Basketball prepares for season opener
It may have just been a scrimmage, but the Cajuns’ basketball team played well against West Florida and gained much-needed experience for its fairly young roster.
The Cajuns are returning only five players from last year’s club, with three of those being starters: Senior guard Jay Wright, junior guard Johnathan Stove and junior forward Bryce Washington.
Head basketball coach Bob Marlin said the scrimmage against West Florida helped the team get some rhythm.
“I thought the dynamic between our younger guys and our older guys was good,” Marlin said. “The older guys and our transfers have done a nice job in leading our younger guys. There’s going to be some growing pains … That’s what this game was for.”
But the real test starts Friday when the Cajuns travel to take on Minnesota to start the season, and it’s time to find out what life after Shawn Long, or any standout, is like.
Long was a star for the Cajuns for the past few seasons, and prior to that, the team’s standout was the Orlando Magic’s Elfrid Payton, who was the 10th pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. This is the first season in recent memory that the Cajuns will be going into the start of the season without a real stud to bear the load.
That said, the three returning starters were significant contributors but will be needed to tackle more with the absence of Long.
Washington, the Cajuns’ primary forward, contributed heavily on defense last season. He averaged 8.7 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Wright, the Cajuns’ only senior, and Stove averaged 8.9 points per game in the 2015-2016 season and should be primed to repeat their success.
But beyond that, there are a lot of question marks.
Scott Plaisance and Jacob Broussard are the only additional returning players, but they saw limited playing time last season.
Larenz Stalcup, a 6-foot-11-inch junior college transfer, will be tasked with filling Long’s shoes this season.
The Cajuns may need early contributions from BYU transfer Frank Bartley, also. Other than that, various freshmen and redshirt freshmen will be asked to step up and contribute from the bench.
In the Cajuns’ Red vs. White scrimmage a few freshmen put up some solid numbers. Freshman Justin Miller led the Red team with 20 points, and two 2017-2018 SEC transfers, Marcus Stroman from South Carolina and JaKeenan Gant from Mizzou, also contributed heavily, putting up 20 and 19 points respectively and 10 rebounds each. However, neither player is eligible to play in the 2016-2017 season.
Marlin said he was happy with the way the teams’ played against each other.
“I liked the way that we shared the ball and played together,” Marlin said. “I liked the competitiveness of the game.”
With all of the young talent on the Cajuns’ roster, it may take a little while for the team to catch up to speed. But with just one senior on the team and two SEC transfers eligible in 2017-2018, next season may be more hopeful.
The Cajuns’ first home game is on Nov. 17, against Panhandle State at Blackham Coliseum due to renovations to the Cajundome. The Cajuns will return to the Cajundome on Dec. 1 against Nicholls State.