Friar Basketball

Four Friars Named to Final Pan Am Roster

Pan Am Roster

After a week of practice, Ed Cooley and a collection of Big East stars flew to Peru on Saturday to represent the United States at the Pan American Games.

Four Friars made the final roster, with senior Alpha Diallo, junior Nate Watson, and sophomores David Duke and AJ Reeves getting the nod. Incoming transfer Luwane Pipkins looked as though he was going to make the team before a knee injury kept him out of practice last week.

Here are the prospects for playing time and potential roles for each of the four Friars.

Alpha Diallo: Diallo figures to start and log heavy minutes throughout the tournament, and could return to the role in which he excelled as a sophomore — a secondary scorer who rebounds and defends well for a 6’7 wing. The scoring load should be carried guards Myles Powell of Seton Hall and Ty-Shon Alexander of Creighton, both of whom are terrific outside shooters. Powell will likely garner preseason All American consideration in the fall.

Diallo and Villanova wing Jermaine Samuels will both offer inside-out versatility and physicality on the wings. Samuels is a more effective outside shooter than Diallo, whereas Diallo is better creating offense from 15 feet and in and on the offensive glass.

Nate Watson: The two Big East graduates on the roster are both interior players — 7’0, 240 pound center Geoffrey Groselle (Creighton) and former Butler center Tyler Wideman. Watson was clearly the best offensive player of the group in Wednesday’s exhibition, and like Diallo, he should see heavy minutes. The 6’8 Wideman is a stout defender, whereas Groselle is an experienced big body the US will need while playing against a field of professionals. Watson is the best athlete of the three by a large margin.

David Duke: How much fun would a backcourt of Powell and Marquette’s Markus Howard have been to watch had Marquette players been available for the trip? Like Powell, Howard will likely be named a preseason All American, but the Golden Eagles are off to Spain and France in August.

Instead, Cooley will likely rely heavily on the steady hand of Villanova junior Collin Gillespie at point guard. Gillespie is a bit of a game manager, a player who gets his nose dirty defensively and is capable of making a handful of 3-pointers in a game, but does not do so on a nightly basis.

The loss of Pipkins opens up time at the one, where Alexander may see some time next week. Duke played off the ball for long stretches in Wednesday’s scrimmage, but still led the team with nine assists. At 6’5 and nearly 200 pounds, Duke may project at the best defensive guard on the team, and will see playing time due to his potential on that side of the ball. Powell has said on more than one occasion this week that Duke has been the player that has most surprised him in practice, citing Duke’s high level athleticism. Powell did not realize how athletic he was prior to last week.

Duke could see some time at lead guard, but the guess here is a majority of his minutes will come at the off guard or wing.

AJ Reeves: Originally thought to be an alternate, Reeves made the most of his limited minutes in Wednesday’s scrimmage, scoring 10 points in nine minutes of action. He knocked down a pair of 3-pointers, flushed an alley oop from Duke, and converted a layup as first half came to an end.

Reeves did not see any action until there was a minute to play in the first half, but his scoring outburst had to at least have caught the coaching staff’s attention, as his ability to immediately bury two or three 3-pointers in quick succession could help turn the tide in Peru.

The issue for Reeves is that the staff will likely lean on veterans in Powell and Alexander, who bring similar deep shooting punch. Then you factor in the physical Mustapha Heron (6’5, 220) of St. John’s and Seton Hall’s Myles Cale, who brings a relentlessly attacking offensive approach, and the backcourt is the most crowded spot on the roster.

Regardless, it was hard for Friar fans not to be excited as they watched Reeves heat up on Wednesday.

Looking Ahead 

Team USA will play five games in five days in Lima, beginning on July 31 when they open against the Virgin Islands. They will then take on Venezuela on Aug. 1 and Puerto Rico Aug. 2 before medal round play begins on Aug. 3-4.

There are eight teams competing overall, with two pools of four teams. The top two teams in each pool will qualify for the medal round.

Here are highlights from Wednesday’s scrimmage from the Big East.

2 Comments

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