2007-2008 St. Mary's Gaels Basketball Preview
St. Mary's Gaels - WCC
2006-07: 17-15, 8-6, 3rd (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
There is one thing that will keep St. Mary’s from winning the West Coast Conference. There is not a proven shooter on the roster. Todd Golden is the only returning Gael who averaged over one long ball a game and he only put up 5.1 points per game. And it is likely that Golden will be busy running the point, at least early in the season. Tron Smith has the potential to be that shooter, but he sure did not look that way his first season with the team after spending some time at the junior college level. Wayne Hunter, who will battle with Smith for the starting shooting guard spot, is a better scorer, but was dismal from long range. He took three attempts per game from long range and hit less than one. A 22.6 percent shooting clip is not the numbers you want from your starting shooting guard.
Forward Brett Collins was the best shooter on the team. He did not take too many shots from beyond the arc, but he was easily the most consistent. His versatility to score from anywhere on the floor and help out on the glass will be missed. Blake Sholberg’s numbers are easily replaceable, but you can never have too many 7-1, 260 pound centers on the bench. John Winston saw his senior season cut short after breaking his hand, so the team got used to playing without him. Winston was never a great scorer, but was a solid ball handler, floor leader and defender.
At the least, the perimeter group needs some depth. The Gaels will get more than that out of this group of newcomers. Patrick Mills is easily the most talented. The Australian is the true point guard that the team needs, but he may not start right away while he learns the offense. However, if he plays up to his potential, Mills will be the star of the perimeter by January. The only other true newcomer, Mickey McConnell could find some minutes running the point as well. A couple perimeter orientated players redshirted last year and will add to the craziness that is the Gaels backcourt. Carlin Hughes, a transfer from Montana State-Billings, is a great shooter and that, along with his experience, could be enough for him to play a big role this year. Lucas Walker, another transfer from Montana State-Billings, has great height for a small forward. At 6-8 and 225 pounds, the Australian can battle in the paint, but it is his outside shooting that will help the Gaels this year.
Who to Watch:
Any team that wants to beat Gonzaga better have a superstar. Diamon Simpson is that guy. The 6-7 junior averaged a team high 14.1 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks. Simpson can step outside and hit the outside shot, but a little more consistency in that department will make him impossible to stop. Small forward Ian O’Leary has developed into a good player on both ends of the floor. He does not shoot as well as one would hope for a small forward, but that is typical on this team. O’Leary can be a dynamic scorer and a big help on the glass. The lone true post player is 6-11 center Omar Samhan. Samhan spent most of last year coming off the bench, but he still averaged 9.2 points and 5.6 rebounds. If he can handle more minutes, Samhan will be put up better numbers and help open up the lane for the slashers.
Final St. Mary's Projection:
The WCC was average at best last season. Somebody besides St. Mary’s and Gonzaga will make a run for mediocrity this year, but it is looking like a two team race. The Gaels are still behind Gonzaga, but if everything comes together, they can be closer to the Zags than many expect. The frontcourt is great and the perimeter has plenty of options and the sooner the Gaels can get Mills starting at the point, the better.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Todd Golden, Senior, Guard, 5.1 points per game
Wayne Hunter, Junior, Guard, 8.8 points per game
Ian O’Leary, Junior, Forward, 7.4 points per game
Diamon Simpson, Junior, Forward, 14.1 points per game
Omar Samhan, Sophomore, Center, 9.2 points per game
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