Big minutes in store for returning guards

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

When the three-point line was first universally adopted by the NCAA in 1986, it was met with intense scrutiny. The line defied coaches’ philosophies at the time of simply pounding the ball inside by balancing out the floor.

But by the time 2007 rolled around and the men’s basketball rules committee extended the arc an extra foot to 20-feet-9-inches, the line became an asset for any team.

The positioning of the line allows talented shooters to get a 50 percent point increase for more difficult shots and for imposing big men to operate with more space in the interior.

That’s a tactic GW can exploit this year: Perimeter players like redshirt senior Matt Hart and sophomore Jordan Roland will attempt to space the floor to allow star forward Tyler Cavanaugh more room to score.

Cavanaugh said he does not discount the effect the pair can have on the game just by making a few shots and forcing defenders to cover them outside the arc.

“Both Matt Hart and Jordan are going to play a huge part [of our offensive success],” the graduate student said. “Those guys making open shots is going to be huge because they can really score in bunches, both of them. They are very gifted offensively, so that is key for spacing as well as double teams and whatnot.”

Although Roland and Hart combined for only 13.5 minutes per game last season, they could each be counted on for more than 20 this year and and may even see time in the starting lineup.

Interim head coach Maurice Joseph said Roland was able to see the aspects of the game he needed to work on by playing alongside and observing last year’s star group of seniors.

“Coming in as a freshman and playing behind guys like Alex Mitola and Patricio Garino, obviously there’s going to be a learning curve,” Joseph said. “Then having to compete against those guys on a daily basis, I think he got a firsthand look of how much he needed to improve. I expect him to make a jump for us. We need him to make a jump for us.”

In August, the team took a trip to Japan where they prepared for the season by taking on the Japanese national team three times and playing a game against a top-tier Japanese professional team.

During the foreign tour, GW’s coaching staff made it clear that Roland’s touches would skyrocket, after only taking 45 shots during his freshman campaign. He started three of the Colonials’ four games, scored a total of 35 points and played about 25 minutes per game.

“The Japan trip definitely helped with my confidence,” Roland said. “It is a lot more fun to be able to contribute, and I am hoping that I can continue that into the actual season and into the games that matter.”

Hart even received a bit of national attention for the boost in minutes: In mid-October, Sports Illustrated’s College Basketball Projection System predicted that he would put up 10.6 points per game this year as the seventh-highest “breakout” player in one of the nation’s top eight conferences.

Although Hart agrees that he has improved and appreciates the recognition, he said he will continue to put in the work to make the jump.

“I had a couple of friends send it to me, and it is pretty cool,” Hart said. “But other than seeing it and reading it, I don’t take that much stock into that because I know what I can do, and I am prepared for that bigger role and ready for anything, honestly.”

Shooting from behind the arc will still be the bread-and-butter for Roland and Hart, but with extra playing time, they have had to take on other responsibilities as primary perimeter defenders.

Hart said he has followed Joseph’s lead by working on his man-to-man game and assisting his teammates on their side of the floor.

“I think I’ve become a very good team defender,” Hart said. “Defense is a big thing for us this year, and I think I can bring that to the team as well.”

Roland, who has long arms and quick feet, has always been a crucial member of former head coach Mike Lonergan’s 1-3-1 defense style by interrupting the passing lanes and forcing mistakes. His defensive prowess will only become more important as his role increases.

“He was great in our 1-3-1,” Joseph said. “He was our leader in deflections per minute, even with how little he played last year. He will make a jump now that he will get more minutes and play a little bit more through mistakes. We look forward to seeing how [Roland] takes on that challenge.”

While Hart got the start and Roland came off the bench during Saturday’s exhibition, both will have to make the most of their opportunities off the bench – not only to secure a spot in the starting five – but, more importantly, to help their team win games.

“In practice I am always fighting for the minutes,” Hart said. “But I’m confident that I will have a lot more opportunities than I had last year, and with those minutes comes a lot more responsibility.”

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