Monday, August 3, 2009

Wildcat Roster: Center

I’ve covered a lot of topics in the last few weeks, but I haven’t done that many posts focused specifically on next basketball season. Today I want to take the time to talk about one spot on the Wildcat roster which I think is critically important. That position is the center spot. At the end of last season I reviewed each position group and gave out grades. The center spot received the lowest grade, but considering oldest player to play that spot was a sophomore, I think the low score was understandable. However, with a year of experience I expect many NU fans are looking for a lot of improvement from the center position. Specifically, I think fans are looking to see some notable improvement in Kyle Rowley and Luka Mirkovic. Rowley was the primary starter last year, but it was Mirkovic who really showed improvement and gave NU fans hope for the future. Mirkovic showed a nice ability to pass with 40 assists and to shoot by making 4-of-10 threes. Obviously, Mirkovic didn’t attempt many threes, but he also showed touch on some long twos like the one key basket against Michigan State which helped NU run out its lead. The fact is the Princeton Offense gets better with more versatile centers. If Luka becomes more willing to take threes and makes at least 35% it will help NU a ton. Especially since without Craig Moore to fire in threes from just past half court NU will need a more balanced shooting attack.

Kyle Rowley it seemed went a little different direction from Mirkovic. His progressed slowed during the season and despite starting most games, his minutes dropped in Big Ten play. One trait Rowley has which can’t be taken away is his size. At 7-0 feet he would have been NU’s only center option on some past teams. Now, he is joined by Mirkovic, Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic. Still, Rowley is the guy that could be a true difference maker with his size. He’ll likely never be a step back shooter, but he’s actually a decent passer and with his size he ought to get offensive rebounds. Stuffing the assist and offensive rebound columns would in my mind make up for not taking threes. Rowley did turn the ball over 38 times last year, but most of those were on travels. Given that Rowley hasn’t played a ton of organized basketball it is understandable that he at times suffered from indecision and shuffled his feet. That is why I believe Rowley’s summer experience with the Trinidad and Tobago National Team was some valuable. Yes, Rowley didn’t get as much time on the court as he might have wanted, but just being in an organized basketball practice setting was likely way more beneficial than if he’d just been playing pick up games. Maybe next summer NU can send Rowley to a big man camp to further his development.

For brief moments last year Davide Curletti and Ivan Peljusic also played some center for NU. Both are a little smaller than Rowley and Mirkovic and might fit better at power forward. However, they both had some nice moments. Peljusic used his athletic skill to take over the Florida State game when NU needed a spark. Curletti started the game against Ohio State and played very solid defense against OSU’s large front line. I believe both could be quality players in the right situation. It will likely depend on how much improvement we see from Rowley and Mirkovic if that situation dictates a lot of time as a backup center or some time at power forward.
Links: Rivals poster pschatz25 has linked a collection of old Wildcat newspaper and headlines and posters. Take a look:
Craig Moore will keep playing basketball, he signed with Dutch Basketball Club DeFriesland Aris Leeuwarden:

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