Michael Devoe: A
Many Tech fans expected Devoe to break out this year, but even the most optimistic of us probably did not expect this. Devoe has carried the load in the scoring department to begin his sophomore season, putting up over 20 points in five of seven contests. He has shown versatility in his game, attacking the basket with regularity while solidifying himself as the most reliable deep threat on the team. Most see Devoe as a combo guard but I think he has clearly benefited from Jose Alvarado’s injury, which has allowed him to play to his strengths as a smooth ball handler off the pick and roll. It will be interesting to see how Alvarado’s return to the lineup affects his play. I think there are still areas in Devoe’s game that he can develop including setting up his teammates as opponents adjust to the threat he provides as a scorer, but you have to be thrilled with what he has shown so far.
James Banks: B+
If this grade were given on just defense, Banks would earn an A+. He has absolutely dominated in that regard, putting up five or more blocks in four of seven games so far. It is hard to believe, but he seems to have improved his game in this area, which was already strong to begin with. His length and timing make it almost impossible for opposing guards to drive the ball and finish at the rim. However, I find myself wanting more out of Banks offensively. His scoring numbers are up but only slightly on a team that lacks go-to options around him. He hasn’t looked the smoothest in the post at times with his footwork and also just flat out catching the ball, which has resulted in high turnover numbers. He seems content on setting up in the high post on many offensive sets, which doesn’t allow him to play to his strengths, but it could certainly be argued that is more of a coaching complaint.
Asanti Price: B+
This grade mostly has to do with the expectations I had for this player. As a freshman joining a team with so many returning players, Price was an afterthought by me when it came to projecting the team’s rotation. However, he has managed to work his way into a regular bench role on the wing, pushing Shembari Phillips virtually out of the lineup in the process. He hasn’t necessarily been filling the stat sheet, but I like his effort out there most of the time and he plays bigger than his 6’5” listing suggests, with good length on defense. I would expect his role to reduce in the coming weeks with the addition of Jordan Usher to the lineup, but it’s been good for Price to get some experience this season and prove that he can hang with top competition.
Moses Wright: B
He remains an enigma that will wow you just as much as frustrate you on any given night. The scoring and rebounding numbers are there, good for second on the team in both but so are the turnovers and downright embarrassing free throw shooting. His ability to go on dominant stretches like against NC State where he is banging down low, pulling down offensive boards and flying for dunks is becoming more of a regularity, which is awesome to see. However, there are still bonehead moments in his play where he is launching three pointers or committing silly, avoidable fouls. Maybe it’s irrational confidence or just a desire to be a complete player, but if Moses could simply play to his strengths, the entire team would benefit. Not every player can be silky smooth but he might look a lot less clumsy out there if he stopped trying to handle the ball out on the perimeter, for example.
Khalid Moore: B-
The scoring numbers won’t jump off the page and there’s clearly a lot of work still to be done with Moore’s shot, but the thing I love is that he knows what kind of player he is – at least right now. Early on in the season, he has established himself as the team’s lock down perimeter defender and always finds ways to contribute without scoring. He is a true Swiss army knife in that sense. He knows he is not a good jump shooter and won’t force them (unlike Wright) but if he could improve this area of his game, it would certainly make things a lot easier for him. Shooting 48% from the line is flat out unacceptable for a wing player.
Coaching Staff: C+
This is a tough grade to give out seeing as the team still isn’t working with its full complement of players and the sample size of games is still quite small. Overall, the story with Pastner is pretty much the same for me. He has done an excellent job mixing and matching defenses, I think for the most part. But the struggles on the other end of the court look the same. This team is slow and stagnant in its half court sets a lot of the time. I also observe an attempt to fit square pegs into round holes with the use of the Princeton offense (i.e. playing through a big at the elbow). Those sets worked great with Ben Lammers who was a skilled passer. This roster doesn’t have a player like that however, and a lot of the time the offense ends up going nowhere or worse with a turnover off a forced pass. That feeds into another gripe, which is the turnover issue. It hasn’t improved at all from last season, with the Jackets currently owning a 20% turnover rate, good for 315th in the nation. It’s obviously being addressed but at some point one must ask if the message is getting through to the players. As far as rotations, obviously the team has been a bit handcuffed, but I’d like to see Pastner be a bit quicker to respond to game situations. I find him sticking with guys for too long, two examples being Jose Alvarado in the first half against uga when he was clearly injured and Moses Wright against NC State being left in to foul out with over 10 minutes left in the game.
Evan Cole: C+
Cole has proven to be a solid if unspectacular rotation big for the Jackets so far in an area where the Jackets lack depth. He has clearly bulked up and isn’t getting pushed around inside as much as in his freshman season. I’m still excited to see what Eric Reveno and company can do to mold him into a more complete and dangerous player because there’s clearly room left in his development especially in his face up game. If Cole could become a more reliable jump shooter, it would really improve the spacing for Tech offensively especially since he is best suited at the 4 spot.
Bubba Parham: C
By far the most disappointing player so far on this roster. I feel like I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt here with a C due to the fact that he is just seven games into playing with an entirely new group, but the reality is this grade could be lower. Bubba was expected to be an immediate contributor as a graduate transfer and has had many opportunities to make his mark on this team with Jose Alvarado’s absence from the lineup. He’s capable of providing value in the shooting and playmaking departments but we just haven’t seen it so far. It’s hard to believe for a player who shot over 40% from beyond the arc during his time at VMI but his paltry 3-point shooting is hurting the team so far. He may need to adjust to Devoe becoming the primary ball handler and get more comfortable as a spot up guy where he could be invaluable for the Jackets if he can start finding confidence.
Jose Alvarado: Incomplete
Alvarado has been nursing an ankle injury for basically the entire season so far and has missed the entirety of the past four games. The expectation is that he will remain out of the lineup for the rest of non-conference play. Giving him any grade at this point despite the fact that he has not looked great in limited action would be unfair. Here’s to hoping the Jackets floor general gets healthy soon.