After a ninth-place finish in 2014-2015, the La Salle Explorers will need three key specific players to make strides in their development if they want to improve as a team. This will be extremely important to help rebound from the losses of successful big men, Jerrell Wright and Steve Zack.
One of the aspects that I personally love about college basketball is that the players often play “position-less” basketball. Meaning, their rolls on the team are not defined simply by what position they are listed as. I believe that is why they are listed as more arbitrary positions; either
“guard” “forward” or rarely “center” rather than specifically point guard, shooting guard, small forward, ect.
I am looking forward to seeing plenty of “position-less” basketball from the Explorers this upcoming season. After reviewing La Salle’s roster for 2015-2016, the impression I am left with is that we should expect plenty of small-ball lineups from head coach Dr. John Giannini. This will be due to the fact that there are only three listed forwards on the roster who are eligible for the 2015-2016 season: Rohan Brown, Yevgen Sakhniuk, and Tony Washington.
Out of the three, the frontcourt player that I will be watching the closest this season is Tony Washington. As a long 6’10” and 220 pound center, Washington certainly has the length to be an effective big man. We were not provided much of a sample-size, but he has good instincts on the offensive glass, especially on put-back dunks and lay-ins. He can block shots near the rim as well, thanks to his length. If La Salle hopes to compete against big schools likes Villanova and Miami (FL), Washington’s development and growth will be essential to La Salle’s success. Young players have a tendency to start games too aggressively and get themselves into early foul trouble. With Washington looking to prove himself, he needs to be mindful of avoiding early foul trouble and stay on the court.
Ukrainian Sophomore Yevgen Sakhniuk will most likely start for the Explorers this season. What remains to be seen is whether he starts along side Washington as a power forward or next to Rohan Brown, as more of a center. Standing at 6’7” Sakhniuk is a bit short to play exclusively under the basket. However, his 230 pound frame will aid him in becoming an effective rebounder and defender, especially against taller opponents.
In addition, the La Salle coaching staff seems to have faith in Sakhniuk’s skills. The team’s website provides the following quote from head coach Dr. John Giannini regarding Sakhniuk, “The NCAA has required Yevgen to serve a year in residence before beginning three years of eligibility. He is a strong, versatile player with vast experience playing at the highest level of international competition in his age group. I have great confidence in him. He will improve his skills and strength this year. He will continue our success following the graduation of Jerrell and Steve.”
The only player in La Salle’s frontcourt that was on the 2012-2013 NCAA tournament team is 6’6”, 215 pound redshirt-senior Rohan Brown. The Connecticut native has an offensive game that revolves around setting picks , then either popping out for spot-up jumpers, or cutting towards the basket. Brown is listed on the team’s website as a guard-forward. But if he is the only frontcourt option for Coach G besides Washington and Sakhniuk, Brown will need to use his experience to play productive minutes at the power forward spot for La Salle this year.
Tony Washington, Yevgen Sakhniuk, and Rohan Brown’s development as frontcourt players is one of the biggest storylines for the La Salle Explorers this season. Playing some of the smaller schools that La Salle does this season during their non-conference schedule will give Washington, Sakhniuk, and Brown experience and time to adjust to their new roles on the team. The two games against Villanova and Miami (FL) will test the Explorers frontcourt greatly prior to conference play. Although neither of them are Wright or Zack, if the trio shows that they can be productive and at least hold their own when competing against bigger opponents, Explorer fans should be excited for the possibilities heading into conference play.
-Benjamin Boswell @BenjaminBoswell
Photo courtesy of CSNPhilly.com
-La Salle loses to UMass in the first round of the A-10 tournament