THOMAS TEAM OUTLOOK SEASON 53
Team Offense: Flex
Team Defense: 2-3 Zone
Likely Starting Lineup, (Season 52 Stats)
PG: John Bradley, Jr (30 GS, 8.3 pt, 3.7 ast, 1.2 stl)
SG: Arthur Leininger, Sr (0 GS, 2.3 pt, 32% FG, 21% FG3)
SF: Dustin Wills, Sr (31 GS, 9.7 pt, 6.1 reb)
PF: Martin Paiz, Sr (31 GS, 10.2 pt, 7.2 reb, 1.0 blk, 1.2 stl)
C: Eric Kerney, Jr (10 GS, 2.6 pt, 5.5 reb)
1st guard off the bench: Dennis Myers, So (5 GS, 2.4 pt)
1st post off the bench: Bryan Vaden, So (29 GS, 5.3 pt, 53 FG%, 6.1 reb)
Coming off back-to-back Final Four showings in what were widely expected to be rebuilding seasons in Waterville, Thomas will be looking for a threepeat showing in season 53. Most of the pieces are in place for a third run but nagging suspicions about the guard play will linger as the season progresses and it will take a true breakthrough season from Arthur Leininger to shut up critics of the team.
Thomas has a chance to be one of the elite defensive teams in D3. Thomas has good speed mixed with excellent athleticism and defensive skill and should win the battle of the boards in most games. Lack of shotblockers in the paint might slow Thomas down a bit but the rest of the strengths should be enough to minimize the lack of rejected shots. On the offensive side there will be more questions than answers, at least at the start of the season. Thomas has a very good point guard but nobody else on the roster that has good ball distribution skills. That one player is one more than can shoot the deep ball – Thomas currently has zero deep threats on the roster and will be counting on Arthur Leininger and his career 17% three point shooting to keep defenses from loading the paint. Then again, defenses might not have any huge need to load up inside since Thomas does not currently look to be much better at scoring in the low post. There is scoring talent on the roster but at the start of season 53, coach kujayhawk has done a poor job of harnessing it.
Thomas has an excellent chance of being one of the top dozen teams in D3. Thomas has a real chance of making it to a third straight Final Four. Thomas does not seem to have much of a shot of winning a North Atlantic Conference title. As good as Thomas looks to be, Mount Ida seems to be a notch or two ahead at most spots on the roster.
After leading the Terriers to 28 wins last season as a sophomore starting point guard, John Bradley will be expected to repeat last season’s performance. He has a good shot at doing so as he still has a lot of room for improvement in his game. Only his low post play still has high potential but if he can develop that skill he might be a 1st team all North Atlantic player. Bradley never will be able to shoot jumpers on a consistent basis but he’s beginning to show some real talent in the post. Bradley also has normal room for growth in athleticism, speed, defense, and passing. He’s currently a very good point guard. He has a chance to be great.
Arthur Leininger has been a terrible guard and has a chance to be decent. His shooting woes have been documented but he did play 17 minutes a game for a Thomas team that performed quite well last season. Leininger still has a lot of growth and for a senior that likely means talent will go untapped. Leininger currently can’t hit a three point shot if his life depended on it but he does have a perimeter rating of 68 and is high potential. He won’t max out his shooting skills but by season’s end he might be a tiny threat. In addition to the shooting potential, Leininger has average room for growth still in speed, defense, ball handling, and passing. Given that Thomas desperately needs outside shooting and almost as much needs another passing guard, Thomas’s success probably is counting on Leininger as much as anybody. Given his three season track record, that’s a very scary proposal.
Dennis Myers will be the first guard off the bench. Right now Myers does nothing particularly well but he also does not have any holes in his game. As a sophomore, Myers’ athleticism is already close to peaking but he has average room for growth in speed and defense and has large room for improvement in his shooting, ball handling and passing. John Bradley is expected to play major minutes at the point for Thomas but Myers ability to run the show when Bradley gets a breather will be important in conference play.
Cory Bjorklund is the worst passing guard seen in the past 30 seasons of Thomas Terrier basketball. That said, he does have big upside in his passing skills and he might only be making one or two cringe worthy passes a game by season’s end compared to the half dozen or so he currently makes per game. Thomas desperately needs outside shooting and Bjorklund has the potential to be that guy but there might not be enough time in the season to turn his 52 perimeter rating into a good jump shooter. In addition to his high room for growth in shooting and passing, Bjorklund also can dramatically improve his athleticism and ball handling while also having some upside with speed. The redshirt freshman is already maxed out in defense but with a 62 rating should be just fine on the defensive end.
It took 4 seasons but the massive potential of Dustin Wills finally translated to basketball skill last season. Averaging 10 and 6 with amazing defense, Wills will be looking to improve on those numbers as a senior. Wills won’t be able get much better. He still has some decent room for improvement in speed and defense but everything other talent according to coaches is pretty much at his full potential.
Backing up Dustin Wills will be Lee Brown. Given Brown’s guard skills and the weakness of the Thomas backcourt, Brown might see as much time spelling Bradley and Leininger as he does giving Wills a breather. As a sophomore, Brown is already a nifty player but word around the North Atlantic is that he could be the conference’s next superstar. Brown won’t be able to improve much on his jumper but he has the ability to vastly improve his speed, defense, low post game, ball handling, and passing. And if he doesn’t spend all his time trying to improve those aspects of his game, he should be able to also improve his athleticism and rebounding somewhat. Brown has a decent case to be starting for Thomas but will need to wait one more season for Dustin Wills to graduate before fully getting his chance to shine.
Coaches from the North Atlantic liked what they saw in Martin Paiz, selecting his as 2nd team All-Conference. The national media liked him a lot more, choosing him to last season’s 3rd team All-American team. This season the senior is 1st team preseason All-American and will need to improve his stat line if he is to keep that honor at season’s end. Paiz is mostly a finished product so it will be difficult to improve much on the numbers. Paiz has some ability to improve his rebounding, shot blocking, and low post game. He also has the ability to somewhat improve his passing skills and since Thomas’ guards lack passing skills, don’t be surprised to see Thomas often run their offense through Paiz.
Eric Kerney was in the middle of a bit of controversy last season as the expected starting center found himself on the bench for most of last season. Rumor had it that coach kujayhawk was so desperate to land center recruit Bryan Vaden, he went ahead and promised Kerney’s starting spot to Vaden. The snub did not stop Kerney from improving his game and he appears to have won the starting nod as a junior. Despite last season’s improvement, Kerney still has a lot of room to improve as a player. No skills are maxed out and Kerney seems to have extraordinary room for development in his rebounding and low post game. Since Kerney’s low post skills are currently embarrassingly poor for a college player, do not expect him to be setting any scoring records in his Junior campaign.
After starting as a true freshman, Bryan Vaden will have to get used to entering games off the bench. Vaden came to campus with a lot of talent and as he enters his sophomore campaign, there is only limited amounts of improvement. Only Vaden’s speed is truly limited but all his other skill categories seem to just have normal amounts of improvement which for a true sophomore is a bit surprising. Thomas’ coaches aren’t as surprised by the lack of areas for big development noting that when a player has as much work ethic as Vaden has, often players will see their biggest improvements as true freshman even as they adjust to college life.
As a four year Junior, Clinton Schweiger would be starting for 80% of Division Three schools but he finds himself as the second big off the bench at Thomas. Despite being good enough to start right now, Schweiger has the ability to get much better. Only his athleticism is limited and his low post game still shows great room for improvement. With a current low post rating of 67, if he can fully develop his down low skills, Thomas may have found its first dominant inside scorer since season 50.
Playing as a true freshman, don’t expect Al Brogden to see the court much. Instead, Brogden will take full advantage of practices against Paiz-Kerney-Vaden-Schweiger as he looks to improve his game for when he might see court time as a sophomore.