We will continue our look-ahead series on the UNT men’s basketball team today by examining who returns — or at least has eligibility remaining — heading into next season.
Yesterday, we look at the four seniors who are departing.
And let’s repeat our disclaimer — Tony Mitchell is a category of his own, one I will talk about later. Mitchell is going to decide in the next few weeks if he will come back for his junior year or declare for the NBA draft.
Here are the players UNT could/should have back and their key statistics:
G/F Jordan Williams, Jr. — 14.2 points, 3.7 rebounds a game
SG/PG Alzee Williams, Sr. — 11.1 points, 3.4 rebounds a game
PG Chris Jones, Jr. — 9.2 points a game, 74 assists (16 games)
SG Brandan Walton, Sr. — 8.8 points a game, 54 3s made on 36.7 percent shooting from behind the arc (stats from 2011-12 season)
PG P.J. Hardwick, So. — 3.7 points a game, 81 assists
C Keith Coleman, Jr. — 1.3 points, 1.6 rebounds a game
G Clarke Overlander, So. — 1.1 points, 7-for-46 from 3-point range
SG T.J. Taylor — transfer from Marquette and Oklahoma who sat out last year
UNT has the basis of a pretty good backcourt coming back.
Jordan Williams was arguably an all-conference caliber player in the Sun Belt last season and really came on late in the year after sitting out the last half of the 2011-12 season.
Chris Jones played essentially half the year — again — after breaking his foot in a loss to Western Kentucky, but was an elite point guard in the Sun Belt the first half of the year.
Alzee Williams is like a Swiss Army knife. He can play the point, play off the ball and is a really good defender.
P.J. Hardwick also turned out to be a pretty effective point guard after being forced into action about halfway through the season when Jones went down with a broken foot.
We heard all year about how T.J. Taylor would help solve UNT’s shooting problems when he became eligible next season after transferring from Marquette.
UNT’s shooting problems came about in the first place because Brandan Walton broke his foot in the Mean Green’s season-opening loss to Creighton. He will be back next year and is a player with a proven track record.
With those guys returning, UNT would have a backcourt rotation that looks something like this:
PG — Jones, Hardwick
SG — Walton/Taylor (this could flip flop depending on how things play out)
SF — J. Williams/A. Williams
That would be a pretty solid look overall. UNT head coach Tony Benford said before the season started that he thinks Jones is a Big East quality point guard. Hardwick has shown he can handle the ball and started to come on offensively late in the season when he scored at least eight points in three out of four games beginning with a win over Florida International in early February.
The combination of Jordan Williams, Alzee Williams, Walton and Taylor would give UNT some additional shooting, depth and options on the wings. Benford said over and over again that UNT struggled defensively on the perimeter. UNT didn’t shoot well from outside either.
The return of Walton alone would be a huge upgrade for UNT. Taylor is one of the wildcards, maybe the most important one of all entering next season. Taylor was a top 20 player in the state as a senior at Denison, but has never found a home. He started at Oklahoma, transferred to Marquette, left and arrived at UNT. He has not played competitive basketball since playing a season at Paris JC in 2011-12, when he was an NJCAA third-team All-American. Plus he is coming off major shoulder surgery.
If Taylor pans out, would make UNT’s backcourt pretty formidable.
That would give UNT two top scorers in Jordan Williams and Taylor, a high-level point guard in Jones, a capable backup point in Hardwick and a utility guy in Alzee Williams who averaged 11 points a game as a junior, not to mention a shooter in Walton.
The question is where Overlander fits in. UNT recruited him in the Johnny Jones era and planned to develop him as a shooter. He he has good size at size at 6-5 and a good-looking stroke, but never got into a groove. Having Walton go down didn’t help the former Argyle standout. He would have been the perfect player to use in spots as he made the transition from Class 3A basketball. Instead, Walton went down and Overlander was suddenly the one of the few shooters available along with Jacob Holmen, who also was later lost for the year.
Now Overlander comes back to a team with a whole lot of pressure to win and a whole lot of guys in front of him. You wonder what his role will be.
One also has to wonder about the status of Alzee Williams after he was suspended for UNT’s Sun Belt tourney game.
The one guy who does not have a lot of guys in front of him is Keith Coleman. UNT was set to get JUCO All-American John Odo to put next to Mitchell before he backed out and followed Johnny Jones to LSU. UNT picked up Coleman as his replacement, but saw him play only sparingly as a sophomore. Coleman has all the physical tools one is looking for, but he averaged 1.3 points and 1.6 rebounds a game. Coleman didn’t score in 15 of the 30 games he played. He posted at least four rebounds in three of the first four games of the season, but reached that mark just twice in the rest of the year.
Even if Mitchell comes back, UNT won’t bring a lot back in the frontcourt after losing Roger Franklin, Niko Stojiljkovic, Jacob Holmen and Justin Patton. Granted, Holmen and Patton only played part of the season, but the void is still rather glaring.
It would do UNT a world of good if Coleman develops into a contributor in the off-season.
All in all, it looks like UNT has some pieces to work with, but one has to wonder if this batch of returning players all end up on the roster again next year. UNT has already spent three scholarships on high school forwards and centers and really needs an influx of JUCO frontcourt help. This team can’t depend on a bunch of high school guys to carry the load if Mitchell leaves.
The group of players UNT has back could look a whole lot different by the fall.