The Rebels may only be four practices into the 2013-14 season, but position battles are already well underway—especially at point guard, arguably the most important position on the floor and a spot where the Rebels have no fewer than four players vying for the primary job.
As it stands now, junior DeVille Smith, sophomore Daquan Cook, freshman Kendall Smith and junior Jelan Kendrick are all in the mix, according to Dave Rice.
“There’s definitely a battle,” Rice said after Friday’s practice. “That battle starts in the preseason, in the weight room, on the track. But it gets stronger once practice starts, and so it’s still a wide-open deal and we’re trying all those guys. The great thing is, they’re all competing and battling, and I’m excited about the fact that we have a number of options.”
Each player brings a slightly different skill set to the position. DeVille Smith possesses the quickness to penetrate on offense and hound the ball on defense. Cook is a skilled passer with a year in the system (something none of the other candidates has). Kendrick has size (6-foot-7) and playmaking ability. And Kendall Smith has the athleticism to make plays around the rim.
The primary battle appears to be between DeVille Smith and Cook, the two among that group who are considered “true” point guards.
DeVille Smith was widely viewed as the frontrunner heading into preseason, and after a week of full practices, he appears to be fitting in nicely within the Rebels’ system. He hasn’t dazzled at the offensive end, but he’s shown a nice 3-point stroke and good defensive potential.
“I feel like I still have a long way to go,” Smith said. “I’m still learning, taking it day by day. All the older guys from last year are showing me stuff—how to get through defenses and all that. But I’m just taking it day by day.”
Cook looks to be physically stronger than he was last year, but size (he’s very generously listed at 6-foot-1, 170 pounds) will never be an asset for the Baltimore native. Instead, Rice points to his experience as one of his strong suits, but notes that it will take more than that to win the job.
“Daquan of course knows our system,” Rice said. “He’s been with us for a year, so any time—whether it’s the point guard position or any other position—any time you’ve got returning guys, they just inherently have an advantage early on.
“But we have other new guys who are working hard who will close the gap quickly. So we’ll see how that shakes out.”
Kendall Smith and Jelan Kendrick are the other two newcomers who could see time at the 1 this season. Neither may be true point guards, but both possess some of the skills necessary to bring value to the position.
“I think the thing that’s good for us is that we have depth on our team,” Rice said. “And the way we want to play, in terms of more up-tempo and in terms of pressing, we’re going to need multiple point guards.”
When asked what it would take to win the position battle and earn the starting nod, Rice laid down the job description.
“We need leadership from the point guard spot,” Rice said. “We need a guy who defends his position, quarterbacks our defense and makes sure we do a good job of getting the ball stopped. And then runs our transition offense and our half-court offense and just gets other people involved. There’s a lot of jobs. It’s the hardest position to play, and it’s one of the most important positions. There’s a lot to it and I’m happy we have as many options as we do.”
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