If this article’s title looks familiar, it should — we wrote an article “way back” on March 12 with almost the same exact name. However, since then, W&M has gone through a lot of changes. And yes, that’s an understatement.
What might those changes be, you ask? The winningest head coach in the history of W&M basketball was shown the way out, a first team All-CAA member decided to explore the NBA Draft, two of the Tribe’s top three players transferred, and two promising freshman also left.
In the wake of all that, W&M hired a brand new head coach and coaching staff (minus Julian Boatner), brought in two grad transfer players, and added two freshmen for next season.
Suffice to say, there has been a lot of change in the ‘Burg since our March article; for reference, below was our projected starting five when we wrote that article (and where those players actually ended up):
- Nathan Knight, Senior, Forward/Center – Returned to W&M after testing NBA draft waters
- Luke Loewe, Junior, Guard – Returned to W&M after contemplating transfer
- Justin Pierce, Senior, Forward/Guard – Transferred to UNC Chapel Hill
- Matt Milon, Redshirt Senior, Forward – Transferred to UCF
- Chase Audige, Sophomore, Guard – Transferred to Northwestern
- L.J. Owens, Sophomore, Guard- Transferred to UMBC
So with all that in mind, let’s take a look at our updated starters for the 2019-2020 MBB season!
New-New Look: 2019 Tribe Basketball
Projected Starting 5
#13 Nathan Knight, Senior, Forward/Center
2018-19 Stats: 21 PPG, 8.6 REB, .578 FG PCT, 3.5 AST/G, 70 blocks
It’s hard to imagine that Knight would improve upon his sophomore year stat line last season (18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game), but that’s quite literally what he did this past season. After taking home 2nd team All-CAA honors as a sophomore, Knight took a monumental step forward in being named to the CAA’s coveted 1st-Team.
Yes, Nate found himself in foul trouble more often than we would like early in the season, but he finished his junior campaign with one of the strongest-ever performances by a big man in W&M program history. His scoring line alone over the last several games of the season was as follows: 39 pts, 35, 30, 18, 19, 29, 21. Those are mind-boggling numbers to digest — and ones that don’t even take into account his blocked shots (70, which led the CAA) and rebounds (8.6 per game).
He became the first college basketball player since Tim Duncan (who played at Wake Forest in 1996-97) to average 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots per game. Knight’s scoring average last year is the highest for a Tribe player since 1968 and his 651 points rank fourth in program history.
After the season, Knight tested the NBA Draft waters, working out for several NBA teams including: the Atlanta Hawks, Utah Jazz, Boston Celtics, Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Hornets. Ultimately, he decided to come back for his final season in Williamsburg, and we couldn’t be HAPPIER.
Knight will enter 2019 as a bonafide CAA Preseason Player of the Year candidate — and one that will force several NBA scouts to make the trip to Williamsburg this coming season. If all else fails, Knight should be a shining star for the Green and Gold in his senior season.
#12 Luke Loewe, Junior, Guard
2018-19 Stats: 5 PPG, .444 FG%, 24.1 Min/G
Following a season in which he averaged just 5.2 minutes and 1.1 points per game, Loewe gained valuable experience as the Tribe’s new starting PG this past season. Despite his stat line only marginally improving, we saw improvements in Luke’s overall game — in everything from increased confidence, to better facilitation of the offense, to his improved ability to get to the basket and score on smart cuts to the hoop.
We would still like to see more out of Loewe in terms of total offensive production and general running of the offense; but any way you slice it, Loewe will likely be given every shot this offseason to continue his development as the team’s starting PG — and he’s earned it.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Loewe is known as one of the best defensive player’s on the Tribe’s squad, which certainly helps him stay in the starting lineup, despite increasing competition at the PG position this season.
#5 Andy Van Vliet, Senior, Forward/Center
2017-18 Stats: 3.4 PPG, 1.4 REB
Andy Van Vliet is an imposing force. Standing at 7’0″ and 235 pounds, he might actually be the tallest player in the entire CAA. A graduate transfer from Wisconsin, Van Vliet had to sit all of last season, but was able to practice with the team. He has one year of playing eligibility left, and looks to make the most of it this season donning the Green and Gold.
Andy is a very interesting player, because although he has the height of a center, he plays more like a guard; in fact, he’s known as a sharpshooter who routinely shoots the three.
During his junior year at Wisconsin, Van Vliet appeared in 17 games, making 4 starts. In the CAA, he will be playing against “lower” competition compared to the Big 10 — so we expect his PPG and rebounds per game to skyrocket above his average at Wisconsin.
With both Van Vliet and Knight on the floor at the same time, W&M should probably boast the tallest starting lineup in the CAA. And if Van Vliet can establish a post-up game to go along with his 3-point ability, he very well could contend for a spot on one of the CAA’s All-League teams by year end.
#21 Quinn Blair, Sophomore, Forward
2018-19 Stats: 1.8 PPG, .364 FG PCT
Early last season, Blair experienced a healthy amount of playing time as Coach Shaver played with the rotation. In fact, over a three-game stretch during the “Gotham Classic,” Blair averaged almost 20 minutes of playing time. He started against Notre Dame, where he finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds — and he turned in the best game of his career against UIC, where he finished with 3 points, 7 rebounds, two assists, a steal, and a blocked shot.
Over the three-game stretch, Blair averaged 4.3 PPG and 3.67 rebounds per game. He also had a decent game against Elon later in the season, where he went 2-2 for 6 points, 3 blocks, and 1 rebound in just 15 minutes of playing time.
While Blair didn’t play much down the stretch, and while he didn’t see action in the CAA Tournament, we think he is certainly a breakout candidate for the Tribe this season.
When Coach Shaver trimmed down the rotation to 7-8 players last year, Blair just didn’t make it on that list — keep in mind that the roster was relatively deep last year. This season, Blair will see loads of playing time, and we think he has what it takes to excel under new head coach Dane Fisher. He’s a high character kid (Named to the CAA Commissioner’s Academic Honor Roll), who certainly has a high motor.
We know he will put in the work this offseason, and we expect his numbers to go up — and although the aforementioned sample size is small, when Blair was given minutes last year, he made the most of them.
Bryce Barnes, Senior, Guard
2018-19 Stats: 6.1 PPG, 2.4 REB, 2.7 Ast./G
Bryce Barnes was a late addition to the Tribe team (signed on May 30), and boy was he a good “get” for Coach Fischer and the staff. Barnes is a graduate transfer from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (making him the second transfer from the state of Wisconsin for the Tribe), who was actually a team captain a season ago.
Barnes is a tad “short” by basketball standards, checking in at “just” 5’11”, but he is a tireless worker who makes plays on both ends of the court. And of course, he’s a leader.
Last season, he played in 25 games, starting 15 of them. Another high character kid, his former coach at Wisconsin-Milwaukee had this to say about him: “If there were a Hall of Fame for coachable players, [he] would be on the first ballot.”
If you look at Barnes’ playing tape, you see a player that has speed, playmaking ability, and the ability to shoot the three. He might split PG duties with Luke Loewe, and we are interested to see who ends up winning the PG battle by the end of the year.
Some onlookers might think that Barnes is too small and is more of a PG, so he and Loewe shouldn’t be on the court at the same time; however, we think our starting five gives W&M its best 5 players on the court at the same time. And with a dearth of forwards on the roster (Blair and freshman Wight being the only true forwards), W&M will certainly boast a relatively small rotation next season (outside of Knight and Van Vliet).
So overall, Barnes looks like he will fit right in with the Tribe, both on and off the court, and we are excited to see what he will do in his one-and-done season wearing Green and Gold.
Sixth Man: Tyler Hamilton (Grad Transfer, Penn)
Depth: Mehkel Harvey, Jihar Williams, Thornton Scott, Ben Wight (Fr.), Miguel Ayesa (Fr.)
While this lineup might not be as strong as what could have been, we think that Coach Fischer and staff did a great job coming up with a roster that will be competitive this season without wasting scholarships.
This team has a chance to be competitive night in and night out in the CAA, and could surprise many come March. We believe.
LET’S GO TRIBE!