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Rams Roundtable: Projecting CSU hoops' starting five this year

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June 8, 2016


It’s been an offseason to remember — or maybe one to forget — for Colorado State Rams men’s basketball fans.

First, assistant coaches Ross Hodge and Leonard Perry left the program. Then, so did graduate point guard John Gillon as well as young big man Toby Van Ry.

With CSU also losing four seniors — Tiel Daniels, Joe DeCiman, Antwan Scott and Fred Richardson III — the team looked shaky at best there for a bit during a tumultuous offseason.

Then, Larry Eustachy righted the ship just before it hit an iceberg; he hired Jase Herl and then signed a boat-load of players.

Che Bob, a JUCO combo guard signed up to play in Fort Fun, then, so did 2017 forward/center Felipe Haase. Then, it was another JUCO player in Braden Koelliker out of Utah, a unique sophomore who has more maturity than most after serving a two-year mission trip.

Eustachy and his assistant coaches finalized the roster by landing a trio of DI transfers in Lorenzo Jenkins from Arkansas, Robbie Berwick of Florida State and Kevin Little from Maine, who signed Monday. Those three, just like with Hasse, won’t be able to play until 2017.

So, who will start for the Rams in 2016-17? Our BSN Rams team takes a stab at who they think will this fall/winter/spring.

Rich Kurtzman

G: Prentiss Nixon, G: Devocio Butler, G/F: Gian Clavell, F: Emmanuel Omogbo, F: Braden Koelliker Sixth man: J.D. Paige

Nixon was incredibly impressive as a freshman, though it seemed he’d be stuck behind Gillon for another season. That starting point guard position has now been freed up and it looks like Nixon’s for the taking. He’s active on defense, a solid shooter and good at assisting teammates. He’ll have to hone his ballhandling and dribbling up court, though. Don’t forget about Devocio Butler, who committed and stayed with CSU since October; he’ll be joining Nixon in the backcourt. Butler’s a skilled, smooth shooting two guard who will likely push Clavell as the best shooter on the team.

Speaking of Clavell, the school recently submitted his request for a medical redshirt — after he missed the team’s final 20 games due to the injured hand and shoulder — and he’s expected to play this year. Clavell is without a doubt the team’s top scorer if he can stay healthy this season, with a superb shot from distance and the ability to take people off the dribble. He’s also the x-factor when it comes to playing defense; he just started to give more effort on that end before the injury last season. And after his injury, there was Clavell as a “coach” on the bench, yelling at teammates, encouraging them, directing them. He already took that leadership position last season, it should only carry over to this year.

Omogbo was a double-double machine last season, even playing through the tragedy of losing his parents, sister and niece and nephew in a fire, averaging 10.9 points and 8.0 rebounds per game last season. He could even improve this year, especially on the offensive end. Finally, another JUCO newcomer in Koelliker. The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 13.2 points and 8.2 boards per last season as a freshman with Snow College, and if he continues to play that way, it will help position the Rams well on both ends of the floor.

Paige rounds out the list as the team’s sixth man and, while he showed flashes last year as a freshman, could really take a leap in Year Two with the Rams.

Andre Simone

Let’s get the obvious ones out the way first. Gian Clavell is going to be back and should be fully healthy. With the exodus of seniors, and particularly scorers, Clavell is the offensive catalyst who will need support in the form of shooting (to allow spacing), ball handlers/facilitators to take the load off of him on the perimeter and rebounding. 
Did you say rebounding? Emmanuel Omogbo has that covered as the second obvious starter. After an indescribable 2015-16 season, Omogbo is the one true constant down low for the Rams. He’s also a guarantee to rebound, hustle and makes his presence felt under the hoop. I expect big things.
Ok, now is where we get to have some fun. As mentioned earlier, Clavell needs another guard who can bring the ball up the court, run some plays for him and take pressure off him while he focuses on getting (and making) one-on-one looks. The options at the point are very limited with Prentiss Nixon as the only true point man and J.D. Paige as the only other alternative I considered. Nixon wins out because he comes in with the pedigree of a pure point, even though his assist to turnover ratio was far from great in his first year. He also shot an encouraging 38 percent from 3-point land, which should allow Clavell more space if Nixon can knock them down consistently.
My next two starters require a bit of a leap of faith. I’m really intrigued by Che Bob’s ability as a combo forward, with great athleticism and the ability to attack the hoop on dribble drives and in transition. But ultimately, at 6-foot-5, I worry he’s too small next to Omogbo and not enough of a shooter. That’s why I’d go with junior transfer Devoico Butler on the wing with his 38 percent 3-point shooting, which should allow for more of that needed spacing. I’d also place Kimani Jackson as the starting big man next to Omogbo to bring some size and hopefully a bit more mid-range shooting this season. 
It’s not the biggest lineup, but a starting five of Nixon, Clavell, Butler, Jackson and Omogbo (with Paige and Bob as first guys off the bench) can be a versatile, athletic lineup which can run and take advantage of the altitude. Defensively, this lineup could really cover ground taking advantage of the athleticism in the front court. There’s also some deep shooting ability, a potential in almost all five of my projected starters, making the smaller lineup that much tougher to guard. 

Justin Michael

G: Prentiss Nixon, G: Gian Clavell, G/F: Devocio Butler, F: Che Bob F: Emmanuel Omogbo

Sixth man: J.D. Paige

With the departure of John Gillon to Syracuse, Nixon is expected to run the point for Larry Eustachy’s Rams this season. Nixon managed to stand out as a freshman last season, depsite a crowded back court with Antwan Scott and Gillon leading the way. With those two out of the mix, Nixon is going to have to elevate his game to the next level and become more efficient as both a scorer and facilitator.

Joining Nixon in the backcourt will likely be Clavell, who is still waiting to find out if he will receive a medical redshirt for missing the majority of last season with a shoulder injury. Clavell is the heart and soul of this team, and he will assumingly serve as team leader this fall. Defensively, Clavell has developed into a solid player, but his hot hand is what makes him so valuable to the team.

In the front court will be new faces, with Bob and Butler playing the “three and four.” Butler is an offensive threat and will rival Clavell as one of the team’s best shooters. His length allows him to guard bigger players and his three-point shooting gives the Rams multiple options offensively. Ultimately, Bob gets the nod over Kimani Jackson, depsite being undersized, because of his versatility. Jackson struggled to do anything offensively last season and has to find a way to score this time around. I expect Jackson to play a heavy role in the Rams rotation but he will need to be a factor offensively, before he earns a spot in the starting-five.

The world watched as Omogbo battled through adversity throughout the 2015-16 season and managed to still be the most consistent big man on the team. Omogbo is by-far the best rebounder on the team and developed a nice post-game last year. CSU will not have a lot of size, so Omogbo will be more valuable than ever, on both ends of the court.

Coming off the bench, Paige can change the pace and gives Eustachy a consistent scoring threat. Paige is a decent shooter and is an explosive ball-handler that can get to the rim. Although Paige will be in the running for a starting position, his game better suits this role.


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