After Tuesday nights Black and Gold scrimmage, UW-Milwaukee head coach Rob Jeter spent a few minutes addressing the crowd. Jeter thanked everyone for coming, shared with the season ticket holders the date of open house, when the first exhibition game was and then touched on what the team’s strengths and weaknesses’ were going to be this season.
One of those weaknesses to start the year is going to be a low post presence. After a disappointing junior year for former player Kyle Kelm, many people might have thought that when he graduated, UWM wasn’t going to lose much. Well after last season where he averaged 12.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, UWM will have a big hole to fill left by Kelm. The Panthers also will be missing Malcolm Moore, who graduated as well. Although Moore only made one start, he provided a key spark off the bench, averaging 3.8 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Milwaukee has their point guard in Steve McWhorter and they have their two forwards in Austin Arians and Matt Tiby. All three of those players started on last years NCAA tournament team. So the big question is who will fill the other two starting spots?
Filling the second guard spot won’t be much of a concern for Jeter as he has three solid players to choose from. Akeem Springs, Jevon Lyle and Cody Wichmann will all be competing for the starting spot and all three of them are capable of being great compliments to the other three starters. Coach Jeter even said after the scrimmage that their strength was their depth at the guard position.
With four out of the five players essentially picked (depending on who you pick from above) the Panthers have one more spot to fill: the center spot.
The safest pick might be 6-10 junior JJ Panoske, Panoske played a limited role on last years team, but started 16 games the year before and flashed skills.. Not only does he offer height to the starting line-up, he also offers the ability to stretch the floor and knock down perimeter shots. With Panoske stretching the floor, it would allow space in the paint for the guards to penetrate and score at the rim. It will also allow more opportunities for Tiby to post up without being double-teamed.
If Panoske doesn’t end up being the right fit, the next option could be either one of the Prahl twins if the Panthers are looking to fill that spot with height. 6’9 redshirt freshmen from East Troy, Alex and Brett both did not play last season, so the one thing they will lack is experience. Throwing one of them into a starting role right in the beginning of the season could easily turn out to be the wrong move. While they might get minutes this season, the coaching staff will ease them in and get acclimated to the speed and size of Division 1
The third and most likely final option for filling the fifth spot would be moving Tiby to the five spot and starting two of the guards listed above or Trinson White. Tiby stands at 6’8, which would be a little small for a D1 center, but he posses the heart and motor to play any position coach Jeter asks him to. The bigger issue UWM would be faced with if they went this route would be moving Arians to the four spot. Arians is listed at 6’6 so starting him at the power forward position might be difficult for the team and himself. If Arians were to play the four position, he would be forced to guard bigger and stronger players which could wear him down through out the game.
Although it would cause a few players to play out of position, the Panthers could decide to play small and focus on being quicker and more athletic than their opponents.
It will be interesting to see what Jeter decides to do to fill that final starting position, and he could easily change it as the season goes on. Last year, Panoske started the first six games before the coaches decided to start Kelm. If Jeter ends up plugging in the right piece, the Panthers should find themselves near the top of the Horizon League.