Position Group: Centers
Players Included: Kyle Rowley, Luka Mirkovic, Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic
Some might say I’m being a little tough on NU’s centers, but the fact is they were the position group which struggled the most this past season. Thankfully, they are NU’s youngest position group and seem to have the skills to improve next year. Kyle Rowley got the majority of the starts for the ‘Cats in 08-09, but it was the play of Luka Mirkovic which kept me from giving the centers a C- or D+. Mirkovic didn’t set the world on fire statistically, he averaged 3.9ppg and 3.2rpg, but he provided some skills at the center position which NU hasn’t seen in a long while. Most impressive to me was the fact Luka is an excellent passer from the high post. He recorded 40 assists against only 26 turnovers. Also, he pulled down 30 offensive rebounds which was second on the team. Luka seems to have a nose for the ball on missed shots. With a year of experience, I expect he will be an even better offensive rebounder next year. One area where I do have to offer some criticism on Mirkovic is shooting. At times he looked like he had a nice jump shot (4-for-10 from 3PT) and he even hit a three in the NIT game at Tulsa. However, overall Luka seemed reluctant to shoot. There were even times when he did shoot where you could tell he thought twice before doing so and as a result missed badly. NU needs a center to hit jump shots for the Princeton Offense to work and based on the players they have, it seems critical Luka become that guy before next November.
Kyle Rowley was NU’s main starter at center mostly due to his 7-0 280 pound size. Sadly, he didn’t often play like he was that big. My largest criticism was his 46-for-99 shooting. Almost all those shots were right around the rim, yet Rowley couldn’t finish half of them. A player with Rowley’s size should easily shoot 50% because they never shoot anything other than layups and they are bigger or at least as big as everybody they shoot against. Before next season starts, Rowley needs to work on finishing in the post. The keys I believe are from him to get quicker with his moves and lose some weight so he can get off the ground. There is no reason Rowley couldn’t play at 250 or 260. In fact, he’d probably be a better player if he did drop some weight as guys couldn’t jump in from behind and swat the ball away. Related to Rowley’s slow moves, I think he suffered from a lot of indecision. He recorded 38 turnovers and it seemed like 2/3rds of them were on travels. If he is to be a Big Ten starter, Rowley cannot commit unforced turnovers because he is thinking too much. After practicing all year, he has to know what to do with the ball. If he is that unsure, he ought to sit and watch players who do know what they are supposed to do with the ball.
NU’s other backup centers were Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic. Curletti started one game against Ohio State, but overall only played in 17 of NU’s 31 games. Peljusic played in 24 games with no starts. I think both these players have potential and honestly I would have liked to see more of them and less of Rowley once it became clear how overmatched Rowley seemed in the Big Ten. Curletti showed a good physical presence when he matched up against Ohio State in Evanston and looks potentially to have an outside jump shot. Peljusic is a player who brings an energy and enthusiasm to the court which NU sometimes lacks. His weakness is free throw shooting and turnovers, though, he did have more assists than turnovers for the year. If I had to guess at Bill Carmody’s reasoning for sticking with Rowley instead of Curletti and Peljusic, I’d say it probably had to do with Rowley’s legit seven foot size. Curletti is 6-9 and Peljusic 6-8, meaning both are a little undersized for Big Ten centers. Personally I think both make up for their lack of size with athletic skill, but if Carmody continues to go with Rowley, I hope Peljusic and Curletti get a look at the power forward position (I also hope Rowley starts finishing shots and not turning the ball over). NU could use additional backups for John Shurna and Kevin Coble, especially if Jeremy Nash ends up starting at shooting guard.