|Posted by Brian Dickmann on November 1, 2016 at 3:45 PM|
This is part 1 of 5 previewing Green Bay’s 2016/2017 mens basketball roster. Today we look at the center position.
You can easily argue that Linc Darner’s “HyperLinc” – or “RP40” or whatever name you want to give to the Green Bay Phoenix head coach’s up-tempo style – doesn’t play with a true center.
This argument is aided by the fact that Green Bay’s official roster doesn’t even list a center on it, but rather six forwards that are for the most part interchangeable.
However, Darner’s system does actually require at least one big man down low. This is especially true on defense where the Phoenix need mass to stand in the paint and protect the rim. They also provide a low post option on offense when GB is forced to play a half court set in the event that the fast break is not on.
Last season (and likely again this season), Kenneth Lowe was the go-to-guy down low for the Phoenix.
Lowe started every game for Green Bay last year as a junior and posted his best statistical season as a collegiate player scoring 6.8 points, grabbing 3.9 rebounds, and swatting 1.2 blocks per game in 21.3 minutes of action.
In conference play, he increased his production to 7.7 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game.
Known mostly as a defensive asset, Lowe scored more last season than in his previous two seasons combined. He also made 53.3% of his shots from the floor, a slight increase from his sophomore season.
He provided additional possessions by grabbing 63 offensive rebounds, good for 8th most in the Horizon League.
He was also solid on the defensive end swiping 35 steals – more than his freshman and sophomore seasons combined – which was good for 10th in the Horizon League. He also and finished 5th in the conference with 42 blocks last season.
While the 6’8” Lowe provides a solid post presence, his free throw shooting – and to a lesser extent his outside shooting – continue to be a liability. Among Green Bay players with at least 20 free throw attempts last season, he was a team-worst 48.1% from the charity stripe. During crunch time, however, he was able to make 8 of 11 free throws during the Phoenix run to the conference tournament championship last March.
While impossible to replace, Lowe will be tasked with helping to fill the defensive void left behind due to the graduation of Jordan Fouse.
Lowe will be playing big minutes and will be a key component if Green Bay hopes to repeat the late season success they were able to achieve last year. He will be asked to play a bigger role on defense, but an improved offensive game, including the ability to make free throws more consistently, will go a long way in helping the Phoenix make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament.
Lowe will be backed up by 6’10” big man Kerem Kanter. Like Lowe, Kanter is a senior in his second season in Darner’s system.
He appeared in 28 of Green Bay’s 36 games last season reaching double figures in scoring four times. He averaged 3.9 points and 2.2 rebounds in 9.5 minutes per game.
He had a solid performance in the Phoenix season opening overtime loss at Stanford, which featured a tall lineup, scoring 12 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 26 minutes of action. The minutes dried up towards the end of the season, however, as Darner shrunk his rotation. In the nine games leading up Green Bay's NCAA Tournament loss to Texas A&M, Kanter appeared in just four, playing a total of 11 minutes in that stretch.
But with another offseason to understand Darner’s system, plus the need for a big man in the paint, Kanter will almost certainly play an expanded role for Green Bay this season. He flashed potential last season, averaging 14.1 rebounds per 100 possessions, 2nd on the team behind on Jordan Fouse.
Kanter also showed a willingness to expand his shooting range, attempting 20 three pointers last season, connecting on 5 (20.0%).
Center may be an overlooked position in Darner’s system, but it shouldn’t be. As the Phoenix try to replace 2 All-Horizon caliber players, Green Bay will need contributions from all over, including both offensively and defensively from their big men inside.
Up next: Power forward / stretch 4