Joe O'Brien and his staff generated a good deal of off-season news today, with an important new recruit, and a player and coach leaving the program. First, the good news: the Bengals have added to the "Memphis Mafia" by adding JC point guard Broderick Gilchrest (left), 6-0, who played his high school ball at Hamilton High School in Memphis.
For the first time in a couple of seasons, it looks like O'Brien has a 35-minute a game, true point guard. Not that the departed Matt Stucki and returning all-conference guard Amorrow Morgan didn't do a good job in their hybrid roles at wing/point guard. They were both among the league leaders in assists, and Stucki led the conference in assist to turnover ratio.
But now Amorrow can concentrate on playing the two guard, Gilchrest can run the show and returning sophomore-to-be Sherrod Baldwin, fortified with a season of experience under his belt, can provide adequate backup. I haven't seen Gilchrest play, obviously, but there are certain numbers you always look for in a point guard. Gilchrest seemed to more than meet most of those tests in his single season at Frank Phillips College in Texas: assist to turnover ratio (he was two-to-one); assists per game (5.89, with two games where he compiled 17 assists in each game -- one coming in just 21 minutes of play); and steals (2 per game).
As a bonus, Gilchrest appears to be a good shooter for a point, hitting 41 percent of his three-point attempts, 46 percent overall from the field. The only negative number I could find associated with him was his free throw shooting, which was just under 71 percent. Ideally, you'd like your point guard, who will be handling the ball under pressure late in games, to be in the 75 to 80 percent area. But Gilchrest's numbers show he's a capable shooter overall, and it may just be a matter of improving his focus in order to get his free throw numbers up to that range.
The next test for O'Brien and his staff is get forward Rolando Little academically eligible. He came into ISU needing a lot of credits to get qualified for what would be his last season of college basketball. He did what he needed to do in fall quarter, but he was going to need a lot of credits this spring and summer school to complete the job. If Little, who apparently is determined to make this happen, succeeds, I really like Idaho State's roster for next year.
And that roster took a little bit of a tweak with today's announcement that Tom Taylor, the 6-10 walk-on center who would have been a junior next year, is leaving the program to find more playing time. It's unfortunate because I think Taylor has some potential and the Bengals are going to need a lot of big men in two seasons, when Taylor will be a senior, but I can certainly understand his desire to get more playing time.
O'Brien also announced that walk-on guard Michael Lacey, who medically redshirted last year, has been given a scholarship. Lacey saw action in a few early season games before injuring his finger and sitting out the rest of the season. He should come in as a junior next year.
Finally, ISU announced that assistant coach Steve Swanson will be leaving the program in May to pursue his doctorate degree. O'Brien is now focused on finding his replacement -- and in starting to build what will be a very large recruiting class for next year. By my count, ISU will have nine scholarships to give for fall 2010, and they have virtually no big men returning after this upcoming season. O'Brien has a lot of work to do before the early signing period begins in November.
In the meantime, however, Gilchrest's signing indicates next season should be a lot of fun.
And thanks for being Bengal fans, it ain't always easy, but it's always fun.