A new season is upon us. After an off-season of much roster turnover, that included five players transferring out and one coming in, George Mason is currently left with just nine available scholarship players. Not ideal but certainly nothing to worry about with the core group still intact heading into the 2017-18 season. Juniors Otis Livingston II and Jaire Grayer are without a doubt the leaders and together with sophomores Justin Kier (who started nearly every game last season) and Ian Boyd, form a dynamic back court. With Marquise Moore leading the way last year they fought tooth and nail to beat bigger opponents on the boards and on defense. What will be the biggest question this year is if they can match that intensity and effort on both ends without Moore and Jalen Jenkins, who often held down the front court on his own.
Livingston, Grayer, and Kier will be logging heavy minutes again this season. The first two will lead the way in scoring but will need more from Kier in that area this year. His overall improvement will be a big factor in the Patriots moving up in the Atlantic 10 ranks. At times he was like a second point guard on the floor but had the lowest shooting attempt rate of any A-10 starter. Safe to say he’ll have a bigger role in the team’s offensive plans.
Otis Livingston II is the team’s rock and most consistent player. I have no doubt we will see improved three-point shooting and a better assist-to-turnover ratio this season. There are no question marks surrounding his game heading into this year.
Freshman Javon Greene will help to replace the scoring lost by Marquise Moore as he has impressed the coaching staff this off-season. I would not be surprised to see a five guard lineup at times this season that goes something like Livingston, Greene, Kier, Grayer, and Boyd.
This could be the year of Jaire Grayer though, as he steadily improved during conference play last season. As this year’s Blue Ribbon Yearbook mentions, he shot over 45% and finished with a 113.7 offensive rating in A-10 action. With some added size on the wings this year, hopefully he won’t have to play out of position as much also. He will lean on the steady play of Livingston who will keep the offense running smoothly and will play a big part in getting him many opportunities. Mason’s offense will certainly run through him at times and if he maintains that confidence on his three-point shooting it could be a huge year for him. I see him potentially leading the team in scoring and rebounding.
Small ball isn’t going anywhere this season but unlike last year they have emerging talent available on the wings. Freshmen AJ Wilson (redshirt) and Goanar Mar bring some length and versatility to the lineup that had been previously missing. Problem is they don’t have a proven guy to hold down in the middle like Jalen Jenkins did last year. Does that mean these two will be forced to help out down low? Wilson wowed everyone this summer at Kenner League with his shot blocking ability and overall energy. It will be interesting to see how he is used this season as it appears he has the versatility to play at three spots.
Daniel Relvao has the most experience of the available front court players but doesn’t appear to be the long term answer. Freshman Greg Calixte has impressed Dave Paulsen this summer and might find in his way into the starting lineup sooner rather than later. Who gets more minutes will ultimately come down to rebounding and defense. Also will AJ Wilson be out there in the post by himself? We’ll have to see how he’s used within the group but he might have to given the limited depth. Paulsen does an excellent job managing the roster and getting the most out of his current roster and he will have to get creative once again. Expect to see a lot of different lineups in the beginning of the season.
Projected starting lineup:
Otis Livingston II – Will lead the team in minutes played and continue as leader, facilitator, scorer, and automatic free-throw shooter.
Justin Kier – Another good ball-handler on the floor, could very well be the team’s most improved player this season.
Jaire Grayer – Poised for a big season, should lead team in scoring, rebounding, and three-point shooting. Probably has highest ceiling of any guards on the team.
Ian Boyd – Biggest guard on the roster might have to play the role of defending forwards at times again this season. He’s just too good for Paulsen to not have on the floor with the above guys. Wilson and Mar might won’t be ready to take over this spot full time just yet.
Greg Calixte – The 5 spot might be a platoon. Relvao may be the day one starter here but I think Calixte overtakes him by the end of non-conference play. He’s less limited on offense than Relvao and is used to being in the middle defending the post against bigger guys. Paulsen could also go with Wilson here and four guards for a super small-ball lineup! Anyway you look at it we could very well see a work-in-progress approach until around mid-season.
Sixth Man: Javon Greene – Will provide a spark off the bench much like Karmari Newman did last year. Guard heavy rotations mean he will be in and out of the lineup often this season.