Looking at UNT’s men’s basketball roster

Jordan Williams, center, will be one of the key players North Texas has returning next season when the Mean Green will have seven seniors. (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

UNT picked up a commitment from Tyler Junior College point guard Todd Eaglin last night. I talked to both Eaglin and his coach and went over what they had to say on the blog.

UNT added three players in the early signing period and lost three seniors at the end of its first season in Conference USA.

Now seems like as good a time as any for a status update/look at the roster:

Players lost:

SG/PG Alzee Williams – The senior guard averaged 11.1 points a game, 2.4 rebounds a game, 45 assists

SG Brandan Walton -– The senior guard averaged 7.2 points a game, team-high 42 3s

SG Vertrail Vaughns -– The senior guard averaged 7.3 points a game, 1.4 rebounds a game, 36 assists

Players added

PF Jeremy Combs – The 6-7 Carter standout averaged 21.2 points and 12.3 rebounds a game as a senior. Top 20 high school player in the state.

PG Todd Eaglin – The 5-11 Tyler JC product averaged 15.2 points and 7.6 assists a game last season.

SG DeAndre Harris – The 6-3 guard sat out last season after playing one season at Tyler Junior College

SG Carrington Ward – The 6-2 guard averaged 16.0 points a game and shot 31.7 percent from 3-point range last season.

SF Greg Wesley – The 6-7 forward sat out last season while he worked to become academically eligible.

Players returning

SG/SF Maurice Aniefiok – The 6-5 shooting guard/small forward showed great potential while averaging 6.7 points a game and shooting 37.1 percent from 3-point range

SG/SF Jordan Williams – The 6-6 shooting guard/small forward led UNT with an average of 12.0 points a game and also posted 6.3 rebounds a game

PG Chris Jones – The 6-2 point guard averaged 7.5 points a game and handed out a team-high 127 assists

PF Armani Flannigan – The 6-8 power forward struggled to make the transition from the JUCO level and averaged 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds a game while playing just 10.0 minutes a game

C Keith Coleman – The 6-10 center averaged 3.0 points and 3.4 rebounds a game.

PF Colin Voss – The 6-7 power forward was arguably UNT’s best post player and averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

C Kelvin Gaines – The 6-10 center struggled to come back from foot surgery and averaged 0.6 points and 1.5 rebounds a game

SG T.J. Taylor – The 6-3 shooting guard showed flashes of the potential that made him one of the top high school recruits in Texas coming out of Denison while averaging 7.0 points a game.

So where does that leave UNT?

Well, for one, it leaves UNT with the NCAA limit of 13 scholarship players on the roster. If UNT adds anyone from here on out, it’s going to have to lose someone in the process.

UNT has had a few players depart in the off-season the last couple of years, including Clarke Overlander and P.J. Hardwick.

UNT could have a few more moves to make, but let’s assume that UNT sticks with the players it has. Here are the key issues that UNT faced heading into the off-season after finishing 16-16 overall and 11th in the conference standings at 6-10 and thoughts on how UNT has fared.

Power in the paint: UNT ranked 14th out of 16 teams in Conference USA play with an average deficit of 2.9 rebounds a game in league play. Voss was solid and averaged 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Gaines, Flannigan and Coleman combined for 191 rebounds on the season. Shooting guard/small forward Jordan Williams picked up 202 by himself to lead the Mean Green. UNT has to be better inside. The hope is that Wesley and especially Combs will make a huge difference. Both are not the biggest guys at 6-7 and 6-6, respectively, but are supposed to be tenacious. They had better be because they are going to face bigger front lines in C-USA. UNT will also hope that Gaines and Coleman can improve.

Replacing backcourt production: Alzee Williams was an under-appreciated player during his time at UNT. Williams finished his career among the top 20 scorers in school history, averaged 11.1 points a game as a senior and was also UNT’s second-best ball-handler behind Jones. UNT picked up Eaglin to help with the point guard duties and brought in Harris and Ward in the hope that they can help carry the scoring load. UNT not only has to replace the 11.1 points a game Williams provided, but also must find a way to replace Vaughns and Walton, who posted 7.3 and 7.2 points a game respectively. That is a lot of scoring to replace. UNT’s best bet might be Taylor reaching his potential, but at least the Mean Green has a few more options.

Finding long-term help: UNT is facing a huge rebuilding project after this season. Every coach approaches those situations differently. Some coaches prefer to sign high school players who are around for four years. Others like the JUCO/transfer model. Some go with a combination of both. There is nothing wrong with any of those approaches. The bottom line is the product. UNT will have to reload after this season. The addition of Combs and Wesley were huge. JUCO players are often a boom-or-bust proposition. UNT is betting heavily on the fact that Eaglin, Harris and Ward will produce at a high level and fare better than Coleman and Flannigan have to this point.

Bottom line – UNT’s hope is to contend next season in Conference USA, which is going to be tough with UTEP, Louisiana Tech and Southern Miss all on a roll. The Mean Green has made a few key moves to address some of its needs. Wesley and Combs are great additions and long-term solutions heading into a year UNT will have seven seniors. After back-to-back seasons at 12-20 and 16-16, UNT clearly needs a winning season and has rolled the dice on a few high-risk, high-reward JUCO additions. How those players fare will play a huge role in how the next few years go for UNT.

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