American will count on Moldoveanu to anchor things up front
About this series: Not wanting to duplicate the Patriot League team-by-team previews we wrote for the Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, we came up with the idea of taking a look at each team through a different lens. We utilized the old SWOT analysis concept. Not familiar with SWOT? It stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
In this context, we tried to examine what are each teams strengths and weaknesses, who might get opportunities or what opportunities there may be for team success and what are the biggest threats to the team’s success in the 2010-11 season.
First up, American University
LAST SEASON: 11-20 (.355)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 7-7 (4th -tie)
2009-10 FINISH: Lost in Patriot League semifinals.
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 0/5
COACH: Jeff Jones (Virginia ‘82)
RECORD AT AU: 160-141 (10 years)
CAREER RECORD: 306-245 (17 years)
STRENGTHS: Vlad Moldoveanu: A 6-9 senior,Moldoveanu (18.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg) became eligible at the end of the first semester last season after sitting out a year following his transfer from George Mason. When he took the floor the Eagles became a completely different team.
In the 22 games he played, Moldoveanu scored a total of 399 points. The only Eagle to score more all season was 6-8 junior Stephen Lumpkins, who finished with 403. Lumpkins, who was eligible from the start, played in 9 more games and tallied 213 minutes more playing time.
Lumpkins (13 ppg, 8.5 rpg) actually benefitted greatly from Moldoveanu’s presence. His scoring average went up nearly a point per game in conference play.
“When Vlad became eligible, Lump got some more room down there,” says Jones.
The starting frontcourt: Moldoveanu’s ability to step out and shoot the three and Lumpkins power game on the block offer as good a starting 4 and 5 combination as there is in the league.
The team’s leading rebounder, Lumpkins ranked second on the boards in the league. His 48 blocked shots were the second most for a season in school history.
Junior Riley Grafft (5.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg) started 16 games last season. A skinny 6-11, Grafft is more a stretch-the-floor shooter than back to the basket post player. He should be better with a year of experience and a little added strength and maturity
Coach Jeff Jones: Jones is one of the league’s winningest coaches. Only Fran O’Halon, who has won 213 games at Lafayette has more Ws in league play. O’Hanlon, who has coached in the league 15 years, has won 99 conference games. Jones has won 82 in 10 seasons and his 82-44 league record is easily the top winning percentage in the Patriot League.
WEAKNESSES: The point. Two now-sophomores, Daniel Munoz and Blake Jolivette, and senior Steve Luptak each tried to fill the shoes of four-year starter Derrick Mercer. Neither did enough to make Jones anoint them the starter prior to the start of fall drills.
The 6-1 Munoz (4.6 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.3 apg) started 20 games a year ago. The 5-11 Jolivette (4.1 ppg, 1.6 rpg) started 10. And Luptak (3.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg), who stands 6-3m started 7 games, with his minutes picking up late in the season.
“Nobody did anything last year to make us think they won the job going into the season,” Jones says.
A 5-10 freshman, Wayne Simon, who was an Illinois all-state selection out of St. Joseph’s High School in Westchester, Ill. has the best ball skills of the bunch, says Jones. Jones even goes so far as to suggest Simon might have been the Eagles starter at the one if he’d been in school last year.
Jones has even hinted he might play at times without a true point on the floor, opting to just toss out the best five players on the roster.
OPPORTUNITIES: Two transfers will inject some athleticism to Jones’ rotation when they become eligible. Troy Brewer (2.1 ppg, 0.9 rpg in 2008-2009 at Georgia), a 6-5 guard. will be eligible from the start of the season.
Brewer saw limited playing time in two seasons at Georgia. As a senior at Montrose Christian High School in nearby Gaithersburg, Md., Brewer was MVP of the 2007 Capital Classic all-star get together, where he also won the three-point shooting contest.
“Troy is very athletic for the Patriot League level. He really brings something different to our rotation,” Jones says. “He has the ability to knock down the three-pointer and is working to get better putting the ball on the floor.”
Brewer also possesses a long wing span, says Jones, and all the tools needed to become an excellent defender if he develops that mindset.
The other SEC refugee joining the Eagles is Charles Hinkle, a 6-5 junior guard (1.4 ppg, 0.5 rpg 2008-2009 at Vanderbilt) is a 22-year-old junior will add maturity to the AU roster when he becomes eligible at the end of first semester.
Hinkle spent a season prepping at Hebron Academy in Maine after graduating from Los Alamitos High School in California. He also took a redshirt as a freshman at Vandy after breaking an ankle.
Big and strong, with a solid mid-range jumper, Hinkle has the versatility to exploit matchups, Jones says. He can post up most wings and is too quick for most forwards.
If Hinkle and Brewer make even half the impact Moldoveanu did, American will be a tough matchup for a lot of people.
Combined with 6-3 senior wing Nick Hendra (10 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Brewer and Hinkle will give Jones a lot of weapons on the wing.
THREATS: Vlad’s weakness exposed?: Late last season some teams opted to put smaller defenders on Moldoveanu with some success.
Against Bucknell he went 1 for 7, finishing with 2 points. He mustered only 2 points against Lehigh in the tournament semis, making 1 of just 4 shots he managed to get off. Moldoveanu was 2-for-13 against Navy in the first round of the Patriot tournament and Holy Cross held him to a 2 for 9 night in the second half of the league schedule.
Moldoveanu will need to improve his post game to exploit the size advantage he has when teams opt to take away his perimeter game with quicker defenders.
Depth is another issue. The Eagles could probably put together the most athletic five in the league, but behind those five there are question marks. A relatively weak bench leaves the Eagles particularly vulnerable
And then there is the question of how quickly the transfers can brush off the rust of their season spent sitting to satisfy NCAA transfer rules.
If they readjust as quickly as Moldoveanu did last season, that won’t be a problem. But players in similar situations have been known to struggle.