Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Evolution of James

The great work by Ken Pomeroy at the Basketball Prospectus has inspired me to analyze the crucial players for the Terps this basketball season. I'm going to start with perhaps my favorite player on the team and the most crucial to the success of this squad. The physical talents of James Gist have never been in doubt. He is a fantastic shot blocker and is explosive on the offensive side of the ball. When he decides to go strong to the basket there are few players who can stop him without resorting to fouling. He has developed a nice outside shot that few big men his size can match. He is a great leaper but also has a good touch around the basket. His biggest weakness has been his own tendency to defer to teammates too often. Tracking his progress from his freshman year gives us this chart:

YearPoints/40minRebounds/40mineFG%Off Rating

As you can see his progress has been more incremental than some fans would like but he has enjoyed steady progress and a similar improvement this year would make Gist a legitimate All-ACC kind of player. He learned from his Pan Am games experience that he needs to work harder if he is going to really improve. A very good sign for this coming season is that Gist's numbers actually went up in ACC play.

2006 SeasonPoints/40minRebounds/40mineFG%
Out of Conference17.210.853.6
ACC Games19.410.056.2

As you can see it was encouraging that Gist's numbers went up against the superior ACC competition when the weaknesses of most players get exposed. Gist, not Mike Jones, lead the Terrapins in scoring during the ACC schedule last season. It is also worth noting that he scored in double digits in 13 out of his last 14 games in 2006. He is learning how to be the main scorer on the team. Gist is not without weaknesses. He still needs to work on his rebounding as he gets too passive with his interior play sometimes. For a 70%+ free throw shooter he needs to get to the line more often. His lack of ability to draw fouls probably cost him almost two points per game in scoring. His free throw rate, a measure of how often he gets to the free throw line in relation to field goal attempts, was 37.0 according to Ken Pomeroy which puts him at the level of a perimeter player, for comparison Ekene Ibekwe had a 60.2 rate and Bambale Osby had a fantastic 71.9 even though both were inferior foul shooters. Gist also tended to have one very strong half and then go missing for large portions of the rest of the game. Consistency will be the key to his play this season, especially with all of Maryland's young players. The team will need reliable production from a veteran like Gist.

Mike DeCourcy declared he has given up on a breakout year for Gist but he may be getting off the bandwagon right when it is about to take off. I expect Gist will continue to raise his scoring and efficiency numbers this coming season with Ekene Ibekwe not around to suck up possessions.

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