the middle. J3 did have an official offer from Paul Hewitt and George Mason and even attended Mason Madness, but we all knew the chances of him coming to Fairfax were slim and none. Still though, it was a nice gesture to show Mason respect and mention them among the other schools during his selection process. 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

X-factor Series: Anali Okoloji

This season we will see one of the deepest George Mason teams in recent history and there is a lot of potential up and down the roster. There will be plenty of opportunity for some of the younger talent to flourish and I wanted to take a look at that with the "X-factor Series". Specifically I'll be looking at some of the players, other than potential starters, who will have a major impact this year for the Patriots.

Anali Okoloji is returning to the court this season after transferring from Seton Hall and sitting out a year, due to the NCAA's transfer rules. After having a year to practice and learn Paul Hewitt's coaching style I think he will have a big impact on this year's squad. He is another one of the big, athletic forwards (6'8", 232 lbs) this team has at its disposal and does a lot of things well.

What makes him an x-factor? Energy. Okoloji refers to himself as a "energy-guy", an important asset the team will need off the bench this season. He will have a major role in the team's transition game and one of those guys you will see all over the court when things are going well. Much like Jonathan Arledge, his athleticism and versatility will make the Patriots more dangerous this year from the wing. We don't have a lot of tape on his game but I expect him to make small contributions like this, that can really lift a team up. He has the skills to step out and knock down a 17-footer but also can get inside to battle for rebounds. If he has developed some post moves he could really see some playing time this season.

Likely role this season: I see Okoloji being the team's utility guy. Someone that holds everything together and does all the little things to help a team win. A rebound, a steal, a fast break pass; things that sometime go unnoticed but can change a game. His experience in the Big East and year of learning on the sidelines makes him one of the better "basketball IQ" guys on the roster. I don't know where he is as a defender but he's better against other bigs than Arledge he could steal some minutes in those situations. He came to George Mason for more playing time and is eager to get back on the court. That translates into a hungry player I'm sure Paul Hewitt will be happy is on his team.

Previously featured on the X-factor Series:

Marko Gujanicic

Jonathan Arledge

Vaughn Gray

Corey Edwards

[Photo by Alexis Glenn]

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Paul Hewitt interview from CAA Media Day

 Here is another:



Wednesday Links

Monday, October 15, 2012

X-factor Series: Marko Gujanicic

This season we will see one of the deepest George Mason teams in recent history and there is a lot of potential up and down the roster. There will be plenty of opportunity for some of the younger talent to flourish and I wanted to take a look at that with the "X-factor Series". Specifically I'll be looking at some of the players, other than potential starters, who will have a major impact this year for the Patriots.

Mark Gujanicic has to be the most interesting new player to the program this year. He has a foreign background (Serbia native) and very little seems to be known about him. The 6'8" 226-pound Gujanicic is built like a power forward but has great shooting range and seems to the run court well. Much like Jonathan Arledge he can score in a variety of different ways and will hopefully cause match-up problems for opposing teams. The big question is how much of this will transfer over at the college level. He might remind some Mason fans of Vlad Moldoveanu, a  former player from Romanian with a similar skill set and size but struggled early on at Mason. Often European players can struggle to adjust to the American game and one year of high school ball in the US isn't always enough. Nevertheless Gujanicic has talent and it will be up to the coaching staff this season to see how they can best use it.

What makes him an x-factor? There's a lot to like about Marko on paper, he has international experience, is a big man who can shot the three, and can put the ball on the floor to make plays. His ability to shoot from long range could be his best asset during his freshman season. Last year we saw sparks of excellent three-point shooting from Sherrod Wright, Vaughn Gray, and occasionally Vertrail Vaughns. Not one of them really scared teams enough because they weren't consistent. That should improve this season and adding Marko's skills to that rotation just makes Mason more dangerous. I think it will be a huge luxury for Mason to have someone coming off the bench with his kind of size and ability.

Likely role this season: With the type of offense Paul Hewitt wants to run they will need to be able to go deep into their bench and Marko could be that eighth or ninth guy in the rotation that could make an impact. When it comes to playing defense, I don't know where he is right now and that could be something that holds him back this year. There is no shortage of players on the roster who have playing experience under Hewitt but Gujanicic's role could be an interesting storyline to follow this season.

Previously featured on the X-factor Series:

Jonathan Arledge

Vaughn Gray

Corey Edwards

[Photo by Dakota Cunningham, Connect2Mason]

Highlights from Mason Madness 2012

(Photo by Dakota Cunningham, Connect2Mason)
Mason Madness featured Paul Hewitt in the Patriot suit, gangnam style, Bryon Allen's acrobatic dunking and Sherrod Wright in street clothes while not being apart of the player introductions.

Here are the highlights:

Gangnam Mason Style:


Friday, October 12, 2012

Starting Five: Mason Madness 2012 edition

Mason Madness is tonight and the official start of college basketball is upon us. Connect2Mason will be streaming it live tonight if you are an out-of-towner or cannot attend. Over the last two weeks I've been talking about bench players who will play an important role this season but now I want to discuss the team's potential starting lineup. Keep in mind that this season will be much different than last year in the sense that we will see more player rotation. Ryan Pearson played more than 35 minutes in a game seven times last season, don't expect anyone this year to be logging those kind of minutes. That isn't a bad thing because the team will be using more of their depth and will need fresh legs more often running a more uptempo offense.  

Bryon Allen
Point guard play wasn't an area of strength for this team last season. Bryon Allen and Corey Edwards struggled a bit with turning over the ball. Allen had a much better go at it in the second half of the season and Edwards played less down the stretch as a result. He looked a lot more comfortable as the season went on and they really need him this year to be a floor general out there. Last season he had a terrible time shooting from behind on the arch (8-for-48 on three-pointers) but is excellent driving to basket and scoring around the rim. His size and strength give him an advantage over most point guards in the CAA and his rebounding will remind you of Cam Long's efforts from that spot two years ago. For Paul Hewitt to run the uptempo offense he wants effectively, it will have to start with Allen.

Vertrail Vaughns
Vaughns started every game last season but saw a big drop in his overall shooting numbers. Nevertheless he became the team's most consistent backcourt scorer. The shaky point guard play and the 10 game suspension to Andre Cornelius didn't help and I felt like Vaughns was trying to do too much. Defensively, they need him to be better when guarding the other team's shooting guard as he has struggled a bit in this area. This year without Ryan Pearson being the focal point of the offense I would expect them to run plays to get Vaughns a few more open looks from behind the three-point line. He and Vaughn Gray are streaky shooters who sometimes just need to be given the green light.

Sherrod Wright
Wright is poised for a breakout season and it's HIS team this year. He had his ups and downs last season returning after missing an entire season due to injury. He had to share time in the backcourt last year once senior Andre Cornelius returned and an injury in the NIT Tip-off held him back a little. Wright is by far the team's most talented player and can score from anywhere on the floor. They will be counting on him this season to pick up the scoring void left by Pearson and Morrison. At times he looked timid and was far too unselfish with the ball but this season he will most certainly seize the opportunity. An uptempo style of offense is perfect for his game as he cuts to the basket better than anyone and makes other teams pay at the free-throw line. A quick look at his shooting numbers from last year makes you wonder why he wasn't shooting the ball more. Hopefully that won't be something we are saying at the end of this upcoming season. 

Johnny Williams
Williams is another player who like Wright, is expected to have a breakout season. A shoulder injury had him taking a medical redshirt last season but he's been conditioning and slimming down a bit to run in Hewitt's uptempo offense. Nearly all the low post scoring graduated last season and that leaves the team with a big void up front. They will be relying heavily on Williams to score up front in a variety of different ways. Sophomore forward Erik Copes is a great defensive power but doesn't really have any low post scoring moves. Williams has great range for someone his size and if his aggressiveness around the basket has improved he will be a force. A lot will depend on his conditioning and if he can effectively run the floor. He won't make fans forget Ryan Pearson but he certainly will have his moments putting points on the board for Mason this year. 

Erik Copes
Copes had an impressive freshman year being a defensive force in the paint. He averaged nearly two blocked shots a game and was a tough customer on the boards. He's a true center in a conference that doesn't have many true centers. On offensive he needs to develop some scoring moves because right now he won't give you much besides some clean up work around the rim. It's not a major issue this season because they don't really need him to score but it's just something that would make the Patriots much more dangerous. His brute force is a great complement to Johnny Williams' soft touch around the basket. The only thing I worry about with Copes is his ability to keep up with this uptempo offense Hewitt wants to run. Conditioning has been a priority for the team this off season but you have to wonder if it will take away from his strengths.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Photo Day Outtakes

[via George Mason Athletics (]


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

X-factor Series: Corey Edwards

This season we will see one of the deepest George Mason teams in recent history and there is a lot of potential up and down the roster. There will be plenty of opportunity for some of the younger talent to flourish and I wanted to take a look at that with the "X-factor Series". Specifically I'll be looking at some of the players, other than potential starters, who will have a major impact this year for the Patriots.

Previously in this series we have talked about Jonathan Arledge and Vaughn Gray, today we discuss sophomore point guard Corey Edwards. Edwards shared time with Bryon Allen handling the point guard duties. An early season concussion hurt his progress and he had some trouble turning over the ball. Towards the end of the season he was much improved and at times ran the offense more smoothly than Allen did. Paul Hewitt probably favors Edwards over Allen as a passing play-maker and a setup guy.

CAA guru Michael Litos thinks Edwards will overtake Allen at the point guard spot at some point this season. It's an interesting point and something I think Hewitt wants to happen because Bryon Allen is perfectly capable, and better suited in my mind, to play the two guard position. You'd have a very talented lineup with Edwards-Allen-Wright on the floor. Edwards recently said in an interview that he has been working hard this summer on slimming down to be quicker, improving his handle, and having better lateral movement on defense. Right now Edwards may be the better pure point guard over Bryon Allen but Allen is the better overall player on both ends of the court. It will be interesting to watch how Hewitt uses these two guys as Edwards progresses this season.

What makes him an x-factor? He's the best passer and most unselfish player on the roster. Edwards had a couple of games last year where his thread-the-needle type passing skills sparked the offense. His turnovers reduced his minutes but if he cleans that up he will be the assist leader for this team. They have talent at the front court, young guys, but talented and emerging nonetheless. They will need Edwards to get them the ball in places where they can be successful and make plays. Allen did a fine job last season but Edwards could be better in certain situations, especially in transition. His overall quickness will be an asset to the team this season and he will help make the young guys around him better.

Likely role this season: I don't know if I'm ready to say that Edwards will overtake Allen at the point guard spot, at least not right away. Let's not forget Allen played well down the stretch on a team that won 24 games last season. Hewitt doesn't need Edwards to score but his ability to be a true floor general will have him playing a lot more this season. It all depends on his handling of the ball, if he continues to cut down on the turnovers and pull off brilliant passes to guys running through the lane, the potential is very high. Playing an uptempo style of offense will require a lot from your bench players and you need a guy off the bench who can also run the show.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Roster Update

As far as the walk-ons go for the 2012-2013 season, only Bryce Lewis will be returning from last season. Jordan Baird, was recently on the finals of CW's "The Next", but lost on the show's finale episode. Apparently Baird and his family found out he wasn't returning to the team this season the same way the rest of us did. It will be interesting to see if his music career takes off and I wish him well. Freshman forward Michael Rudy was added to the team's roster as the team's other walk-on for this season. Rudy is 6'7" and attended the same prep school as junior point guard Bryon Allen (St. Thomas More). 
Jalen Jenkins
Although nothing is official yet, I think it's pretty safe to say freshman Jalen Jenkins will be redshirting this season. If you remember back in 2008 the team did this with Kevin Foster. Similar to that situation, the current team has a lot of young talent at the forward spot, much like they did in 2008. The move would make sense for Jenkins, who just turned 18 last month, to develop his game under the coaching staff from the sidelines this year. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

15 Years of Mason Madness

George Evans, terrible Gunston costumes, Wrestling team in drag, Tony Skinn dunking without a shirt, and more! 15 years of Mason Madness.

[via George Mason Athletics]

X-factor Series: Vaughn Gray

This season we will see one of the deepest George Mason teams in recent history and there is a lot of potential up and down the roster. There will be plenty of opportunity for some of the younger talent to flourish and I wanted to take a look at that with the "X-factor Series". Specifically I'll be looking at some of the players, other than potential starters, who will have a major impact this year for the Patriots.

Yesterday we talked about Jonathan Arledge, today we are featuring sophomore swingman Vaughn Gray. Gray probably has the most potential out of any of the group of young players on this year's team. Last season we saw a few glimpses of his talent, most notably in the win at James Madison when he scored a season-high 19 points on 3-of-5 shooting from behind the arch. He showed more of his talents in that game by getting to the line and converting (8-for-10).

What makes him an x-factor? Gray is one of the best shooters on the team and Paul Hewitt will tell you that himself. He finished last season 17-for-42 (.405) on three-point shooting, best percentage on the team. Impressive work considering he only averaged around 11 minutes. While being an excellent shooter off the bench he also showed last year that he can drive the lane and get to the rim. He will provide an instant spark on offense for the team this season and has the ability to play either shooting guard or small forward. 

Likely role this season: Vertrail Vaughns regressed a bit last season as the teams top sniper and if that continues look for Gray to get a lot of minutes this season. We know Hewitt is high on Gray and wants to see him progress from behind the three-point line. It would not surprise me if Gray eventually becomes the teams' go-to guy from behind the arch. With virtually the front court scoring graduating from last year look for Hewitt to lean on the scoring from Gray, Wright, and Vaughns. Gray still has to prove he can defend at the three spot but I still think he and Jonathan Arledge will be the first options off the bench.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

X-factor Series: Jonathan Arledge

This season we will see one of the deepest George Mason teams in recent history and there is a lot of potential up and down the roster. There will be plenty of opportunity for some of the younger talent to flourish and I wanted to take a look at that with the "X-factor Series". Specifically I'll be looking at some of the players, other than potential starters, who will have a major impact this year for the Patriots.

First in the series is junior forward Jonathan Arledge, who had his moments last season and finished strong. He was behind some talented players in the front court rotation but still managed to make his mark. His outside shooting is still coming along at the college level and I think that is an area he will show progression in during this season.

What makes him an x-factor? His versatility to play both outside and inside will get him a lot of minutes this season. He will cause match-up problems for the other teams at the three spot but can also play well at the four. Last year his rebounding and shot blocking improved as the season went on and he developed a soft touch around the rim. Paul Hewitt has to like him in the transition game this year and he will be a nice piece in their uptempo offense. Depth will be a major strength this season for Mason and Arledge's play off the bench will certainly be a big part of that.

Likely role this season: I see Arledge being one of the first guys off the bench this season. A lot depends on how Johnny Williams does after sitting out a year and if Erik Copes has developed any kind of offensive game. And while Arledge is a bit more athletic than those two, he doesn't nearly have as much experience playing and defending in the low post. Unlike last year this is no longer an area of strength for the Patriots, at least right now anyway. Also, depending on who they are playing he could be a better option in the front court than a big bruiser like Copes. Hewitt will have that type of flexibility this year that he didn't last year with seniors Ryan Pearson and Mike Morrison being mainstays in the front court. Look for Arledge to in the running for this season's sixth man spot.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

UVA will be shorthanded in George Mason's season opener

Can you believe it's only 9 days until Midnight Madness? The season is approaching fast and today we get some injury news regarding the Patriots' season and home opener opponent, Virginia. The Cavaliers' starting point guard, senior Jontel Evans, had surgery yesterday for a stress fracture on his foot and will be sidelined about six weeks. The release also says that sixth man, Malcolm Brogdon, who plays both guard positions could also be unavailable for the November 9th game at the Patriot Center. 

This is certainly an advantage for Mason as they return almost their entire backcourt minus Andre Cornelius, who appeared in 23 games last season. Interesting to think that the Patriots will have the edge at point guard against an ACC team in the beginning of the season.


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