With the MAC season opener Wednesday night at home against Ball State and the beginning of a new semester at Eastern, now seems an appoproriate time to dish out mid-season grades for the 2012-2013 basketball team.
Before I get into the mid-term grades, I was pondering over the last couple weeks what Eastern could possibly have to gain from playing Siena Heights and Kentucky back-to-back. We should be scheduling teams from the Missouri Valley, Colonial, West Coast Conference, etc. We should also play Detroit every year. Forgive me if I grew tired of watching the collective beatdowns administered to EMU by Syracuse, Michigan, and Kentucky. Shredding Siena Heights at home doesn’t make it any better.
Derek Thompson: A-
Thompson is Eastern’s only consistent offensive threat. He tries to do more than he should, which is to spot up for threes, but this is a symptom of having few other offensive options. Thompson has been solid so far this season.
Jamell Harris: B+
Harris has limitations to his game, but is a stout defender and shot blocker and gives maximum effort every minute he plays.
Daylen Harrison: B
Harrison looks like he should be producing more, or at least more consistently. He isn’t a three point shooter but does have a solid mid-range offensive arsenal. He could prove to be effective against smaller MAC two guards.
J.R. Sims: B-
Sims is another max effort guy. He is a pest on defense and provides an occasional lift on offense. If he could learn to run the point more consistently his value would increase.
Jalen Ross: C+
The future may look promising for Ross, but the present is sometimes painful to watch. Turnovers and carelessness with the rock plague Ross, but he has shown the ability to score when needed. He needs to mature quickly.
Matt Balkema: C
Balkema certainly gets an A for effort and attitude, but unfortunately the areas of success that have eluded him in the past are evident this year. He is a capable offensive rebounder who frustratingly fails to connect on putbacks. His lack of athleticism hurt against Michigan, Kentucky, and Syracuse, but should not be as significant a factor in MAC play. Balkema could come on strong to end his career at Eastern.
Glenn Bryant: C-
Bryant shows flashes of his ability, whether it is with a thunderous dunk, a blocked shot, ripping down a rebound, or hitting a mid-range jumper. Too often, all that there been is flash — real, solid, consistent performance is something we have yet to see from the highly touted transfer. Bryant could have a field day in the MAC, if he lets the game come to him. More than any other player, this team needs Bryant to play at a high level if they are to compete in the MAC.
Da’Shonte Riley: D
Riley can block shots and pull down a few boards. This is hardly what we hoped for upon his arrival at Eastern. He has zero offensive game, and rarely shows the kind of effort we see out of fellow big men Harris and Balkema. If Riley could somehow bring focus and intensity to the court, maybe he could reach his potential. At some point, however, what you see is what you get.
As for the rest of the team give them all C’s and call it a day.
Rob Murphy gets an incomplete, simply because this was all preparation for MAC play. If the team gets off to a strong start in conference play, the hideous losses will be forgotten. The MAC isn’t what it used to be, and there is no dominant team. I see no reason why this Eastern team can’t win the MAC West again and maybe even make a run in the conference tournament.
For that to happen, alot of things have to change. Fewer turnovers. Better play from Harrison and Bryant. A pulse from Riley.
The immediate concern is Wednesday night against Ball State. Conference success depends on winning these home games.