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Thursday, August 11, 2022

Commentary

First game of the season offers good look at guards


WEB-Justin-Tijerina-IMG_7948

Freshman guard Galen Robinson, Jr. is one of the many guards expected to make an impact this season | Justin Tijerina/The Cougar

The men’s basketball team hosted Montana Tech of the University of Montana at Hofheinz Pavilion Friday in an exhibition game, and head coach Kelvin Sampson used the game see his players in different groups on the court.

Though the men played good ball down the stretch, the story of the night was between the guard positions.

Sampson utilized a rotation between Rob Gray, Jr., Galen Robinson, Jr. and Ronnie Johnson at the point guard position.

Most of the game, two of the three were on the court at the guard positions. Though junior Damyean Dotson is a guard, he played many of his first half minutes at the small forward position.

In the second half, he spent more time at his natural guard spots.

“All of [the guards] are important,” Sampson said. “I think one of the strengths of our teams is our depth. We’re not going to be a six or seven man rotation. We’re going to be probably a nine man rotation.”

So far, Sampson has kept quiet on who he wants to be the starting point guard. From what it sounds like, it will be awhile before we see anyone take that starting position.

“All our point guards are about the same,” Sampson said. “I didn’t start Ronnie or Galen tonight mainly because I want them to practice harder.”

Junior transfer guard Ronnie Johnson had eight points and three assist, but could have had a few more had his teammates made their open shots.

He only had one turnover, but had some trouble on defense, as he got caught in pick and roll situations a few times.

Though Johnson probably has the edge at the point guard position, it seems to be that Sampson wants to see more from him.

“Ronnie is a tough kid, but he has to make more winning plays,” Sampson said. “Basketball is not a game of great plays, it’s a game of eliminating mistakes.”

Robinson had 12 points and finished with five assists. Gray led the trio with 15 points, but only two assists.

Dotson had the most complete game, as he finished with nine points, five assists and 15 total rebounds.

His hustle was unmatched as he fought for his rebounds, as well as hustled to get back on plays where he was beat.

“I cannot tell you how pleased I was with Damyean Dotson’s effort,” Sampson said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had a guard get 15 rebounds his first time out.”

Gray seemed more comfortable at shooting guard, where he utilized off-ball screens to get open shots.

He finished more shots at the point guard position, but that probably won’t be a common occurrence, as Sampson has stated a few times that he wants his point guards to facilitate the ball more.

“Rob is not a point-point guard,” Sampson said. “You saw that he was a scorer. But when you put Rob and [Dotson] on the wings, and if I get one of those point guards to get some separation from each other…we need one of them to win that job, and when they do, I’ll let them know.”

Sophomore guard Wes Vanbeck continued his role as the hustle player off the bench, contributing for nine points, one assist and two offensive rebounds.

He also added one block and a steal to his stat sheet. As usual for a role player, his stats don’t reflect his effort on the court.

 

Fans can probably expect to continue to see this rotation until one of them grabs control of the reigns.

Expect the point guard battle to be between Johnson and Robinson early on.

Gray will definitely get his time at the point, but he is a scoring two guard and Sampson will most likely use him as such.

We can also expect Dotson to continue to rotate between the shooting guard position and small forward position, especially when Sampson wants to play small ball.

Over the next month, the picture should start to clear up and the best guards will rise to the top.

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