Previously: Tim Frazier, Jermaine Marshall, Jonathan Graham, Ross Travis
Ed: I'm finally wrapping up this series by including the last three scholarship guys who are at the end of the rotation heading into next year. While the hoops content has been a little slow this month, things will pick up with camps/recruiting this summer. I promise.
In his first full season in the rotation, Sasa had a pretty good year. He was efficient and had the highest eFG% on the team (56.6%), but most of that was due to his low usage rate. He shot less than only Matt Glover when he was on the floor and averaged less than 3 FGA per game in conference play. However, he was coming off a medical redshirt, and his knee showed no ill-effects after he tore his ACL the first week of practice in 2010. In his best performance of the year, he made all seven of his shots for 15 points against Ole Miss. He's a crafty, offensive-minded player who has great hands and can create some space on the low block, but he's never been very athletic, and the ACL tear didn't help.
Sasa's biggest struggles came on the defensive end, where he had issues defending taller, more athletic bigs. He also had trouble with the right rotations out of zone looks, leaving the team vulnerable to open jumpers. Playing time is still up for grabs at the 5-spot with Graham and Ackerman, but Sasa will need to work on his defense if he hopes to earn more. It was great to see Sasa finally get the chance to contribute, but he needs to fulfill a larger role on offense and improve his defense if he's going to be a factor next season. Grade: C
Colella is a hard player to grade. If you go by expectations, simply getting the significant playing time he saw would be enough to give the guy an A for the year. Nobody expected anything from the walk-on, but he played his way to a scholarship and meaningful playing time. However, he was given the opportunity to develop into the 3-point threat on a team lacking any shooting prowess from behind the arc. While it was essentially Nick's freshman year, 24.3% from behind the line would be a failing grade for any 3-point specialist. Grade: D
While Colella struggled mightily towards the end of the year, I'm glad he is returning next season (likely on scholarship). In addition to all of the intangibles he provides, he gives the thin backcourt some depth and experience. Frazier, Newbill, and Marshall will get the bulk of the backcourt minutes regardless, but there's still a role for a spot-up shooter if Colella can develop a consistent jumper. Incoming freshman Akosa Maduegbunam figures to be a contender for this role, but Colella at the very least provides competition and insurance behind the true freshman.
If you didn't pay close attention to the team this year, you probably assumed Ackerman redshirted. However, the scrawny 6'11" center did see 27 minutes of garbage time this season. While he essentially burned a year of eligibility, Ackerman continues to work hard off the floor on his strength and conditioning. Judging by his antics on the bench, Pat is one of the more outgoing and well-liked players on the team. He seems to have the mobility to run the floor, but needs to continue to build strength to handle the rigors of the Big Ten. Here's hoping he cracks the rotation next year if for nothing else but to get a better view of his goofy celebrations. Grade: Incomplete
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