Today, walking back from my last class of the day, I found myself thinking about what the basketball team will look like next year. Who will be lost, who will be added. Darin Johnson and Nigel Williams-Goss will be coming on board for sure, and a few veteran players will be gone. First, Aziz N’Diaye, and second, the veteran point guard Abdul Gaddy. It really does feel like Gaddy has been around forever, but this is certainly his final year, and someone will have to take over as the starting point guard next year.
While Williams-Goss looks incredibly talented, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him rise up and contribute significantly as a freshman next season, for now Gaddy’s successor has to be seen as Andrew Andrews, the redshirt freshman that has seen significant time so far this year both due to his own talent and the injury to Scott Suggs. Once Suggs returns to full health, Andrews will probably return to the role of spark off of the bench that was expected of him at the beginning of the year.
So, after seven games this year, during which Andrews has averaged 27 minutes each game, we now have a little bit of an idea into what sort of player he is, and whether or not he should be expected to succeed Gaddy as point guard, or at least to seize a starting spot as a two, next year. My assessment right now? A resounding “I’m not sure.”
It isn’t that Andrews has been horrible. Not at all. First and foremost, he has shown a willingness to play physical, in-your-face on ball defense on the perimeter, something that was almost completely missing from the team last year and that is still not prevalent enough among the players this year. He hasn’t been without his defensive mistakes, and he is only averaging .1 steals per game, but at the very least he has clearly bought into Romar’s aggressive defensive philosophy, and that instantly makes him a better defender than almost every player on the roster.
Offensively things get a little dicier. He is averaging 7 points per game, which, for a guy that is seeing his first action and has been pressed into starting duty, isn’t all that bad. That fact that he is averaging 5 free throw attempts a game, and converting 71% of them, is also terrific. This team really needs a guy that is willing to aggressively drive inside and take contact, and they also really need someone who can capitalize on his opportunities at the line.
Besides the free throws, perhaps the most impressive thing about Andrews so far this year has been his passing. Despite the fact that he has not been the primary ball-handler, he is still averaging 3.3 assists, which is actually exactly the same as Gaddy’s average. From my view in the Dawg Pack, it has seemed to me that a lot of his assists have resulted from him seeing and passing to C.J. Wilcox exactly when he is open for a jumper, often a corner three, and in my mind, that makes his passing even more valuable, as so many of his passes have put Wilcox in a terrific position to help the team.
However, there is one flaw so far that has really held Andrews back in a big way: his shooting. The guy is shooting 24% from the field and 22% from three point range. That is just awful. If he weren’t so good at drawing fouls, he would be averaging more like four points a game based on his shooting numbers. It isn’t that his jumper looks broken (cough, Tony Wroten, cough) or anything like that, he clearly has three point range and both jumpers and floaters seem like an important part of his skillset, but he has not been knocking them down at an acceptable rate. And this isn’t a matter of a few bad games skewing the numbers. He has not, in a single game, shot better than 33% from the field.
Hopefully he is just dealing with a cold streak, and things will get better, because I like pretty much everything else that I have seen from him, but until we see that Andrews can shoot the ball efficiently, or really even score effectively from anywhere other than the free throw line, I can’t say with any confidence that he is ready to take over as point guard next season.