Projecting UNT’s rotation in men’s hoops

Senior forward Jordan Williams should be a cornerstone of North Texas' starting lineup next season (Denton Record-Chronicle/David Minton)

This task brings to mind the old baseball bit, “Who’s on first?”

But since the dust has seemingly settled for the time being, it appears to be as good a time as any to look at where UNT stands with its basketball roster.

First a disclaimer — I asked if everyone on the roster is still around. I was told that is indeed the case. UNT is also still actively recruiting.

UNT has had a laundry list of players disappear into the night in the off-season over the years from Trey Norris (transferred to South Dakota), P.J. Hardwick (transferred to Arkansas State), Clarke Overlander (transferred to Arkansas Tech) and Josh Friar; recruits who never made it to campus or didn’t hang around for long like Tony Nunn and those who departed early, including Kelvin Gaines and Keith Coleman

With that being said, here’s where things stand:

Returning players:
Maurice Aniefiok, Jr., SF
Armani Flannigan, Sr., F
Chris Jones, Sr., PG
Jordan Williams, Sr., SF
Colin Voss, Sr., PF
T.J. Taylor, Sr., SG

Newcomers
Greg White-Pittman, Fr., CG
Muhammed Ahmed, Jr. F
Todd Eaglin, Jr., G
Jeremy Combs, Fr., F
DeAndre Harris, So, SG
Carrington Ward, Jr. G
Greg Wesley, Fr., F

UNT has some good new players to chose from and some key players returning. The question now if how (and if) all the pieces fit together.

Call me a skeptic, but I have a long-standing thought on projecting the success of teams on the college level. The more players a team is depending on to do what they have already shown they can do or improve slightly, the better its chance for success. The more players a team is talking about coming out of nowhere (high school of junior college) and contributing at a high level, the greater the chance of disappointment. Some guys come in and fare well right away. Some never pan out. Just the nature of how things go.

With that being said, here is now I project things to shake out:

PG – Chris Jones, Todd Eaglin

Thoughts: There has been a school of thought out there that Jones isn’t a good fit at point guard. I couldn’t disagree more. Jones ranks sixth in program history with 282 assists in 66 games. He might not be a pure, pass-first guard, but he’s also a guy who can score. And that has helped UNT, a lot. UNT won a couple of games, including one against Rice in the Conference USA tournament because it could isolate Jones and let him get to the paint. UNT signed Eaglin out of Tyler JC to provide another option. Eaglin ranked third nationally with an average of 7.6 assists a game. UNT is counting on him to fill the rather large void left by Alzee Williams, a largely under appreciated combo guard who scored 1,064 points, ranked second on the team last season at 11.1 points a game and handled the ball quite a bit when Jones wasn’t in the game. UNT is supposed to have two creators now if Jones and Eaglin.

Bottom line: UNT is depending on Eaglin to be ready, but having Jones should make the position a solid one.

SG – T.J Taylor, DeAndre Harris, Carrington Ward, Greg White-Pittman (could also see time at PG)

Thoughts: There might not be a bigger hit-miss proposition in terms of a spot in UNT’s lineup. Taylor was a highly regarded player who made the rounds from Oklahoma to Marquette and finally to UNT. He showed star potential at times, scoring 24 against Idaho, 21 against Portland and 19 against Tulane. He was anything but consistent and averaged 7.0 points a game on the season. UNT’s staff is convinced Harris is a potential star and that Ward and White-Pittman will contribute. They had better. UNT is not only replacing Alzee Williams, but Vertrail Vaughns (7.3 points a game) and Brandan Walton (7.2 points a game) as well.

Bottom line: UNT isn’t replacing anyone who has played at an all-conference level and could be as good as it was last season. Counting on vast improvement is an exercise in faith at best.

SF – Jordan Williams, Maurice Aniefiok

Thoughts: Williams was UNT’s best player last season, when he averaged a team-high 12.0 points and — in a baffling little factoid — led the team in rebounding as well at 6.3 boards a game. Williams is listed at 6-foot-6 and 202 pounds. Aniefiok averaged 6.7 points a game and was UNT’s best 3-point shooter at 37.1 percent.

Bottom line: One could argue that the spot is the Mean Green’s strength.

Combo forward – Greg Wesley, Jeremy Combs

Thoughts: I expect Wesley and Combs to see time at small forward and also in the post when UNT goes to a smaller lineup. One could count both guys as either power forwards or small forwards. Combs and Wesley both were highly rated coming out of high school. UNT is depending on the pair to make a big impact next season. Wesley could be true small forward and be a similar player to Jordan Williams. We will just have to see how he develops. Combs is an undersized power forward who showed a talent for grabbing rebounds at the high school level. The hope is that talent will translate to the college level.

Bottom line: UNT’s hope is both contribute in a big way. They could easily do just that.

C/PF – Colin Voss, Muhammed Ahmed, Armani Flannigan

Thoughts: UNT jettisoned its only true centers in Keith Coleman and Kelvin Gaines and will now depend on the trio of Voss, Ahmed and Flannigan to turn the tide in the post. Flannigan is 6-foot-8, while Voss and Ahmed are both listed at 6-foot-7. Out of 16 teams in Conference USA, the Mean Green ranked 12th in offensive rebounding percentage (30.2), eighth in defensive rebounding percentage (67.3) and 14th in rebounding margin (minus 2.9) in league play. UNT is banking on the fact that having a smaller, quicker batch of forwards will help turn the tide. Voss was solid last season, averaging 7.3 points and 5.8 rebounds a game. Ahmed was an third-team JUCO All-American. Flannigan didn’t contribute much in his first season at UNT, averaging 2.4 points and 2.1 rebounds a game.

Bottom line: UNT took a look at the success some of the other teams in Conference USA enjoyed while going small. Those teams, including Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee, all had solid forwards in the 6-6 to 6-9 range who produced. UNT is going to be in a world of hurt if Voss and Ahmed and a few of its combo forwards like Wesley and Combs don’t do the same.

Projected lineup:
PG — Jones
SG — Taylor
SF — Williams
PF — Voss
C — Ahmed

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