Coach: Ray McCallum (7-23 at Detroit, 177-172 overall)
Detroit had an awful 2008-2009 campaign for many reasons, but second year head coach Ray McCallum has reason to be optimistic now that Eli Holman and Chase Simon are eligible. Holman, a 6-9 center who spent his freshman campaign at Indiana, never saw much playing time with the Hoosiers, but he is a talented player who should emerge as a dominating force under the basket. Simon is a slightly more proven player and the 6-5 wing will help this team’s dreadful outside shooting.
Key Losses: C Jason Bennett, F Michael Harrington, F Chris Hayes, F Nemanja Jokic
Woody Payne tried to turn the backcourt into something dangerous last season. The 5-11 senior dished out 3.6 assists per game and was also the backcourts most dangerous scoring threat. Payne will once again lead this team, but not in scoring with the addition of the talented newcomers. Payne’s assist numbers should go up as the Titans start scoring more points, but it is Payne’s stellar defense that makes him an irreplaceable piece of this team. Eulis Stephens and Donavan Foster could never hold onto the starting spot next to Payne in the backcourt. Stephens can do some damage around the basket, but both failed to shoot over 30 percent from long range. And now, at least if Coach McCallum wants to play big, both will probably be battling for minutes off the bench.
Xavier Keeling missed all but seven games last year and that really set the stage for a bad season. However, a couple returning players did step up and help fill the void, most notably Thomas Kennedy. Kennedy averaged 11.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game and can even step outside and hit the mid-range jumper. Eugene Blue and LaMarcus Lowe are the more traditional bruisers under the basket and they both will compete with Holman for minutes in the post. Blue is a better scorer, but Lowe is a much better rebounder and easily the most effective shot blocker on the team.
Who’s In for Detroit:
The Titans hope junior college transfer Curtis Eatmon and freshman Jason Calliste can help with those shooting issues as well. Eatmon has more size and experience, but Calliste could turn into the most consistent outside shooter sooner or later. Detroit also picked up an experience point guard in junior college transfer Lamar Lee and he will be a nice backup right away. The lone newcomer up front is John Hoskins. At 6-11 and 205 pounds, Hoskins needs to add some bulk, but for now he will at least be another big body who can block a few shots and grab some rebounds.
The return of Keeling will provide a big offensive boost for this team. In the seven games he played in last season, the 6-7 forward averaged 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds. If he can stay healthy and keep putting up numbers like that, this will be a very interesting team to watch. The loss of quite a few frontcourt roleplayers means the Titans really need Keeling to stay healthy. Keeling could also be the answer to the shooting problems. He shot 44.4 percent from beyond the arc in those seven contests.
Final 2009-2010 Detroit Projection:
Holman was considered a great prospect before getting stuck in the mess at Indiana. He should start from day one. So should Simon on the wing after proving that he can be the dynamic scorer that this team desperately needs during the team’s off-season trip to Spain. Add some other experienced newcomers and players like Kennedy and Payne who held this team together last year and the Titans will be much, much better than they were last season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
2009-2010 Detroit Basketball Projected Starting Five:
Woody Payne, Senior, Guard, 8.3 points per game
Chase Simon, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season
Thomas Kennedy, Senior, Forward, 11.6 points per game
Xavier Keeling, Junior, Forward, 12.4 points per game
Eli Holman, Sophomore, Center, DNP last season
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer