With this week’s big news that two-time all-Big Sky guard Geno Crandall is going to grad transfer, it’s time to take a deeper look at the roster and see what the Fighting Hawks might look like in their first season in the Summit League.
Let’s start with the proven commodities. Marlon Stewart, Conner Avants and Cortez Seales isn’t a bad little nucleus to build from. All three guys averaged more than 10 points per game and Stewart, specifically, has some potential to grow as he was knocking rust off from not playing much at Creighton.
UND needs to hope Stewart’s 29-point outburst in the Big Sky Conference tournament semis last year against Montana State was a sign of things to come in his junior season.
The rest of the experience lies with Kienan Walter and Billy Brown, but those two will have a ton of competition from newcomers.
Who will start with Stewart, Avants and Seales?
In my opinion, UND needs to address ball-handling. I’m going to give that role to juco transfer Bentiu Panoam, who averaged 3.7 assists last year in junior college. His highlights seem to indicate some nice quickness. All that said, I’d bet UND is seeing if they can turn the Geno scholarship into a point guard. I’m sure it’s a tough market, though, which is why the transfer announcement this late in the game is a tough pill to swallow.
UND will need to have some length in that final starting spot, so it’s going to be up to one of three guys: 6-foot-8 Jal Bijiek (the kid who turned down multiple high-major offers), 6-foot-7 Zac Saddler (juco who was previously at Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and 6-foot-9 Marko Coudreau (the young Frenchman who has experience on the international stage).
Talk about a wildcard group.
Bijiek will be freakishly athletic. You gain that much from watching his highlights and seeing his offer list. But he’s definitely thin and the Summit is a broader-shoulder league than the Big Sky.
Saddler looks to me like he’s got Avants’ motor with the potential to knock down outside shots. Wouldn’t be shocked at all if he nets some starts.
Coudreau? I’ve scoured the Internet for video and come up empty. But the people I talk to say the kid has a ton of promise. He’s just young and not on campus yet.
Even with Geno, last year’s team struggled to find a consistent 3-point shooting threat - an element we haven’t seen since, maybe, Adam McDermott left for Northern Iowa. I think a lot of North Dakotans are curious to see if that can be filled by N.D. prep legend Aanen Moody, the Dickinson kid who redshirted last year.
I watched Moody shoot with former assistant Jeff Horner when I was down at South Dakota State last winter and was super impressed. He has one of those shots that looks so pure, reminiscent of McDermott or a Cole Stefan.
He might not play a ton of minutes as a freshman, but I think he’ll get an opportunity to be a nice changeup off the bench.