Down at Duke, many are wondering who will take over as the floor general for the Blue Devils now that Chris Duhon is gone.
For the Red, many are wondering who will take over in the backcourt, not just as a leader on the court, but also as someone who can replace the scoring that Ka’Ron Barnes ’04 provided the squad last season.
“Although we lost Ka’Ron, we replaced him with a couple of guys who have been in the program and will take an expanded role, and also a lot of younger guys who will help us right away,” said head coach Steve Donahue.
One player who has been in the program for a while is senior Cody Toppert. Toppert, a three-year starter, averaged 14.6 points per game last season, while shooting over 35 percent from beyond the arc.
What separates Toppert from many other are his intangibles. He shot a team-leading 84 percent from the free-throw line last season, while collecting 102 rebounds, 41 assists, and 22 steals.
His intangibles also include a knack for strong play in big games. In a game last year against the eventual national champ, Syracuse , he netted a team-high 21 points.
Yet it is Toppert’s prowess on the boards and skills covering his defender that are things Donahue thinks will be vital for the Red this season.
“I want our trademark to be defending and rebounding,” Donahue said. “I want to be a great defending and rebounding team because I want to be a great transition team.”
If the Red is able to break out into transition often, it will have plenty of players who can run a fast-break — including sophomore Graham Dow and junior David Lisle.
Both players saw considerable playing time last year, yet combined they had just two starts. Dow, a point guard, averaged 3.2 points per game last season, knocking down 47 percent from the field, and contributing defensively with 36 steals in 27 games.
“[Dow] doesn’t have to sit back and think he’s just Ka’Ron’s backup,” Donahue said. “He has a chance to have a starting spot.”
Lisle will be another player asked to step up this season, after notching 3.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest last season.
Donahue noted how Lisle is a great hustle player, yet this year he will have added dimensions to his game.
“[Lisle] is just way more consistent in his offensive ability,” Donahue said. “His ball handling has gotten better, his leadership, [and] his confidence is all there.”
Lisle’s leadership will be welcomed in a Red backcourt that includes three freshmen and sophomore Kevin App, who saw time in just nine games last season.
The freshman triumvirate includes Jason Canady, Will Scott, and Khaliq Gant, who was named one of the top-200 recruits nationally by Prep Basketball magazine.
“Kaliq Gant I think is more ready than some of the other guys,” Donahue said. “He plays the point guard spot, which is what we need, so he’ll have the opportunity to challenge for a starting spot.”
One player that is slated to have a starting spot is junior Lenny Collins, who plays the three, but is considered a “big guard” by Donahue.
Last year, the 6-6 swingman started all 27 games for the Red and was the team’s third-leading scorer and rebounder, with 10.4 points per game, and 5.2 rebounds per game. Yet Collins’ claim to fame is on the defensive side of the ball where he led the Red with 52 steals.
“He has a great feel for the game,” Donahue said. “Lenny has the ability to lead us in steals [again], and he can also lead us in assists.”
Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Assistant Sports Editor