Youthful basketball team looks to older players
The Ragin’ Cajuns’ men’s basketball team opened their season Friday night in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in an 86-74 loss.
The Cajuns were led offensively by freshman forward Justin Miller, who scored 21 points in his collegiate debut. Miller was one of six players to make his Division I debut for the Cajuns.
Junior Bryce Washington also had a good game as he notched his fourth career double-double, as he added 16 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort.
The Cajuns’ youth will be an obstacle all season with the Cajuns returning only three players from last year’s squad, who played meaningful minutes.
“We had five freshmen on the floor to end the half and there were a couple of mistakes,” said head coach Bob Marlin.
The Cajuns spent much of the game in foul trouble, so the Golden Gophers spent much of the game in the bonus, meaning they got to shoot free throws every time they were fouled. The Cajuns had three different players foul out of Friday’s game.
“We’ve just got some growing pains that we’re going to have to fight through… especially with the foul trouble,” Marlin said.
The Cajuns will return home for three of their next four games, starting Thursday at the historic Blackham Coliseum, as they take on the Aggies from Panhandle State. The Cajuns’ will then take on the Delaware State Hornets, before going on the road for a one-game trip to Virginia to play the James Madison Dukes. Lastly, the Cajuns’ will return home for their final game at Blackham against the Texas Southern Tigers, before returning to the Cajundome.
With the Cajuns returning only 33.8 percent of its scoring from last year, they will be looking for some of the younger guys to step up, including redshirt freshman guard Kadavion Evans.
Evans scored 11 points in his collegiate debut for the Cajuns in only 14 minutes of action.
The Cajuns will also be looking for contributions from the only senior on the team, guard Jay Wright. Wright was named to the preseason Sun Belt all-conference third-team.
The Cajuns will have to continue to look for an offensive identity without a main go-to guy like Shawn Long, who lead the conference and the team in scoring last year.
That guy could be Bryce Washington, who has shown glimpses of that ability in the past. Washington only averaged 8.7 points per game last year, but he was often playing second fiddle to fellow big man Long. Washington showed as much when he scored 21 points while pulling down 10 rebounds against Georgia State last year.
Regardless of who steps up, the Cajuns will have to hope that the blend of youth with experienced players will mesh well enough to win basketball games.
“The older guys and our transfers have done a nice job in leading our younger guys,” said Marlin. “There’s going to be some growing pains.”