Two articles were not enough. With so many players fighting for starting positions in what is a turbulent off-season for multiple WCC teams, there are some more interesting position battles that will play out before the upcoming season starts.
Pepperdine: Atif Russell vs. Lamond Murray, Jr.
We wouldn’t even be having this discussion had Malcolm Brooks transferred from the Waves program this spring. But since he did, he left the wing position there for the taking.
Both players were in the rotation last year but neither played too many minutes. Russell is not a particularly effective scorer but he is entering his third season as a Pepperdine Wave and has clearly earned the trust of Coach Marty Wilson for his overall play and defense at 6’5”, 210 pounds.
In my opinion, Murray has more potential of the two players. He shot the higher field goal percentage of the two, and if he got consistent minutes, he could easily be a double figure scorer. As a freshman in 2013-14, he had 14 and 16 points against BYU and Portland respectively. If he starts and plays more than 20 minutes a game, he could become an efficient offensive player.
Despite the departures of double figure scorers Malcolm Brooks and Brendan Lane, I think Marty Wilson will start with the more seasoned Russell at the wing. But if the Waves have trouble scoring, look for Murray to take over the lion’s share of the minutes at that position.
Santa Clara: Jalen Richard vs. Denzel Johnson
With the graduation of 4 year starter Evan Roquemore, the Broncos will look for a third guard in the backcourt to complement the high scoring of Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark.
Richard played a lot of minutes as a true freshman but shot just 36% from the field, a number he can definitely improve on. Despite the poor shooting, Coach Kerry Keating still leaned on him as a part time starter while Roquemore was injured and even occasionally when Roquemore was healthy.
Johnson’s lone claim to fame in a Bronco uniform is still the last 11 games of his freshman season in 2011-12 after Kevin Foster (who scored over 2,000 points for SCU) was suspended for the remainder of the season in late January. In those 11 games, Johnson averaged 13.5 points per game in 31.8 minutes per game. He has gotten very little playing time since then and he is hoping that he can get more minutes as a senior. He has shown the ability to score in double figures when getting the proper playing time.
After being in Coach Keating’s doghouse for large parts of the past two seasons, I think Johnson will end up as the 6th man of the team with Richard starting in front of him. With Brownridge and Clark, the Broncos don’t truly need more scoring in the backcourt, which is why Richard’s toughness and defensive potential will win him the starting job.
San Diego: Thomas Jacobs vs. Brandon Perry vs. Simi Fajemisin
With the loss of high scoring Dennis Kramer due to graduation, the Toreros have a spot in the frontcourt to claim alongside the shot-blocker Jito Kok.
They could go big with Simi Fajemisin at 6’10 and 267 pounds, but his inability to have any fluid post moves at all has prevented him from scoring much in his three year Torero career.
Thomas Jacobs is another option who played limited minutes last season for the Toreros, but he also doesn’t score much and at 6’6″ 215 pounds, he would be outmatched defensively at the power forward spot by someone like Kyle Wiltjer or Kruize Pinkins.
I believe it will be the Cal State Northridge transfer Brandon Perry to start alongside Kok. At 6’7 and 265 pounds, he has the size, athleticism (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aNHkWfVerSw) and scoring ability to be a solid power forward in the WCC.