MEN’S BASKETBALL PREVIEW PART II: SOPHOMORES TO WATCH

RYAN REEBENACKER, KNIGHT WIRE CO-MANAGER

Anytime a school loses a particularly strong graduating class, they tend to make an effort to recoup some of that talent with a big recruiting class. Last year’s freshmen brought a lot of firepower to the Knight’s offense, here are my picks to watch out for. 

Jack Molstead

2019 Stats | 10.9 PPG | 2.9 REB  | 2.3 AST | 0.7 STL | 38.2 FG% | 34.6 3PT% | 77.3 FT%

Molstead was inarguably Coach Peth’s most valued recruit last season. The freshman started all 27 games and largely earned the playing time. His assortment of ball fakes and flurries teased his apparent skill as a ball handler, but his distribution as the Knights’ premier point guard still needs work. While his defense is closer to college-ready, his assist-to-turnover ratio (62-58) isn’t quite what you want to see from your primary distributor. With his feel for the ball though, expect this to be an area he improves on in 2020. 

On the topic of Molstead’s defense, all signs were encouraging for an undersized guard in his freshman season. He picked up .7 steals per game and despite his physical limitations played with effort and forcefulness on the defensive side that is rare in a freshman trying to adjust to the next level. While that height may put a ceiling on his ability, effort has not been a question for the young guard.

Despite his raw talent, Molstead still has a lot of room for improvement. Despite being listed generously at 5’11” on the Knights’ roster, Molstead visibly struggled to adapt to the taller college game last season. He has smooth mechanics, as evidenced by his 77.3% mark from the free throw line, but showed to be bothered by defensive pressure while shooting. This resulted in a lack of efficiency from the field (38.2%)  that Molstead needs to improve if he wants to be a top scorer in the conference. 

To take the next step, Molstead needs to work on shot selection and sharpening his focus when there is a hand in his face. Don’t rule out the possibility Molstead gets stronger, he is prone to acrobatic finishes and seems far less bothered by his size disadvantage when taking it strong to the basket.

AJ Becker

2019 Stats | 3.5 PPG | 0.6 REB | 0.4 AST | 0.1 STL | 33.8 FG% | 28.9 3PT% | 11.9 MIN

Looking at the above box score, it is clear what AJ Becker was not last year: a stat stuffer. He struggled in almost every area of the game, his solid high school offense turned ineffective against college defense, and his own defense was probably the worst on the team. He often seemed like the typical college freshman too used to being a focal-point on their high school team to adapt effectively to playing a limited role at college. 

And yet there is something about this player that I still cannot give up on. His percentages from the field are abhorrent, yet the eye test betrays the shooting stroke of someone who has a puncher’s chance to be the Knights’ most prolific catch and shoot threat. A talent evaluator might say Becker’s basement is the lowest of this freshmen class in terms of potential, and yet his ceiling could also be shockingly high.

The freshman demonstrated an ability to hit shots, especially 3’s, more-than consistently at the high school level, and despite what could only generously be called a bad freshman outing for the rotation wing the Knights’ should explore the potential of giving Becker more time to develop as a scorer, and hope he finds his way on defense. Pairing his potential as a shooter with Molstead’s aptitude for kicking out of drives may be the key to the Knights’ offensive identity, or maybe it never materializes. Either way, Becker holds the keys to his own fate this season.

Noah May

2019 Stats | 4.1 PPG | 2.1 REB | 0.6 BLK | 0.3 STL | 64.3 FG% | 75.0 3P% | 9.3 MIN

May was another semi-regular fixture of what made up a deep Knights front court last year. He has one of the most unique builds in all of basketball, 6’8” and weighing only 190 lbs. While a rarity to find a player so tall at the Division-III level, May was not without his faults on both sides of the ball. 

While his efficiency from the field was monstrous, it also seemed likely a blip due to his low usage and minute rate. Generally May only shot the ball when he had an opportunity for a wide-open layup or a catch and shoot corner 3. These are valuable shots, but there is some concern that the oversized center can do anything else. He practices his 3-point percentage, and will serve as a steady stretch-five if he desires, but with his tools he could be a nightmare inside if he so chose, but will he?

His lateral quickness was a problem on the defensive end. There is no disputing that he has the height and athleticism to block shots at a high level, but he got torn up last season trying to switch onto guards that he couldn’t keep up with. With May though, you get a lot of good to go with the bad. His wingspan is daunting, and while unmeasured according to my research is what makes him feel taller than 6’7”. His shot is formidable, and so is his height, and if he ever turns around his natural slowness on the court, he could be a freak of nature that is uncommon among D-III schools.

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