Point guard Pookie Powell was originally expected to be a member of Memphis’ highly regarded freshman class this season, however those plans were scuttled when the NCAA did not clear Powell academically. That didn’t turn out to be a huge issue for the Tigers, with their four senior guards in line to receive the majority of the minutes anyway.
But with that came the expectation that after sitting out the 2013-14 season, Powell (who wasn’t allowed to practice with the team) would be the most likely option to take over the point guard duties in 2014-15. That won’t be happening however, as it was reported by Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal that Powell has decided to transfer.
Powell’s father said the following to Smith in regards to the reason for his son’s decision to leave:
“The reason is a basic conflict of interest with coach (Josh) Pastner that apparently couldn’t be settled,” Powell’s father said.
Powell’s departure does hurt from a depth standpoint, but experience-wise the Tigers were going to be incredibly young on the perimeter either way. None of the three options mentioned by Smith, redshirt freshman Markel Crawford, incoming freshman Dominic Magee and junior college transfer Avery Woodson, have played a game at the Division I level.
With that being the case, it will be interesting to see if head coach Josh Pastner takes a look at the graduate transfer market this offseason. Michael Dixon Jr. was a one-year transfer this season, posting averages of 11.8 points and 2.4 assists per game and winning American Athletic Conference Sixth Man of the Year honors.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.