JMU Aims For A Row For JMU?
Posted: December 5, 2012
HARRISONBURG — Walk-on guard Todd Halvorsen is the East Tennessee State basketball player who keeps a close eye on everybody’s statistic and awards.
He’s the guy who told Lester Wilson that the redshirt freshman is leading the Atlantic Sun in scoring. Halvorsen also filled Wilson in on the fact that he had twice been named the league’s Newcomer of the Week.
But there was a nice little nugget about Wilson that Halvorsen hadn’t yet discovered: The talented Buccaneer’s 19.4 scoring average is tops in the nation among freshmen.
“My eyes got big for a second,” Wilson said, when a visiting reporter – not Halvorsen – told him that stat Monday afternoon.
Wilson probably doesn’t need anybody to tell him that he’ll be James Madison’s focus today when the Bucs (2-3) visit the Convocation Center for a 7 p.m. game.
“He can make 3s, he can post you up,” JMU coach Matt Brady said of the 6-foot-4, 205-pound forward. “They play a lot through him. He’s a talented kid, and he’s a handful. We’ll have to play him really hard and really tough, because he’s a physical kid that can make shots.”
According to ETSU coach Murry Bartow, Wilson wasn’t ready to contribute at a Division I school last year, but he improved dramatically while redshirting. Now, given the state of the Buccaneers, they need every bit of his production.
ETSU lost its starting backcourt when seniors Marcus DuBose and Sheldon Cooley were arrested on drug-related charges. The Bucs lost another senior to a season-ending injury and are waiting for their only other senior to become eligible in the second semester.
“We’re pretty depleted, to be quite frank,” Bartow said.
“…At the mid-major level, when you lose three critical guys to injury or dismissal, or whatever it might be, usually, depth-wise, you’re not going to have guys step right in and be able to fill those exact same roles.”
Wilson hasn’t filled anyone’s role so much as he’s created his own. Asked if he’d consider himself more of a guard or a forward, Wilson just laughed.
He guards opponents’ power forwards, grabs six rebounds per game and frequently scores in the post. But he’s just 6-4, has shot as many as 12 3-pointers in a game and is making 48.5 percent of his tries from deep.
Bartow pointed to similarities between Wilson and JMU’s 6-6 power forward, Rayshawn Goins, but said they aren’t exactly alike.
“He’s kind of an inside-outside guy,” Bartow said of Wilson. “He’s kind of what I would call an undersized post.”
What’s made Wilson so lethal offensively, though, is his improved shooting stroke, which he said he incessantly worked on.
“As soon as I went home, the main thing I worried about was shooting,” he said. “The whole summer I would just shoot and shoot and shoot – just keep on shooting.”
The Bucs need him to shoot often, because he’s the only active player averaging more than eight points per game. Wilson is one of three freshmen who might start tonight against the Dukes. The Bucs are so low on depth that Bartow said a main reason he’s been using a 2-3 zone defense is to conserve energy.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
Last year JMU brought a young and injury-depleted team to Johnson City, Tenn., and got beaten down by the veteran Bucs, 70-56. JMU committed 23 turnovers in that game.
This time, it’s Madison (2-5) that has maneuverability in a non-conference home game.
Freshman guard Ron Curry has been ruled out with a concussion, but JMU still has depth. The Dukes reinstated senior A.J. Davis on Monday, after Brady suspended him because of what the coach considered a poor attitude that hurt his play in games. Senior forward Andrey Semenov returned from injury and played a key role in Saturday’s victory over Winthrop (he had missed all but two minutes of the first five games this season).
Tonight, JMU will be looking to notch consecutive wins for the first time since last December.
ETSU defeated NAIA Milligan College 94-46 in its most recent game, and its schedule will rapidly get steeper. After visiting JMU tonight, the Bucs will play at North Carolina and then at Mississippi. They play Arizona this month and Virginia Commonwealth in early January, before beginning the A-Sun schedule.
The Bucs have already lost to Georgia and undefeated Virginia Tech this season.