Players battle for spots in Penders’ new system

GW head coach Tom Penders has lineup decisions to make for Friday night’s season opener, when the Colonials host George Mason University in the Red Auerbach Classic.

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After two high-scoring exhibition victories in which seniors Shawnta Rogers and Yegor Mescheriakov combined to shoot 18-of-51 from the field for 52 of GW’s 210 points, it is clear the GW bench will be a big factor this season.

In GW’s two exhibition victories, Penders used 12 players but he said he intends to use 10 consistently.

“You want competition within your team, but you have to be clear to your players as to how they’re going to get in there,” Penders said.

With the season opener a day away, and 7-0 freshman center Albert Roma ineligible for the game, GW’s fifth starter is unclear. The backcourt of Rogers and sophomore Mike King seems to be set, and Mescheriakov will be a starter as long as he is healthy. Antxon Iturbe, who seemed to have a starting spot locked up in the preseason, will miss four to six weeks with a broken bone in his foot. He underwent surgery Wednesday.

The NCAA declared Roma ineligible for the first regular season game as punishment for playing in a game with professionals over the summer, a violation of NCAA rules.

GW’s bench features many types of players. Three players in the frontcourt should see quality minutes. Francisco de Miranda and Pat Ngongba played well at power forward for the Colonials last season, while Jason Smith, a 6-8 freshman forward, figures to see a lot of action in his first season.

“I’m trying to get Jason Smith a lot of playing time,” Penders said. “He’s an aggressive-looking freshman who is willing to give up his body in there.”

Sophomore Roey Eyal will see playing time at guard, Penders said. He made seven of his 12 three-point shots in GW’s two exhibition games.

“Roey, as you’ll notice, is playing a lot and he’s going to play at one and two,” Penders said. “Sometimes we’re going to go with Shawnta, Roey and Mike and use Yegor at four.”

Left-handed freshman Andry Sola, who was 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc in exhibition play, also is likely to play if he continues to produce from long range.

“Sola is a very deep and dangerous threat, but he’s only a freshman,” Penders said.

The role of senior tri-captain Seco Camara, who only was used a combined 15 minutes in the two exhibition games, is unclear. A three-point specialist for GW in his previous three seasons, Camara was 0-of-5 from three-point range in exhibition play.

“What Seco has to do is play good defense, play physically and do other things and some nights the shot is going to be there,” Penders said. “Seco’s been there, he’s been around, and we just try to get him to play without turning it over, rebound and defend. We don’t want him to be a one-dimensional player where he relies solely on his three-point shot.”

While it is not certain who will be out of the rotation at any point this season, Penders said hard work in practice will be essential to gaining playing time.

“Obviously I’m not going to put the pressure of practice, performance, production on our established players,” Penders said. “But if Albert (Roma) is playing better than Patrick (Ngongba) all week, then Albert’s going to play.”

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