Phoenix by Position: wings

PtP’s position by position series takes a glance at the Green Bay Phoenix roster for the 2022/2023 season, continuing with the wings. For a look at the front court, click here.

When you take a look at the wing position in basketball, it’s a position that needs versatility.  Players on the wing need to have size, length, and athleticism as well as be able to pass the ball effectively and maybe even play in the post a bit. This is especially true for Green Bay’s offense where all five players are likely to end up in the post or out on the perimeter at some point during offensive sets.

Manny Ansong played quite a bit on the wing the past two seasons for the Phoenix – at 6’4” he was too undersized to really be a true forward but lacked the ball handling, passing ability, and consistent outside shooting necessary to play the guard spots.  So Ansong would play on the perimeter and try to drive to the basket, crash the glass for offensive boards, and occasionally attempt an outside shot, though less than 18% of his field goal attempts were threes and he made just 25.0% of those attempts.

He was a productive player – he finished third on the team in scoring last season at 11.0 points per game and led the team in rebounding at 5.1 per contest – and while he was talented and boasts explosive athleticism, his game wasn’t exactly a perfect fit for what the Phoenix were trying to do on offense.

With Ansong finishing his career at Vanderbilt, enter a pair of players who will be making their Division I debut this season: Brayden Dailey and Clarence Cummings.

Dailey is one of just four players from last year’s team that is back this season. But being behind Ansong and Donovan Ivory on the depth chart, he took a redshirt year last season to work on his game and hit the weight room.

It was a decision looking towards the future even though the Phoenix could have definitely used him a season ago, especially during a stretch of games when the team only had 7 or 8 active players due to various injuries or illness.

“I leave it up to the young men in our program to decide on whether or not they want to redshirt,” head coach Will Ryan said during a recent appearance on the Phear the Phoenix Podcast. “Brayden’s a young man who is extremely smart – he’s like a 32 ACT kid. He thought long and hard about what he wanted to do.”

“He knew that as a freshman, based on who he had ahead of him, maybe he wouldn’t play as much. So he’s like, ‘I know I’m going to be better off in the long run.’ That’s the case with everybody. You’re better at 22, maybe 23 years old than you are at 18, 19. That’s how things go.”

At 6’7”, he has the size and length needed to play out on the wing.  He is athletic enough to get to the rim on offense and stay in front of guards on defense. He also is one of the better shooters on the team and can help stretch defenses by knocking down three pointers, something the team sorely needs after finishing as one of the worst shooting teams in the country a season ago.

“We definitely could have used his shooting last year,” Ryan said. “He went off a few days – more than a few I guess – in practice where he hit quite a few threes and we definitely could have used that last year.”

Dailey will likely come off the bench this season but should have plenty of opportunities to earn a spot in the rotation, especially if he can consistently knock down shots.

Clarence Cummings
(Photo via gbphoenixmbb / Instagram)

The starting nod will likely go to 6’5” jack-of-all-trades Clarence Cummings.

The Orlando, Florida native comes to Green Bay after three seasons at the junior college level where he flew under the radar and was lightly recruited.  He actually wasn’t even on the Phoenix radar until they came across him almost on accident.

“We were actually looking at a guy in his conference,” Ryan said. “So I’m watching game film, we were recruiting one of his opponents, and I was like ‘who is this kid?’ So I started to do some digging on Clarence and we got in touch with him and his coach and it was kind of a quick recruiting process.”

“We got him up to campus – he had feelers and a couple other offers from places – but he felt that Green Bay was the spot.”

Cummings scored 11.5 points per game last season at the State College of Florida, shooting 40.7% from the floor and 31.9% from behind the arc, enough to keep defenders honest. He also was aggressive going to the rim and got to the free throw line five times per game where he made 74.0% of his free throw attempts.

He also added 6.0 rebounds, chipped in 3.3 assists, and 1.0 steals per game as well, doing a little bit of everything.

His game as well as his length and athleticism will allow Ryan all kinds of matchup options, even using three or four guard lineups if necessary.

“He can play multiple positions,” Ryan said. “He’s a kid that you could throw him at the 1 through the 5 if you had to, if you wanted to go small ball.”

“He’s really strong, he’s crafty around the rim, he can step off and shoot, he handles it and passes it well. He still has a lot to learn but he’s a very smart kid. Tireless worker, always in the gym.”

“He’s going to be a big contributor for us.”

Cummings scored in a variety of ways and led all scorers with 14 points in Green Bay’s exhibition win over St. Norbert back on October 25th.

There will likely be times where the Phoenix have no true wings on the floor, opting instead to play with three guards and two bigs.  Bigger guards like Garren Davis, Randy Tucker, or Jack Rose would be able to matchup with taller players defensively while playing with a ballhandler and another shooter to create some flexible lineups for the coaching staff to work with.  

Walk-on Zane Short, a 6’6” junior from nearby Denmark, WI, could eventually work his way into the rotation as well.

The wing spot is a true wildcard on the Green Bay roster this season. On paper, the players look to be a better fit than in previous seasons. Will that translate to the games? If so, it will go a long way towards a bounce back season for the Phoenix.

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