UNT men’s basketball look-ahead Part I (who’s gone)

North Texas senior Roger Franklin (32) drives as Arkansas State forward Kendrick Washington defends earlier this season at the Super Pit Franklin is one of the key players UNT is losing to graduation. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

The Sun Belt Conference tournament final between Western Kentucky and Florida International is underway. A lot of people thought a year ago that UNT would be playing tonight. The Mean Green was bounced in the first round by Louisiana-Lafayette instead.

So, what are UNT’s prospects moving forward?

That’s something we will take a look at over the next few days on the blog.

First off, a disclaimer.

Tony Mitchell said after UNT’s loss to ULL that he would make a decision on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft after meeting with his coaches and family. UNT’s prospects will hinge largely on Mitchell’s decision.

There has been some talk among the UNT faithful that this team might be better off without Mitchell.

My take?

That’s nuts.

Mitchell is a once in a lifetime talent at a place like UNT or most anywhere else not named Texas, Duke, North Carolina or Syracuse. He averaged 13.0 points and 8.5 rebounds a game with multiple guys hanging all over him while playing for a team with no – and I mean no – outside shooting from anyone else other than Jordan Williams.

Even if we count Mitchell as TBD (to be determined) UNT lost quite a bit. Here’s the damage:

SF/PF Roger Franklin — 11.7 points, 6.3 rebounds a game
SF Jacob Holmen — 5.6 points, 3.5 rebounds a game (15 games played)
SF Justin Patton — 3.2 points, 1.7 rebounds a game (19 games played)
SF/PF Niko Stojiljkovic — 2.6 points, 2.4 rebounds a game

The obvious guy UNT is going to miss the most out of that group is Franklin. The Oklahoma State transfer was UNT’s third-leading scorer, second leading rebounder, and perhaps most importantly, he was the glue that held the team together.

Roger would walk off the court every day and yell out to his teammates how much he loved them. When UNT needed a strong voice in the locker room, Franklin was it. He was assigned to be Mitchell’s roommate when they first arrived at UNT.

That wasn’t a coincidence.

Who is the guy UNT leans on next year? It could be Brandan Walton, Jordan Williams, Chris Jones or a couple of other guys.

Whoever it is will have some big shoes to fill.

And we have not even addressed what UNT will miss from Franklin as a player.

Roger wasn’t the biggest guy out there, but he scored in the paint and rebounded even though he was listed as a guard. Even if Mitchell comes back, UNT is in a world of hurt in the frontcourt. Mitchell and Keith Coleman are the only forwards/centers scheduled to return next year.

Stojiljkovic, Holmen and Patton were not top-end players at UNT. The easy thing to do is say that they will be easy to replace.

That might not be the case. All three were between 6-foot-7 and 6-foot-9.

The assumption was that Coleman would see major playing time coming out of junior college, but averaged just 8.5 minutes a game.

UNT ended up with Coleman when JUCO All-American and former UNT signee John Odo decided to follow Johnny Jones to LSU, where he sat out last season.

UNT appeared to have a couple of junior college players on the way to help fill the void left by Franklin and the other forwards the team lost to graduation. Anthony Norris and Arthur Casmiro committed to UNT, but have since dropped out of junior college.

UNT has high school signees Tony Nunn, Josh Friar and Greg Wesley coming in. Nunn is a highly regarded center, Friar is listed as a power forward and Wesley a small forward. Wesley is a top 10 player in the state and Friar a top 50 guy.

They had better be ready. UNT could pull a rabbit or two out of the hat late to fill some holes, but even if it does, that trio will have to contribute.

And the quartet led by Franklin might not be the only players UNT sees depart.

It’s not uncommon for players to transfer out of programs, especially when one is talking about a team coming off a coaching change.

I’m not saying that will be the case with UNT, but it is something to keep in mind.

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