2019 MBB Preview: Projected Starters

Dane Fischer enters his first season as Head Coach of the W&M Tribe in 2019. [photo via tribeathletics.com]
Believe it or not Tribe fans, W&M Basketball starts THIS WEEK with the Green and Gold tipping off at High Point on Tuesday night.

A lot has changed since we previewed W&M’s potential starting lineup back in early March; since then, W&M let go of longtime Head Coach Tony Shaver, subsequently losing Matt Milon (UCF), Justin Pierce (UNC), Chase Audige (Northwestern), and LJ Owens (UMBC) all to transfer.

Of those players, the WMSB had projected three to be in the Tribe’s 2019 starting five, with Owens as our 6th man. So with that as the backdrop, we present to you our updated starting 5 projections for this coming season. Roll Tribe Roll.

OLD Projected Lineup (back in March)

  • Nathan Knight
  • Justin Pierce (transferred)
  • Matt Milon (transferred)
  • Luke Loewe
  • Chase Audige (transferred)

Sixth Man: L.J. Owens (transferred)
Depth: Thornton Scott, Andy Van Vliet, Jihar Williams, Mehkel Harvey, Quinn Blair, Cameron Brown (decommitted) 

NEW Projected Starting Lineup 

Nathan Knight returns as an NBA prospect and 2019 CAA Player of the Year candidate. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

#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 (18.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game), but that’s 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 as a junior.

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 don’t even take into account his blocked shots (70, which led the CAA) and rebounds (8.6 per game).

After averaging 21 points, 8.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.2 blocked shots per game, Knight is the first college player since Tim Duncan at Wake Forest in 1996-97 to average 20 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots per game.

After an incredible junior season, it isn’t surprising to see the preseason accolades pour in for Knight. Heading into the year, Knight was named Preseason 1st-Team All-CAA, and was selected to the Watch List for the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Center of the Year Award for the second straight season — an award given to the top center in all of college basketball.

Knight is positioned for a BIG senior year; we are sure several NBA scouts will make the trip to Williamsburg this coming season, so be on the lookout when attending a game. Knight will be very fun to watch.

Luke Loewe was one of the only incumbent starters to return to W&M following Coach Shaver’s firing. [photo via tribeathletics.com]

#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 year.

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. He is also one of the top defensive players on the team, which is something W&M consistently lacks.

We would still like to see more out of Loewe in terms of total offensive production and general running of the offense this year; 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 — he’s earned it.

Andy Van Vliet never truly fit the Wisconsin coaching staff’s vision for the 7-footer. [image via Wisconsin Athletics]
#11 Andy Van Vliet, Senior, Forward

2018-19 Stats: (Redshirted last year)

Van Vliet is a transfer from Wisconsin. To be blunt — he is very tall (7’0″, 231 pounds to be exact); in fact, he might just be the tallest player in the CAA. But interestingly enough, he is not a Center. Van Vliet is a shooter, perhaps the tallest you’ll see, who takes a lot of shots from outside of the perimeter.

In his junior season at Wisconsin, Van Vliet made appearances in 17 games. In those games, he shot 52.2% from 3 (12/23). Interestingly enough, he had a better 3-point shooting percentage than he had 2-point percentage (6/16, 37.5%).

That’s a long winded way of saying: don’t expect Van Vliet to be posting up players in the paint. However, we’ll be curious to see if coach Dane Fischer takes advantage of Van Vliet’s height in some way, shape, or form this season against “smaller” CAA opponents.

Overall, early observations of Van Vliet have been very positive; he has been practicing with the team for a while now after sitting out last year as a transfer redshirt. He is agile and quick and has the ability to bring the ball up court — and of course, he can shoot that patented W&M 3-point shot. Watch out, because he and Nathan Knight could potentially terrorize some opposing defenses this year.

A high character guy with loads of potential, grad transfer Bryce Barnes brings some much needed leadership to this year’s Tribe team. [photo via mkepanthers.com]
#5 Bryce Barnes, Graduate Transfer, Guard

2018-19 Stats: 6.1 PPG, 2.7 Assists per game, 2.4 rebounds per game. 

Yet another transfer, Bryce Barnes comes to the ‘Burg from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He played in 25 games there last season (missing time due to injury), starting 15 contests. While he’s not a high-scoring guard, Barnes is solid defensively (ranked second on the team with 22 steals), and he can pass the ball as well (led the team with 68 assists).

Another big plus that Bryce possesses is his leadership ability. He was named a team captain last year, and we believe his leadership will prove invaluable for some of these younger Tribe players this season.

And yes, we hear you: some may think that Barnes shouldn’t start given Luke Loewe is our projected starting PG, but we are under the impression that the Tribe’s best 5 players should start — and we think that Barnes is one of those players. As far as we can tell, he’s a stat-stuffing guard who can also play as a shooting guard if needed. 

Plus, we think that Thornton Scott is more than capable of playing the backup PG position once Loewe and Barnes come off the court. Scott played backup PG last season and performed well, ranking among the CAA’s leaders in assists before suffering an injury that forced him to miss six games. In the end, Barnes might just end up being one of those players that Tribe fans come to adore before it’s all said and done.

Grad transfer Tyler Hamilton has already proven himself to be one of the top defenders on the team. [photo via pennathletics.com]
#2 Tyler Hamilton, Graduate Transfer, Guard

2018-19 Stats: 1.8 PPG, 1.4 Rebounds per game (6 games)

Tyler Hamilton is a bit of a wild card here. Coming in as a grad transfer from the University of Pennsylvania, he only played 6 games last season before going down with an injury. He also missed his entire junior year with an injury. We have him in our starting lineup for two reasons: seniority and defense.

Despite the injuries, Hamilton is an experienced player, having 3 years of basketball under his belt. Early observations from the W&M Homecoming scrimmage are that Hamilton is a very athletic player who is the best perimeter defender among the guards.

While he might not contribute much in the scoring column, he’ll likely be tasked with defending opponents’ top guards — and as we know, there are plenty of those in the CAA (see Charleston’s preseason POY Grant Riller). With Hamilton, the Tribe would boast three great starting defenders in Barnes, Hamilton, and Loewe — which could turn the Green and Gold into one of the top, grind-it-out defensive teams in the CAA this season.

When was the last time you heard that said about a William & Mary basketball team?

Sixth Man: Quinn Blair
Depth: Thornton Scott, Jihar Williams, Mehkel Harvey, Miguel Ayesa (Fr.), Rainers Hermanovskis (Fr.), Ben Wight (Fr.), Thatcher Stone (Fr.), Austin Washburn, Miodrag Dronjak

Conclusion

Needless to say, this team will look a lot different than we had originally expected back in March. But with that being said, we think this team will finish better than its 7th-place projected finish in the CAA. And the way they’ll get it done will be completely different than in years’ past: instead of the high-powered offenses of Shaver teams in the past, this year’s team might just be built on defense.

It will also be one of the most experienced starting groups that W&M has had in a long time, with 2 grad transfers, a fifth year senior, and a senior Nathan Knight. Don’t count out the importance of experience in college basketball — as year after year, teams with experienced starting lineups have proven their worth come tournament season.

In short: it’s a new era in Williamsburg. Get used to some low scoring games and some defense!

LET’S GO TRIBE!

 

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2 thoughts on “2019 MBB Preview: Projected Starters

    1. Great catch! We misread the email communication that was sent out; apparently Jihar won’t be traveling with the team tomorrow “to focus on his studies.” The way the communication was sent out suggests that this is short-term, but we’ll see. In the interim, we’ve added his name back in to the depth section.

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