Five Absurdly Premature Basketball Questions

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All it took was one chat with Ben Braun for thoughts of breathlessly optimistic evenings at Tudor Fieldhouse to simmer at the surface. A malfunctioning scorer's table, a video board with no scoring panel and the roar of a raucous (ahem) crowd is some three months away, but anticipation is running amok. When does preseason camp start? In six weeks? I Can't Wait.

With that, here are five ridiculously early questions for the 2009-2010 season, contemplated and compiled while the Owls got in some open gym action early Tuesday evening ... and before the cheerleaders ran them off the Fox Gym court. That, folks, is a story for another day:

1. Will junior center Trey Stanton meet expectations and dominate? Perhaps we all were wrong in labeling Stanton a one-dimensional post player. He is quite capable of scoring in the paint, but his face-up game is such that he can cause a multitude of matchup problems for the opposition. Should Stanton score on the block more than occasionally? Absolutely. However, with a handful of 4's capable of helping him rebound, Stanton should be given the freedom to roam and shoot at will from the perimeter. He has the talent, and clearly possesses the desire.

2. How will Braun juggle his overabundance of small guards? The influx of talent to the Owls' roster didn't solve one problem: Rice still lacks a traditional shooting guard. If Braun could splice the shooting ability of Cory Pflieger with the height and toughness of Cliff Ghoram, his problem would be solved. And with two upperclassmen (Bryan Beasley and Connor Frizzelle) plus two freshmen (Tamir Jackson and A.J. Holland) that play as lead guards, roles at the 1 will need to be clearly defined. Jackson is a savvy floor general, while Holland is quick as a hiccup and sees the court well. Frizzelle is a fearless jump shooter and Beasley ultra-athletic. Who does what and for how long each game will be an interesting issue for Braun to resolve.

3. What position will Arsalan Kazemi play? The Iranian import is a skilled basketball player - that much is obvious. He is a creative scorer, often looks to pass when a teammate is in an advantageous position, and is crafty around the basket. What Kazemi isn't at this stage is physical in the post. After spending the summer playing with his national team, Kazemi arrived on campus behind his classmates in weight training but advanced in that he did work with a strength coach while abroad. Strength coach Scott McLafferty has plenty of time to put some mass on Kazemi, but after he does and when the season starts, will Kazemi play the 3 or 4?

4. Who will emerge and offer surprise contributions? Lucas Kuipers, a sophomore forward who missed the second half of his freshman season with a broken wrist, seems like the obvious candidate here. The light appeared to be flickering in his head before he was lost to injury, but now that there is competition in the loaded front court, will Kuipers continue to develop? And the same goes for Beasley, who could morph into a lock-down perimeter defender if he so chooses. And if sophomore forward Emerson Herndon can elevate his athleticism to match his subtle passing skills, he could provide more than sporadic minutes.

5. When roles are finally defined, will the role players accept them? Who on this roster will be content with rebounding and defending, with setting screens and passing to the cutters, with coming off the bench and providing energy in five-minute bursts? With one glance at this roster it is obvious which four Owls should pace this team in scoring. When the other 11 players figure that out, will they submit to being selfless or will they try to get their share glory?

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I'd imagine Kazemi will start as a 3 to keep Kuipers and Stanton in the starting lineup, but should see time as a 4, as well.

As you state in #2, I am curious to see how minutes are allocated by Braun this year.

There should be a good competition for the starting guard slots.

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