Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dissecting the Big Sky's Top Scorers

Before the year started, I thought Collin Chiverton would be the leading scorer in the Big Sky, for a variety of reasons. Things obviously haven't quite worked out that, but there is a good race going on for the scoring title. There are three realistic contenders for the scoring title during conference games, but let's take a look at the top six right now, and go through a quick dissection of where they are at their best.

1. Jackson Stevenett (Southern Utah) - 19.9 PPG
Stevenett has been his normal self, as this is right in line with what he has done throughout his career. This is his highest scoring output, but that is only because he is a bigger part of the offense than ever - he has remained his efficient self. He shoots over 50% on his twos, and has a three-point shot that at least has to be respected (20/61 on the year). He is also good at getting to the line, and has shot a remarkable 120/135 (88.9%) from the line this year. For as much as he does for them, his efficiency and ability to pick his spots is fun to watch. He should get consideration to the conference POY.

2. Gabe Rogers (Northern Arizona) - 19.5 PPG
Rogers fires up eight threes per game - 215 total on the year - which, shockingly, isn't even in the top ten in attempts. He shoots 34.4%, which is not great, but not bad at all. Rogers is in a spot where sometimes he is forced to take a lot of shots, because (other than himself and DeWayne Russell), NAU guys struggles to create their own shots at times. He is 13th in the country in % of his team's shots he takes while he's out there, at 33.8%. He doesn't have a great game going to the hoop and scoring inside (41.7% inside the arc, which remarkably is a huge improvement on last year's 31.1%), and doesn't draw a lot of trips to the line.

3. Troy Huff (North Dakota) - 19.3 PPG
Huff is fifth in the country in % shots taken, at 35.8%. He might be the most athletic player in the conference, and is the most likely (along with Joel Bolomboy of Weber State) to throw down a highlight reel dunk, which he has done on multiple occasions this season. He has been amazingly consistent on his two-point percentage in his career - 48.6% (2011), 48.6% (2012), and 48.4% (2013). He is not a great outside shooter, though much better than last season. He doesn't get to the stripe a lot, and only shoots 68% when he gets there. If he can work on his three-point shot and/or free throw shooting this offseason, he can be a major force next year.

4. Damon Heuir (Southern Utah) - 17.3 PPG
Unlike his teammate Stevenett, Heuir is a little bit more of a gunner than an efficient offensive machine. He shoots the same percentage as Stevenett from three, but he has taken more than twice as many, hoisting up six per game. Inside the arc he is only at 41.2%, which is not great. He is solid at getting to the FT line, where he shoots a solid 78%. I think all of his shooting is at least partially due to the fact that SUU is not teeming with a lot of guys that can create their own shot, which can force Heuir to try to make something out of nothing. There is no denying that even though his percentages aren't great, he is a key cog in their offense this year.

5. Davion Berry (Weber State) - 15.2 PPG
Berry has matched the hype, becoming the top scoring option for a deep Weber State team. He doesn't force thing, and will pass the ball if someone else has a better look or if he is just having an off day (22.5 ARate). He has shot 53.5% from inside the arc, and 43.5% outside it, both of which are excellent marks. He has been good but not great at getting to the line, but is only shooting 71% from there. Room for improvement. He has been everything Randy Rahe could have asked for, and more.

6. Aaron Anderson (North Dakota) - 15.2 PPG
Anderson has been asked to do more than ever this year, and while his shooting percentage from three has dropped (48.1% down to 41.1%), he has made it up it with a better assist rate and lower turnover rate. But alas, this is about his scoring ability. Even though the three point shooting it down a little, 41.1% is still really solid. He has really improved in his ability to get to the line, which is especially important since he shoots 85% from the stripe. Before the year, I thought Anderson's ceiling might be a good role player. I was wrong. He has shown he can be a really good #2 scoring option. He might be the most improved player in the Big Sky.

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  1. It is funny how you continue to gloss over how good Gabe Rogers is. You put him on Montana or Weber State I guarantee you he is much more efficient and scoring at a very high rate. If you look at the offense NAU runs it does not involve Gabe at all. It is a ball screen offense set up primarily for Russell(who does not like to pass). Gabe is not selfish and you can ask any coach in the league and they will tell you. The kid is still in college and getting married. Obviously he is not worried about partying or anything else. He has his head screwed on right. If their coach actually ran plays for him instead of a drive and kick offense, when nobody in the league would dare help off Gabe, I believe the guy could average 24ppg. When he was a sophomore he had a coach that put him in good positions to score easy baskets, sort of like Tate Unruh. It seems like every shot he has he has to work for. The kid just wants to win and what he is doing for NAU this year is amazing. Every coach picked them last this year and the media did as well. He is leading a mediocre squad to possibly a conference tournament spot. Give props when props are due Jon. The guy is good.

  2. You are right that going back and reading that, it was too negative. I think you are right in that he has the same issue that James Douglas had last year - where they have to take a shot because other guys can't always create their own shots. In that case, firing up a shot isn't always good for his percentages, but it might be the best shot NAU can get at the time.

    Definitely don't think he is selfish or anything like that, just that his efficiency (especially when he is not shooting threes) has not been great this year. You are right, part of that is the function of the offense and team.

    NAU is overachieving a bit this year (I had them winning 6 conference games and finishing 9th) and absolutely Gabe is a big part of that. Didn't mean to suggest otherwise at any time, and my apologies to him that my paragraph was a little more focused on negative than positive.

  3. Trust me, I do not believe Rogers cares at all what you think of his game. But as a Big Sky basketball fan it is sad to see you not give a guy who will be in the record books for not only NAU but the conference, as well, a little bit of credit. Every post I have seen of him since his sophomore year has been negative. Oh well, I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion right.

  4. Dear Anonymous -
    If there is any non-NAU Big Sky conference fan out there wishing good will towards NAU, it would be Jon. He's written more positive comments and insight regarding NAU's rebuilding project than anyone else. I love the Lumberjacks and I root for them, win or lose. But let's be honest here and admit this year's team plays hard but there are weaknesses present. That's not being negative...that's being honest. NAU would be a wreck without Gabe Rogers this year. He's had a hell of a career and will most likely have his jersey or a plaque on the Skydome wall one day. But he has been forced into the role of being a volume shooter this year because, frankly, other than Russell, NAU has a hard time finding players capable of creating and converting their own shots. That's not a rip on him.

    And how can an offense that "doesn't involve Gabe at all" result in Gabe averaging 19.5 per game? I'm going to have to ask to look at the charts on this one. :)

    Regardless, I'm glad you care enough to post. NAU doesn't have enough fans who give a squat one way or another. Go Jacks!