Here are five things we’re watching for as UALR touches down in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, this afternoon for three games in the Great White North. They'll play Thursday vs. Calgary, Friday vs. Alberta and Saturday vs. Calgary.
I think we saw the ability of sophomore point guard Josh Hagins to lead the team at times last year. We’d expect him to take a step forward with a year of experience under him. But we’re also watching for newcomers Devonte Smith and J.T. Thomas. Both are junior college transfers. Both are known for their ability to lead. We want to see no dropoff when switching from one to another.
It would probably be easier to tell you who doesn’t have a chance to compete for minutes at the 2 guard position. But the important aspect is that someone, and maybe more than just one, needs to claim this spot. Junior Ben Dillard would seem to have the inside track. Smith and Thomas could also see some time here. Sophomore Kemy Osse should get a real look. And even though they may be more 3s than 2s, junior Leroy Isler, sophomore Stetson Billings and freshman Mareik Isom could get a look here. It’s open for somebody to claim these minutes.
Will To Win
Senior Will Neighbour has battled injuries throughout his career. Knock on wood, he’s healthy now. And he has the opportunity to be an elite player in the Sun Belt Conference.
“As good as he was last year, we have to do a better job of getting him better looks this season,” UALR Coach Steve Shields said. “Will was forced to make a lot of difficult shots last season. In these practices, he’s been much more aggressive with the ball and that aggressiveness is earning him more trips to the foul line. He’s always been a guy who could shoot it, a player that could stretch to the three-point line, but we want to figure out ways to get him some easier baskets this year.”
James White started last season like he was playing with his hair on fire. He was everywhere in the first month of the season. Then he wasn’t -- for most of the rest of the season. If White plays with phenomenal energy, there’s no way you can keep him off the court.
Michael Javes is gone. Walk-on Mike Evans is gone. Freshman Andrew Poulter is hurt (hopefully he’ll be back during the regular season). Other than Will Neighbour, junior Gus Leeper is the only player taller than 6-8. UALR once had an abundance of size that is no longer on campus. We want to see Gus Leeper play like Gus Leeper. The same Gus Leeper that dominated the 2011 Sun Belt Tournament.