If you haven’t already heard, Richmond native Andrew White III has decided to leave Nebraska and play his final season elsewhere. Just like Korey Billbury last year, he’s a graduate transfer, which means that he’s eligible right away. While several high-profile teams are after him, VCU is reportedly very much in play. The addition of White in Richmond would give the Rams a massive boost to what looks like a top 30 team in 2016-2017.
Despite the loss of experienced leaders Melvin Johnson and Korey Billbury to graduation along with Michael Gilmore to transfer, the next edition of VCU basketball is in excellent shape. By the end of last season, Jequan Lewis and Mo Alie-Cox refined both their individual and two-man games down to a science. Hamdy Mohammed improved his offensive game dramatically, becoming a nightmare in post-up situations. Johnny Williams proved late in the season that he could be relied on to run the offense and come up big in clutch situations, which will allow Lewis to play off the ball at times and score in bunches. Word on the street is that newcomers Samir Doughty and DeRiante Jenkins are ready to step in and help immediately at the 2 and 3. So if VCU looks to be such a well-oiled machine this upcoming season, why would the addition of Andrew White III increase their collective stock so much?
1) Offensive Efficiency
Let’s get the obvious part out of the way: White is the very definition of an efficient guard with size. Never mind that he averaged 17 points a game last season; what’s more significant is that he had a Kenpom offensive efficiency rating of 118 and an effective field goal percentage of 58.8 percent. If those numbers don’t mean anything to you, this will: he shot 41 percent from three last season, which is even higher than Melvin Johnson last year. Did I mention that he’s tall? And a guard? Taller than Mo-Alie Cox, actually. Scary, right?
2) Let the Freshmen be Freshmen
Though Doughty and Jenkins look to be big contributors next year, it’s simply not fair to expect them to step in and be primary scoring threats for 30-40 minutes each night in November and December. Giving them the opportunity to step-in and relieve perimeter players against tired defenses gives them more opportunities to succeed in year one. I have every ounce of faith that they’ll both be all A-10 performers by their junior seasons. Heck, they may even get there in their second year. But for now, it’s essential for their growth if they are allowed to help in big ways instead of counted on to score in the biggest moments.
3) Jequan Lewis Would Have Tons of Floor Space to Work With
As we saw from January to March of last year, Jequan was magical with the ball and absolutely tortured defenses in half court sets. Most of this is due to the fact that the dude is plain gifted offensively (and defensively for that matter). But a part of it is that Melvin was such a huge deep threat that defenses could only help so much. Take a look at this clip against Oregon State last year:
In this clock-down situation, Alie-Cox sets a high ball screen in order to help Lewis get free so he can dart to the basket. But take a look at the bottom right hand corner of the screen. Melvin Johnson was camped out in the right corner. At the moment that Jequan got by the defender making the switch, Gary Payton II had to make a difficult choice: step in front of the basket and help or stay with Melvin. He chose the former, and as a result Lewis was all but guaranteed to score. Facing a tall 40 percent three point shooter like White that can shoot over just about any perimeter player, defenders would have to make the same choice, making Lewis all the more efficient.
Don’t get me wrong, Lewis, Alie-Cox and company are going be ready to roll this upcoming season. This team will be in their seventh straight NCAA tournament unless there are multiple significant injuries. The question is how far they are likely to go. As things stand now, they have a great shot at the program’s second ever Sweet 16 berth. But if they were to land White III, this team would have a very realistic chance of getting to Phoenix.