Green Bay’s 2017/2018 basketball season unofficially started last night with a 100-70 demolition of Ripon at the Resch Center in the first of the team’s two exhibition games this year.
There isn’t a lot to take away from a bigger, more athletic team beating up on a local Division IIII team but there were plenty of positive signs last night as the Phoenix continue to prepare for their season opener on November 12th at Northern Illinois.
- The freshmen will contribute immediately
The thing that most Phoenix fans were focusing on is how the newcomers will fit in this season, especially since Green Bay will have to replace 8 players from last year’s team. The Phoenix return just 18% of its scoring and 17% of its rebounding from last season so immediate contributions from the newcomers, including five true freshman, will be essential.
PJ Pipes was the most impressive of the five scoring 15 points on an efficient 7 of 9 shooting. He showed explosive quickness while attacking the basket and the ability to run the offense as a primary ball-handler. While he did not start the game, Pipes played the most minutes of any Phoenix player and will likely play a lot of minutes at point guard for Green Bay this season.
Another solid freshman contributor on Monday was 6’3” combo guard Hunter Crist. A 40% three point shooter in high school, Crist connected on 2 of his 3 three point attempts and showcased his ability to get to the rim with a nifty finger roll in traffic. He also dished out 6 assists and displayed versatility playing the point guard position as well as playing off the ball to warrant minutes during the regular season.
Green Bay looks to have found an interior presence in 6’8” Manny Patterson as the 3-star recruit recorded 8 rebounds and a block in 17 minutes of action. It’s too early to know what kind of impact he will have on the offensive end of the floor at this point but he is likely to play a lot of minutes due to the Phoenix lack of any other rim protectors or true interior players.
The other freshmen, Trevian Bell and Will Chevalier, didn’t fill up the box score but showed their potential. Bell is likely to get plenty of minutes this season due to his 6’6” size and versatility. On Monday he showed the ability to play out on the wing as well as down in the post on both sides of the floor. He scored 5 points and had 2 assists along with a steal and a rebound in 17 minutes.
The 6’8” Chevalier scored 8 points by going 2 of 5 from beyond the arc and a perfect 2 for 2 from the free throw line. He also grabbed 5 rebounds.
- Kam Hankerson is going to have a big season
For most of Monday night’s game, do-everything guard Kameron Hankerson was the best player on the floor. The 6’5” sophomore handled point guard duties but also played out on the wing at times with Pipes and Crist on the floor. He scored 15 points and led the team with 8 assists in 26 minutes of action. His highlights included explosive drives to the basket, a step back three pointer (he was 3 for 5 from beyond the arc), as well as a SportsCenter worthy put-back dunk.
He was one of the starting five on Monday and will likely be one of Green Bay’s leaders in the “minutes played” category when the season is over.
- Khalil Small shooting the ball
Without question, Khalil Small has had a solid career so far at Green Bay. He enters his senior season only 267 points away from joining the Phoenix 1,000 point club and has averaged over 10 points per game in each of his past two seasons.
But while Small’s two point field goal percentage increased last season (48.4% to 51.3) his three point percentage fell off a cliff. He made 41 of 101 (40.6%) of his three pointers as a sophomore but made just 19 of 82 (23.2%) last season.
“We need Khalil to really improve on the offensive end as far as shooting the ball,” head coach Linc Darner said after last season. “He did it two years ago, we need him to do it again. I know he can do it.”
“I think sometimes when you start off slow shooting the ball, which happened a little bit for him [last] year, you get to where you’re hesitating to shoot. We need him to quit hesitating because he is a good shooter.”
The most tenured player on the roster, Small scored 15 points on 7-11 shooting – including 1 of 2 from downtown – with 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1 steal in 18 minutes of action on Monday.
- Is Green Bay’s three point shooting here to stay?
Speaking of three point shooting, the Phoenix connected on 51.9% of their three point attempts on Monday night. That, along with their 44% output from beyond the arc in Puerto Rico this past summer, shows that Green Bay could possibly be a legitimate threat from deep this season.
Of course, the Puerto Rico trip was against inferior talent and Monday’s game was against a Division III team, so it remains to be seen how the team will fare against Division I competition.
Eight different players made a three pointer for Green Bay including 3/5 from Hankerson, 2/5 from newcomer TJ Parham, 2/5 from Chevalier, 2/3 from Crist, and 2/2 from JUCO newcomer Sukhjot Bains.
Green Bay ranked 297th of 351 Division I teams last season in three point field goal percentage at 32.2%.
- Clean it up from the charity stripe
Obviously it is the first exhibition game of the season, but it is somewhat alarming that the Phoenix made just 44.4% of their free throw attempts Monday night.
Green Bay went 8-18 from the free throw line during the game. They’ll need to get that cleaned up before the season starts as games are often won or lost at the free throw line, especially during conference play.
They’ll get a chance to get it corrected on Sunday at noon when Green Bay travels to Minnesota for their final exhibition game of the season.
Highlights (via GreenBayPhoenix.com):