Recapping the Diamond Head Classic

Patrick Holloway, Jordan GiustiGeorge Mason left Hawaii with a win but didn’t ease any doubts about if they will be a competitive team in the Atlantic 10 this season. We saw this team look better on defense during the Diamond Head Classic but unforced turnovers and stagnant offense still plagued them. Rebounding and defense overall were bright spots but in the end they had trouble scoring consistently and couldn’t do better than a seventh place finish in the field. Sherrod Wright was playing so poorly he was even removed from the starting lineup for a game. Meanwhile Marko Gujanicic failed to score more than six points in a game for the entire tournament. Patrick Holloway and Johnny Williams contributed more with both those players lacking in their usual scoring production but the team is in dire need of scoring consistency.

I think there is an issue with the rotation, still. It certainly doesn’t help that Erik Copes is severely struggling to make an impact anywhere on the court but we haven’t seen a stable lineup all season. Vaughn Gray played four minutes the whole tournament. What’s going on here? Is he not “focused on basketball” again or something? With the team in such need for offense at times I can’t imagine he couldn’t be of some use. Anali Okoloji continues to get staggered minutes, maybe only because Jalen Jenkins sometimes gets into foul trouble. Although it’s great to see Marquise Moore continuing to get more minutes, he’s been looking great. I know that they are trying to find the right combination that works but at some point you need stability here.

The big story, which wasn’t really a surprise before this tournament, is that Sherrod Wright needs to be more of a consistent scoring threat for this team. He hasn’t scored more than seven points in a game since the loss to South Florida. Even with him averaging around 14-17 points a game this team’s offense isn’t that good, but with younger players starting to emerge they need him to be their leading scorer every game.

  • mkaufman1

    I agree there is an issue with the rotation, but I don’t think this one is Hewitt’s fault. When you have players who are inconsistent and downright suck in certain areas you have to mix and match to find the right combination. I don’t think its a secret that the mix down the stretch of the St Mary’s game proved to be a winner. Hewitt got that one right, whereas he got the rotation against OSU wrong. A guy like Copes provides absolutely nothing most of the time whereas at least Anali can rebound or “hustle” for a few minutes.

    With that said ,yes the team is very stagnant on offense and needs a LOT of help. If Holloway can help contribute and take pressure off Sherrod that is huge. I also think its big that J2 gets involved, because it will draw attention to him allowing our guards to have more “space”. Hopefully hes “figured it out” a bit after playing a bunch of games this year, since he missed so much the last 2 years.

    Its also probably not shocking that Marquis Moore is now the starting PG, and will probably play 25-30 minutes a game with Corey being backup, and BA being in at times as well. I think that is a good thing for this team, especially going forward.

    I still think a lot of the teams problems are coaching esq, but the players need to hold their accountability too. Its hard to win when you just dont have players who can score consistently. Fortunately the defense is much improved so if they can hold that, they can be in a lot of games.

    They desperately need a guy like Eubanks to come in to the program going forward.

    • GMUPATS74

      Who’s Eubanks?

      • mkaufman1

        Kobe Eubanks is a 2014 recruit who is known as a pure scorer. Mason is known to be after him.

        • GMUPATS74

          I just checked his profile, he’s still undeclared as of who he wants to play ball at. Hopefully he’ll choose GMU over M. St., UCF & USF

          • Kyle Stegner

            GMU has more recent NCAA tournament appearances than the other three schools. Hopefully he will pick GMU if he wants to have the best chance of playing in a NCAA March Madness game. Unfortunately not all basketball prospects wants to play for a basketball program that makes frequent NCAA tournament appearances. If he values year round warm weather and beaches, there is a possibility he might pick one of the Florida schools, who knows. Hopefully Mason’s 2006 final four run, more numerous NCAA tournament appearances, and Paul Hewitt’s past players who made it to the NBA will get him here. Using the last scholarship for a stud SG is a must!

  • tommy2

    For those of you who continue to question the offensive prowess of the players , keep in mind that outside of the top programs in the country, the teams that have players who can create their own shot consistently are in the minority. It is the responsibility of COACHES to leverage a system or scheme (aka, having one, and then teaching it effectively) that gets players open in areas or situations where they can score. If you haven’t played at this level, you have no idea how quick and athletic these guys are when you are one of 10 guys on the court. I say this as a former college player who could score 30 one night, and 6 the next night (as a proficient 3-point shooter). If the team didn’t run me off screens and look for me, I would score 6. This team lacks discipline and a system to focus on. The reason Coach L has success everywhere he goes is partially for that reason. His overarching philosophy is “share the ball” and in-your-face man-to-man D. He has a preferred system and then others he’ll go to based on his team and the competitive circumstances; the other part is he an excellent teacher. His teams improve over time. Over time, Coach Hewitt’s teams achieve mediocrity, which is about where the team is today. A post recently said they will be lucky to win 12 games. I’d say that is about right.

    • shawnc

      I am glad someone finally point out Hewitt’s system/scheme is the major issue.

      • Ryan Cioppa

        I’m sorry but Sherrod shooting air balls, Copes firing shots off the backboard, J2 being extremely soft in the paint (until last game), etc etc etc is NOT Hewitt’s fault. The defense has played a lot better these last few games and I commend Hewitt for trying new things on that side of the ball. However, when it comes to offense, there have been many many times where our shooters miss wide open shots or point blank layups. Stop blaming Hewitt for every single one of this teams mediocrities. He’s to blame for a variety of things, the players hitting wide open shots and layups, is not one of them.

        • tommy2

          When players lack structure and a system, they think about themselves and whether or not they are playing well individually; and their confidence comes and goes. Once it goes, it’s hard to get back. When players have structure and a system and good leadership, they think about the system and their role in helping to make it work. Sorry Brother. You’re right players can all improve individually, but it all stems from leadership and coaching.

          • Ryan Cioppa

            I’m sorry I don’t think you understood anything I just said. I’m not talking about player development at the individual level or the team level. When Hewitt calls his plays and runs his offense the players are then left to execute it. They’ve been involved in his system for a few years now, if they didn’t like it they could have left, no excuses now. Run the plays, and execute. You can’t blame the coach’s structure or system when players can’t make wide open shots, easy point blank layups, and routine passes. If you think the players are failing at these simple tasks because of Hewitt’s structure you are sadly mistaken. They’ve all played basketball for their entire lives (minus a few), they don’t suddenly forget the fundamentals like this team so often does because of the coach. Sherrod (using him as an example) needs to be held accountable for his lackluster starts to ballgames, his dribbling off his feet, throwing the ball away, not defending, etc etc…not Hewitt. I agree that Hewitt is not a great X’s and O’s coach and I am far from calling him a good coach, at some point the players need to be held accountable. Bring some true criticism to the table and maybe, just maybe I’ll agree with you.

          • Tom

            totally agree. As I said, Hewitt has no system, and did not have a good understanding of basketball. His game is always ugly to watch, looks like a bunch of guys do stupid things to show themselves, no team in mind. You do not see much of these ugky plays in Coach L’s time.

    • G-n-G

      Regarding structure/system versus non: There are coaches that have great success with making and recruiting players into a system (Shaka Smart is the best current example) and there are coaches that have great success adapting their style each year to the players they have (Coach K is one of better examples). Both have their advantages/disadvantages and neither is clearly superior.

      Regarding leadership: Every coach, including Larranaga, says that veteran players make the most effective leaders. Only when they’re absent should the coach step in, but they all admit that’s a distant second best.

      As for Larranaga having success everywhere he goes. His two years at American International were .500 ball. Leaving aside one really good year (his final one), he had a .525 winning percentage in 9 years at BGSU. In his third year his team was worse than in his first year (13 vs. 15 wins). At Mason he improved the team from year one to year two but then stagnated for 6 of the next 7 years. And so far his year three team at Miami is 8-5 with losses to some mediocre teams (Virginia Tech, Nebraska, and St. Francis-Brooklyn). Heck, Miami even lost to GW. I love Coach L for a bunch of reasons, but let’s not cannonize him or think that Hewitt compares that poorly against him.
      Larranaga career winning percentage: .595
      Hewitt career winning percentage: .586

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jiim_Larrañaga#Head_coaching_record

      http://www.hurricanesports.com/SportSelect.dbml?SPSID=658429&SPID=103777&DB_OEM_ID=28700&Q_SEASON=2013

      • tommy2

        Since your research is a yard wide and an inch deep, I’ll just add some context on your comparison of each coach’s winning percentage…

        Coach L has revived 3 moribund programs that were non-entities before his arrival. He’s taken an unranked mid-major to the Final Four and an unranked Miami team to #2 in the country and Sweet 16. GMUs basketball program before he arrived was dead. He won national coach of the year honors in 2006 and 2012 and he has sustained his winning percentage over a much longer period, with over 200 more victories than Hewitt. His Miami team this year, at 7-5, lost 90% of its scoring, rebounding, and assists from last year’s team, due in large part to his transition there and the mess left behind by Frank Haith.
        This year’s GMU team has, I think, over 90% of last year’s team back after winning over 20 games. Coach Hewitt is a good man, my friend, but he does not measure up just because he has a similar winning percentage after 40% fewer games coached. What you’re beginning to see in Fairfax is what everyone saw at Georgia Tech.

        • G-n-G

          Context begets more context. BGSU was a .523 team for the decade before Larranaga arrived. It was .541 during his 10 years. “Revived a moribund program” is a bit of a stretch. You’re on more solid ground with Mason, which was bad for the 9 years before Larranaga arrived. His predecessor at Miami had a .560 winning percentage in 7 seasons, had 5 postseason appearances, and only one year with a losing record (the 3rd). That’s even less moribund than BGSU was.

          Hewitt took a Sienna team that hadn’t won more than 9 games in the previous three years and won 17, 25, and 24. Not “national prominence” but quite a turnaround. When he became coach at GT it had had a losing record in 3 of the previous 4 years. He may not have lit the place on fire (winning percentage of .542 in his 11 years), but that compares better than Coach L at BGSU because he started with less.

          You seem to be penalizing Hewitt for having coached 13 fewer years than Larranaga (Larranaga started as a head coach in 1986 plus the two years at American International, Hewitt became a head coach in 1997). That hardly seems like Hewitt’s fault or Larranaga’s credit.

          My point isn’t that Hewitt walks on water or that Larranaga is a bum. The records (theirs and what they walked into at different schools) show them to be pretty comparable coaches.

          • Rick Jank

            Here’s my 2 cents (those who recognize my name know my position on our coach, anyway). Coach L may not have had great success with Bowling Green, but from then on he has. With experience at the helm he has greatly improved, and his success at Miami proves the point. And by the way, I won’t be surprised in the least if by the end of the season he has his newbies playing good ball while we are still wallowing. Hewitt shows little improvement (hey if you’re not a great x and o coach why don’t you work on that a little — be a role model for the players you’re allegedly trying to teach). Yes, our players deserve some blame, but with Hewitt’s system (or lack thereof) they often are not in the position to succeed. So often our players look stuck trying to deal with situations on the court, and that reflects coaching. After all, you can say Sherrod can’t shoot a 3 anymore, Copes still can’t keep from fouling, Anali still can’t calm himself down on the court, Edwards still can’t see a passing lane, and Marko still can’t show foot speed except when he’s traveling, etc, etc, but when all these uncorrected deficiencies collectively persist, can you really say each and every player himself just isn’t able to improve? What are the odds of that?

          • tommy2

            Please listen to Coach H after the ODU game on gomason.com. He sounds equally lost in most press conferences. Lots of generalities about “trying hard”, playing “strong”, rolls his eyes, shrugs his shoulders. Listen to Coach L after games. He breaks down the game, gives thoughtful answers, and teaches, for players, press and anyone else interested in listening. If you take the time, you wouldn’t seriously compare what they bring to the table for the University or the players.

  • gmu2009

    God are we STILL talking about Coach L? Give it up already, quit beating the dead horse. The guy is gone. As I remember there were some pretty mediocre to horrible seasons while he was coach here too, and we wouldn’t be playing competition even remotely on the same level that we are now. I agree that the problems lately have been due to lackluster performance by the players. I think a lot of you guys overhype Sherrod Wright like he’s some league mvp or something, dude’s mad overrated as evident from his recent play against some real opponents. Also, it hurts the team that Copes is basically turning out to be a bust. Don’t get me started on Edwards. I’d rather not see him on the floor not one more minute this season. Maybe he’d do everyone a favor and transfer out this summer. Despite these turds, there are some bright spots on this roster though. Moore, Holloway, J2, and basically everyone else, too, have been showing that they know their roles and have been stepping up. I think there may be some hope going into conference play. As for Hewitt, I think he’s doing a decent job with what he’s got. I’m definitely not ready to show him the door when it still feels like he just got here. I’d probably extend him another 2 years and make my judgment from there.

  • Rick Jank

    But not to be the pure pessimist here, I came away from this weekend happy that Holloway has his shot back, big time. That J2 seems to have taken more responsibility for the team on his shoulders, and as a result looked good all 3 games in both the scoring and rebounding department. That the freshman continue to improve. And that Bryon Allen kept everything glued together while Sherrod was in a funk and on the bench.
    Speaking of Sherrod, does anyone else wonder if he might have a developing attitude against the coaching staff? Might there be some growing dissension among the troops?

    • Kyle Stegner

      So his poor performance is a result of a developing attitude against the coaching staff? I always thought it was just that Sherrod is going through a normal performance slump like Patrick Holloway did before the Diamond Head Classic. Or maybe the teams that were several levels above the A10 were just more talented and stymied Sherrod or figured him out. If there is indeed a growing dissension among the team…..it’ll just make things worse.