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Titans have talent- and question marks

By JOEY OSTER/ VN SPORTS EDITOR
On November 3, 2015

After a second straight season finishing below .500, coach Ray McCallum is on the hot seat. 

He has now officially lost more games than he has won while in Detroit.

A 15-18 record in 2014-15, including a seventh-place Horizon League finish, could prove to be the penultimate straw in his tenure as men’s head basketball coach at UDM.

McCallum’s livelihood will rest predominantly on whether Paris Bass, a 6’8” redshirt sophomore, is ready to make the leap.

Juwan Howard Jr.’s graduation leaves a gaping hole in the Titans’ offense, and Bass will need to fill that void.

Averaging 12.4 points and 5.7 rebounds as a freshman, Bass was named the league’s Newcomer of the Year.

With his ability to get to the rim and handle the ball, combined with his athleticism and size, he has shown flashes that he can become the best player in the entire conference.

However, Bass might be a year away from dominance.

Junior Chris Jenkins will look to become Detroit’s second option on the offensive end.

The 6’7’’ swingman had an up-and-down first year as a Titan (he transferred from Colorado), but began to find a groove as the season progressed.

In the 2015 Horizon League Tournament, Jenkins’ usage went up and so did his production, scoring 21 and 14 points respectively in the Titans’ two games.

Anton Wilson (6’5” senior guard) has proved himself one of the best pure strokes in the league, shooting at a 41.8 percent clip from behind the arch and 85.7 percent from the free throw line last season. He needs to become more dynamic offensively, as over two-thirds of his shot attempts were from three-point land.

Wilson is the only sure thing in the Titans’ crowded backcourt.

With no one really emerging, junior point guards Jarrod Williams and Matthew Grant will share a majority of the duties.

Serving as a platoon last year, the duo appeared in every game, playing nearly identical minutes.

Although they will likely be in a similar role this season, don’t be surprised if the scrappier, more stable Williams begins taking the lion’s share of playing time.

Averaging averaged 6.3 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game, he was a bit more productive. With limited minutes to go around, expect McCallum to lean on Williams more.

Also fighting for time at the guard slot is senior Carlton Brundidge.

A former four-star recruit, Brundidge was expected to be a starter last season, but saw his minutes cut drastically as he became more of an afterthought in McCallum’s rotation.

Other than Wilson, Brundidge is the team’s only senior following the departure of 6’10” Pat Ackerman.

Juco transfer Patrick Robinson, Jr. could also vie for a reserve role in the backcourt.

With Ackerman gone, Jaleel Hogan is left as the only experienced big man on the roster.

At 6’6’’, Hogan is a bit undersized, but he will most likely start at center. Though raw, he appeared in every game last season as a true freshman. But the jump in minutes might be a problem.

While above average on the glass, Hogan has shown his offensive game can be limited and his horrendous free throw shooting (50.6 percent) will make it difficult for McCallum to leave him on the floor during crunch time.

Even if the Titans choose to play small-ball with Bass at power forward, production from other big men will still be needed. 

The answer could come from a trio of freshmen: Gerald Blackshear, Jalen Gibson and Aaron Foster-Smith. After sitting out a redshirt year, Foster-Smith is probably the most ready, but Blackshear is more than likely the long-term answer.

Blackshear, along with fellow freshman and high school teammate Josh McFolley, are the UDM wildcards. 

Blackshear has the versatility, length and athleticism to become a force in the future, while McFolley is a serious threat to steal minutes immediately.

After transferring from Mount Clemens following their junior year, the duo led Detroit Western High School to an undefeated season and a Class A state championship in 2015.

Both were ranked as top 20 players in the state of Michigan, with McFolley honored as a member of the Detroit Free Press Dream Team. The longtime friends will join their former Mount Clemens coach, Jermaine Jackson, at UDM. Jackson, a former Titan, is a first-year assistant under McCallum.

This team is loaded with young talent and potential, which is why they might still be a year away from threatening to make a push for the conference crown. McCallum has had teams in this same vein before.

Other than 2012, he has yet to push a malleable group over the top. His teams always play to the competition, for better or for worse.

But that might not be acceptable after this year. Simply competing with big schools is fine, but moral victories are meaningless if your team doesn’t eventually transform those into actual tangible wins.


Oster’s predictions

l All-Horizon League honors: Paris Bass, Chris Jenkins

l Conference record: 8-8, fifth place

l Overall record: 14-15

l Final outcome: Losing in Horizon League Semifinals

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