Wednesday, August 11, 2004

BGSU Basketball: The State of the Program Address

Lewis Wants to Leave Falcons

I hate the offseason.

I've touched on that theme several times recently, at least in terms of it being hard to wait for the upcoming season. However, in those cases I was referring to football, and not basketball. In this case, it isn't because of anticipation for the coming season that I hate the offseason, but because crazy stuff is going on. The Bowling Green Falcons mens' hoops team is embroiled in a mess right now.

Guard Chris Hobson and forward Isaac Rosefelt have already left the program. Both were freshman last year and left ostensibly to find more playing time. Rosefelt may have required more development, but Hobson likely would have been a major contributor this season. However, they're both gone. There were also rumors that guard Steven Wright may leave, for off-the-court reasons not fully known, but that situation seems to have calmed. Steven is still listed on the official roster.

Ronald Lewis, however, is not. Yesterday Lewis, a rising junior guard, declared his intention to transfer to another school to continue his playing career. I was almost physically hurt when I got the news. Unlike Hobson and Rosefelt, both of whom played limited roles last season, Lewis was a known quantity. He was the Falcons' leading scorer last season, and 2nd team All-MAC. His athletic and often eye-popping play was one bright spot of the past two seasons, both of which were subpar in terms of actually winning games. Seeing Ron play was worth the price of admission. Needless to say, at first glance this looks like a huge blow to BG's program, and, in conjunction with the other departures that have taken place this offseason, could lead some to question the leadership of the team and where the Falcon program is headed.

As the day progressed, though, more of the story surfaced. In the article linked above, Lewis's mother comments on his goal to play in the NBA, and apparently that's at the heart of this matter. The story, as it was reported by the local sports radio station, is that Lewis was upset that the coaching staff had signed an incoming freshman point guard. He reportedly told the coaches that he needed to play point guard in order to reach the NBA. When told that his desire to play point guard wasn't in the best interests of the team winning games, Lewis reportedly replied that winning was secondary to him.

That story at this point is unconfirmed, but was said to have been reported by two sources. If indeed it is true, then Coach Dakich can absolutely not be blamed for Lewis leaving the program. Especially after two seasons in which wins have been in short supply, having a key player who puts personal goals ahead of the team's interests cannot be tolerated. That's not the way Coach Dakich runs the program, as any observer of the team can tell you. If Lewis actually said this, then the team is better off without him. If nothing else, team chemistry will be better with him playing elsewhere.

It also seems to me, after much thought, that this may not hurt the team on the floor as much as it would seem. Obviously, it's never a good thing to lose the scoring leader from a team, nor an off guard that rebounds as well as Lewis did. However, he did have a propensity for turning the ball over, and he wasn't a particularly good defender. He would not have been good in the point guard position--that's just not his game.

The roster as it currently stands can be seen here.

The incoming freshman in question, Perrick Robinson Jr., will be able to play the point, relieved by incoming transfer John Floyd. Steven Wright wasn't particularly impressive running the point last year, but he can play there if needed (provided he does indeed return, which it looks now like he will). I think he can blossom in the shooting guard spot, and he can share time there with sophomore Austin Montgomery. Montgomery was inconsistent last year, and looked downright bad at times, but he also had games where he looked really good. If he can step it up, I think he and Wright can come close to replacing Lewis's scoring output. Defensively, this is an upgrade. It would have been nice to have Hobson to work into this rotation as well, especially on defense, but the Falcons should be okay with the guys they have.

The rest of the team, the frontcourt, should be decent at worst. Small forward John Reimold will be the heart and soul of this team, and provide the senior leadership and the main three-point threat. He's a fighter, and if the rest of the team follows him, I have high hopes. The rotation at that spot, however, is an unknown quantity at this point. Hopefully junior Germain Fitch will be recovered from injury and ready to play. If so, he'll also be a good leader for this team, and his contributions on defense, rebounding, and overall smart basketball will be a great asset. Incoming transfer Mawel Soler will figure into the mix here as well.

Power forward is something of a question mark, despite the fact that the players in question are both seniors. Cory Eyink has the build to be a bruiser down low, but he has a tendency to play on the wing and shoot three-pointers. He can shoot, but that's not what the team needs his main contribution to be. Josh Almanson is a heady player with skills, but was a little tentative at times last season after sitting out most of the previous season with an injury. He's an outstanding free-throw shooter, though, so getting him the ball will be key. These guys need to step up their game this year and play like seniors, and I think both of them will do that.

The starting center is almost sure to be sophomore Matt Lefeld, who played some last year in relief of Kevin Netter, who graduated. Lefeld is a tenacious defender who showed in his limited minutes last year that he has a lot of potential. He needs to stay out of foul trouble. He'll be joined down low by incoming freshman Scott Vandermeer, who will be thrown into the fire.

Coach Dakich, in the past, has shown a reluctance to give major minutes to freshmen. He'll have to overcome that this year just because of the sheer numbers crunch. The transfers Floyd and Soler will also be depended on to contribute. If these new guys come in ready to play right away, the Falcons may not win the MAC Championship this year, but it could be the year we start getting the program back on track. If they aren't ready, it could be a long season. Either way, it'll be something to see.

In the meantime, it will be interesting to see how this Lewis situation plays out. He'll be granted a release from his scholarship pending the results of an NCAA invesigation. There are some questions as to whether or not he or anyone in his family was contacted by another school prior to him requesting his release. If so, that would be a violation of NCAA rules. If that's found to be the case, I don't know what the consequences would be. If not, he'll be free to puruse his NBA dreams elsewhere. Good luck, Ron. You were fun to watch and I hate to see you go, but your (alleged) attitude will hopefully be a better fit somewhere else.

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