Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Starting Five: All-Americans, Walk-Ons, and RIPs

At least a couple of times a week, you can look forward to TBI producing the Starting Five, links to five stories that catch the eye and beg for comment. We start this week with a melancholy moment for a player already struggling to work himself back into game shape.

1. Kevin Parrom's Mother Passes Away
Arizona swingman Kevin Parrom already had his own rehabilitation from gunshot wounds to worry about. At the same time, his mother was "in the final stages" of her fight with cancer. Sunday night, Lisa Williams lost that battle.

Parrom was home in New York to visit her when he was shot last month. The last time he saw her was when he went back to the Bronx to identify the shooting suspect and meet with a grand jury.

Combining this and his rehab, many of us might be inclined to take a season off. Unfortunately, Parrom might not have much choice in the matter. That brings us to number 2, and other on-court stuff after the jump.

2. Five Questions for Arizona
Parrom's health is a big variable for Sean Miller's club, even though he would seem to be a third guard or backup small forward right now. Parrom ranked in the top 50 nationally in Ken Pomeroy's offensive rating, and if Miller could find him the minutes, whether over or alongside touted freshman Nick Johnson, he would be able to expect production in case Johnson struggled. Now, Parrom could be in uniform for the 2011 opener against Valparaiso...or we may not seem him until the 2012 opener.

Other issues include post defense, which will be problematic considering Kyryl Natyazhko's offensive limitations and Alex Jacobson's balky back. Four-fifths of Arizona's starting lineup could be freshmen, especially if Sidiki Johnson and Angelo Chol are the only post players who distinguish themselves.

Bruce Pascoe is concerned that MoMo Jones' transfer to Iona will rob the Cats of their "swagger." If I'm given the choice of a 45% effective FG rate and lots of swagger, or a quiet, humble dude who shoots at a 60% effective rate (like Kevin Parrom, for example), I'll take the humble dude. Sean Miller weighs in on the leadership issue, saying that the leaders will be "the players who have been here the longest" AND "the guys who play the most." So, yeah, on this team that'll pretty much cover everyone. Thanks, Coach.

3. Hope You Ordered Dessert, Festus
Vanderbilt has its most legit low-post man since Will Perdue, and...an alumnus shows gratitude by offering him a dinner and hotel room. So, Vandy won't have Festus Ezeli until November 28 against Xavier.

If this were most of the other SEC schools, which book enough cake games to give Duff Goldman diabetes, Ezeli's suspension would be welcomed as a way to avoid injury and wear. But, Vandy's put together a "we're serious national contenders" kind of slate, and so the loss of Festus could hurt.

Festus will miss the opener against Oregon, but a Vandy loss there will still be an enormous upset unless Dana Altman does the coaching job of his life. Seven of Oregon's 12 scholarship players are freshmen or transfers, including the notorious Tony Woods, memorably dismissed from Wake Forest. Blending those elements together and pulling a win over Vandy would give Altman a big first feather in multiple COY races.

Cleveland State and Bucknell are both sneaky low-majors, but both are also breaking in replacements for strong point guards. Bucknell's Mike Muscala would have been a great opponent for Ezeli. Still, both games are at Memorial Gym.

Next is a trip to New Jersey for the TicketCity Legends Classic, and the Commodores will face N.C. State. The Wolfpack has a potential All-ACC performer in C.J. Leslie and a brutish rebounder in 260-pound junior Richard Howell. Howell was sixth in the nation in offensive rebounding percentage last season, but he also committed a foul every eight minutes. He could wage a great battle with Steve "Back On the" Tchiengang and Rod Odom, or he could play 14 minutes and foul out.

A loss to the Pack would likely lead to facing off with Oregon State. They still need to prove they can play The First Brother-in-Law's 1-3-1 defense.

Beating N.C. State would probably pit Vandy against Texas. Texas has to completely restock the cupboard around gunner J'Covan Brown. Veteran bigs Alexis Wangmene and Clint Chapman could have an easier time on the boards with no Ezeli, but other than those three, the Horns are all still calves. Freshman Jonathan Holmes might have a say in that game's outcome.

Then, Vandy returns home to play Monmouth. Win.

So, Vanderbilt could still have a good chance to be 6-0 without their All-SEC center, including a couple of power conference victories. It's not doom and gloom, but the news could be better.

4. Johnnies Buying the Want Ad
Lots of schools have tryouts for walk-ons, but at St. John's, there's a little extra urgency. 26 guys came to try out for Steve Lavin's staff, and there's a possibility that as many as five could make the roster.

The three freshmen who made WalkOnPalooza more urgent by being declared ineligible for the fall semester could still rejoin the team in December, and two of them attended the tryout. Still, unless the Red Storm want to go into the season with only seven eight warm bodies (Why not, it worked for Ohio State last year?), it was time to survey the general public.

Steve Lavin has a rep for being very walk-on friendly, so these guys couldn't find themselves in a better place to be the human victory cigar that the whole student section chants for at game's end. Smart money is on Harlem's Jody Card, who just finished four years in the Army including a year in Iraq. Five or six guys in camo and face paint calling themselves something like Card's Cadets? Or just the Cardets? You read it here first.

5. All-American Argument
CBS Sports' Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman had themselves a nice debate over Player of the Year, finally settling on Jared Sullinger. Yawn. Not a knock on Sully, as he'll be even more of a force with his new, streamlined body (available at Sharper Image for $99.95? Please?). Still, for all the talent in college ball right now, it's either Sully or Barnes, unless you're one of the freshman-worshippers who want to anoint Anthony Davis before he's even stepped on the court. POY's a boring debate right now.

The P&G All-America teams are a little bit less predictable, but perhaps not in all the right ways. John Jenkins and Thomas Robinson make the first team ahead of Tu Holloway and Perry Jones. Bah.

I dig Jenkins as a shooter, but is Jeffery Taylor going to bogart too many of his chances? Probably. Holloway would give the All-American team two point guards, because I'm not about to argue with Jordan Taylor. Still, Holloway will have more impact than any guard in America on his team's success this season, with the possible exception of Taylor himself.

Robinson's a brute, and he could easily be The Man now that the Morris twins are gone. Still, Jones is already The Man in Waco, and has been since day one. Other than his five-game suspension to start the year, he'll be a threat to dominate every game he's in.

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