Last season the Panthers finished 12-19 (6-12) and simply had a hard time putting points on the scoreboard. They averaged 61.9 points per game which ranked them 308th nationally and dead last in the conference. They also shot a paltry 42.2 percent from the floor, which was next to last in the conference. Former coach Rod Barnes was dismissed just before the conference tournament.
This year the Panthers are under a new regime with the hiring of Coach Ron Hunter. The only significant contributor that was lost from last year’s team was guard Javonte Maynor who followed Barnes and transferred to Cal State- Bakersfield. Outside of Maynor, the Panthers return their top 7 scorers from last season. The roster features a ton of experience, including six seniors, most of whom will be looked upon to contribute. However, they must learn a brand new style and show that they have completely bought in to Hunter’s philosophy.
With the new regime comes a brand new offensive mindset. Hunter runs a very up-tempo, fast break style of offense, which will be a welcome sight to Georgia State fans that were growing weary of the half-court style employed by Barnes. Hunter’s style is all about forcing turnovers, getting fast break opportunities, and hitting three point shots. However, as mentioned previously, Georgia State struggled mightily shooting the ball last season. However, one thing the Panthers did do well was play defense, ranking in the top four in the conference in scoring defense, field goal percentage defense, 3 point field goal percentage defense, blocks, and steals. If they can continue to play great defense and outlet the ball quickly for easy points, then this GSU team should be able to put more points on the board.
The Panthers have also wrestled with trying to find a go-to scorer the past few seasons. The last time a Panther averaged more than 15 points per game was Leonard Mendez in the 2007-2008 season. This year’s stock does not appear to have a candidate to reach that number once again, but perhaps the player with the best chance is Brandon McGee. McGee is one of the enigmas of this Georgia State team. When at his best he is arguably the best player on the roster and that was no more evident than when he scored 31 in an overtime win against Northeastern. He also had scoring performances of 23, 16, 15, and 14 but still only averaged 7.8 points per game. The senior forward is 6 foot 6 and incredibly athletic for his size and that should benefit him in an up tempo attack. If he can consistently perform at a high level, he could be the scoring threat the team has lacked.
Georgia State will also enjoy the return of their starting point guard, Devonta White. The freshman was having a terrific season last year and looked as though he could be a candidate for CAA Freshman of the Year before being injured. White did return to the floor but was never as productive. If he can stay healthy, then White has the athleticism and floor vision to flourish in this type of offense.
|(image by GSU Sports)|
Another contributor that needs to find a way to be more consistent is senior center Eric Buckner. Like McGee, Buckner showed flashes of great talent last season, but was unable to show it consistently. He led the Panthers in scoring at 9.4 points per game and in rebounds at 5.6 per game and had scoring performances of 15, 20, 23 and 28. Buckner at times would seem unstoppable, and then at other times would simply disappear and be inactive or would get in foul trouble very early. He is already off to a good start this season, having earned all-tournament team honors in Seattle. If the Panthers are to have a successful season, then Buckner has to be a major contributor, as depth along the front court is a major issue for the Panthers.
Coach Hunter has said that he will use a rotation of 8 players in each game. Behind those three main players mentioned previously is a roster full of athleticism and experience, but not a whole lot of shooting ability. Senior guard James Fields is worthy of starting every game because of his defensive prowess, but does not bring much to the table on offense. Senior forward/guard combos Josh Micheaux and Jihad Ali are two more very talented players that, unfortunately for the Panthers, also seem to be constantly plagued by inconsistency. Those three players (Ali, Micheaux, and Fields) certainly figure to be some of the 8 that will see the floor in every game.
Two more players that will look to crack the rotation are Rashaad Richardson and James Vincent. Richardson is a wing player that will look to fill a similar role that Maynor manned for Georgia State last season, which is a scoring threat off the bench that is capable of hitting threes. However Richardson was unable to find the floor as a freshman and will have to show Hunter he is capable of being productive in the most competitive mid major conference. Junior forward James Vincent is a physical presence on the floor, but may be out of his element in an up tempo attack. He will look to spell Buckner, but his chances of play significant minutes are slim.
The only freshman that will likely be able to play significant minutes is Tony Kimbro Jr. Kimbro signed in the late signing period and is one of the most highly touted prospects the Panthers have signed in recent years. Kimbro will most likely come off the bench, but he has the athleticism to flourish in this offense and if he can learn the college game quick enough he will certainly be a factor.
Overall there are many questions for this Georgia State team. Coach Hunter has said on multiple occasions that the most important thing for this team to learn is how to win. Winning is not something that just simply happens. The Panthers will have to prepare for it diligently. The media picked Georgia State to finish dead last in the conference. However, if the Panthers can adapt their style of play to Hunter’s scheme and try to find some consistent scoring options, then they could be the surprise team of the season.
The Panther's home opener will take place this Friday against McNeese St.