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Individual Player Recap: Sam Japhet-Mathias

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What did SJM show us in his glimpses on the court?

NCAA Basketball: Charleston Classic-Wake Forest vs Charleston Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Japhet-Mathias is listed at 6’11” and 280 lbs. He was third on the depth-chart among true post players this year (no disrespect to Mitoglou, who made huge strides in his post game). His 4.1 minutes per game trailed John Collins (26.6 mpg) and Doral Moore (8.3 mpg). Additionally, he only played in 17 games, compared to all 33 for Collins and 31 for Moore.

Of course, a big part of this allocation was undoubtedly JC’s dominance (particularly on the offensive end). Since JC was such a big part of the offense, it was difficult for Danny Manning to take him off the court except in the event of foul trouble.

In his 4.1 minutes, SJM averaged .7 ppg, .9 rpg, and 1.3 fouls. His best game was against Xavier on December 17th, when he contributed 6 points (3-3 FG), 4 rebounds, and a block in 8 minutes of playing. However, this was also the last time SJM scored a point, despite seeing the floor in 11 subsequent games (0-4 FG over that span).

As with the other big men on the squad, SJM at times struggled to avoid committing fouls. He fouled out in 11 minutes against FSU, and had 4 fouls the game before against LSU. His overall fouls:minutes ratio was 1.3:4.1; if that rate held over longer time periods he would foul out in about 15 minutes. However, since FSU on December 28th, SJM never had more than 2 fouls in a game. Some of this was due to his limited minutes in ACC play, but he also played 8 minutes games against each of UNC and Louisville and came away with one foul both times. It’s hard to tell too much with the small sample size (both in games and minutes), but the numbers suggest he improved in avoiding fouls over the course of the season.

Despite limited minutes, SJM showed some promising attributes (particularly when he was able to avoid fouls). He is strikingly light on his feet for someone listed at almost 300 pounds, and moves relatively well to stay in good position on defense. On offense, he has a relatively soft touch around the rim and showed a few smooth post moves (although the sample size of offensive touches was very limited). And he LED THE TEAM in FT% (well, tied with Trent VanHorn, as they each went 2-2).

SJM’s role next year would seem to depend heavily on whether JC returns or heads to the NBA. If JC returns, then SJM and Moore will likely continue to share responsibilities as stopgaps when JC needs a rest or gets into foul trouble. That is, unless Danny Manning decides to start playing two of the three at the same time, which rarely happened this year. That may be a bit more likely if JC expands his range a little, leaving some more space in the paint for one of the other guys.

If JC leaves, then the 5 spot is blown wide open. I tend to think the battle for a starting spot is pretty open between SJM and Moore. Yes, Moore played almost twice as many minutes (and games) as SJM. Then again, Danny Manning sat Moore the last two games of the season, while SJM at least got a couple of minutes in the NCAAT game. Again, it’s hard to read too much into that. But, I certainly don’t think either of them have the starting spot on lock, and I think performance in the offseason will go a long way in determining their respective roles next year.