After a disappointing year in the eyes of many La Salle faithful, the team will look to rebound in 2015-16. However, this will be a tough task after losing three primary players, Jerrell Wright, D.J. Peterson, and Steve Zack. This coming season, the Explorers will need someone new to step up and help replace their productivity. That guy has to be Amar Stukes. His development will be extremely significant for the Philly team if they expect to have any sort of success this season.
The former La Salle College High School standout was solid last year. He averaged 22 minutes per game, 5.3 points, 1.3 assists, and shot 44% from the field. The six-foot-two guard also added some impressive games including 7 steals against Rhode Island and 13 points against Penn.
There are many reasons to be happy about Stukes’s 2014-15 season. Not only did he show he can play offensively and defensively against the big boys, but he was often praised by head coach John Giannini.
Despite the high moments, Stukes’s freshman season was also filled with some lows. He complied only one game with over 5 assists, made a mere 1 three pointer during the entire season, and finished the year by playing a combined 11 minutes in his last two games.
However, the 2015-16 season will give the Philadelphia native a chance to restart. With Khalid Lewis departing for Illinois, the Explorers will have to rely on the rising redshirt sophomore even more. It is safe to assume that he will be the starting point guard and the primary ball handler. Although Lewis’s performance was underwhelming and inconsistent, he had some big games for the team and averaged 27 minutes per outing. Stukes will need to do multiple things for the Explorers to even have a chance at the postseason.
For starters, Stukes will need to be better on the offensive end of the floor. Despite the large minutes that he endured, he only had a usage percent of .15. This shows his ability to disappear from games, something that cannot happen next season. His offensive rating of 93.6 is also unacceptable for a potential starting point guard of a team who expects to win in a strong conference.
Furthermore, coach Giannini called out Stukes last year, encouraging him to be more aggressive. He only averaged 4 shots per game and less than 1 three ball an outing. It isn’t like Stukes has an ugly shot either, it’s kind of nice. And he isn’t slow. He can get by defenders and finish. He has to be more willing to shoot and attack this season.
This will help rising junior Jordan Price, who the team relied on too often during the previous season. A little assistance from another source could create shots for Price and take some weight off of his back. Last season, he had to take 14 shots per game.
If Stukes can’t step up and create for himself and his teammates on the offensive end, the Explorers will have trouble.
Coach Giannini will also need Stukes to stick the opposing team's best guard. His quickness and high IQ give him a chance to be a premier defensive guard in the Atlantic 10 conference. Coach Giannini has been more than willing to give him his praise as well for his performance at that end.
"He's really good defensively," Giannini told philly.com in January. "We knew it last year. I wish I could elaborate on it. He gives great effort. He is laterally quick. He is longer than you would think and he is a tough kid. He has every ingredient necessary to be a terrific defender."
The bottom line is La Salle will need Stukes to step up this season and be more of a presence on the court. Last season he had flashes of greatness, but if the Explorers want any shot at making it to March, they will need the guard to be more productive.
Photo courtesy of zimbio.com
-La Salle loses to UMass in the first round of the A-10 tournament