Basketball Season Grades: The Bench
The bench is tenuous spot on an Al Skinner team. I often feel like that if Skinner had his way he would use five guys for 40 minutes. In the past Skins employed real spark plugs off the bench like Sidney or Watson. He even had the occasional game changer like Sean Williams. This year’s bench showed promise but the Williams-McClain episode thinned things out pretty quickly. Although Spears and Roche both spent time as starters, for the purpose of this exercise I am grouping them as bench players.
The bright spot of the nonstarters. In his first game as Williams primary replacement (at Clemson) he was beyond timid. We knew he was skinny, but he got pushed around like a rag doll. Fast forward three weeks later and he was making a game winning shot to beat Florida State. Blair improved more than anyone on the team. He remains limited, but provided solid help defense, adequate offense and enabled Al to go with a big lineup. He’ll never be Williams and will probably never be a great post defender against widebodies, but he was a definite bright spot on the season.
What a lost season. Haynes provided good defense coming off the bench but is still so limited that he could not be used more than his paltry minutes. His ball handling is still suspect and he is not enough of a shooter to pick a spot on the court and wait for his moment. Haynes may be the best athlete on the roster. I am frustrated that he did not get better this year. If not for his nice close (good ACC Tourney minutes and a great job against Texas Tech), I would expect him to transfer. Maybe the end of season play is a sign of things to come.
Roche went from DNPs to starting in a very short time. Considering the minutes he got, he is still a blank slate. I don’t know what his upside is because he never showed what he can do. He rebounded well when asked. He rarely asserted himself in any other way. Overmatched defensively he forced us into 2-3 (not necessarily a bad thing) periodically. I have hope for his potential. We need a good spot up shooter. I just don’t know if Roche can be that guy.
Another part-time starter that raises more questions than he answers. Is his game built for his body-type? He is not the finisher or rebounder that Smith was yet mid range offense is very good. His back problems were well documented, but they don’t explain some of the mental lapses I saw down the stretch. Before the season, I hoped he would be our next ‘diamond in the rough.’ He is not. Now let’s hope that he can be a solid 4-year contributor.
Overall, this group was lacking. A few bright memorable moments don’t mask the uneven performances or lack of spark. All four are scheduled to be back next season. Hopefully they will all get better.