The Eastern men’s basketball team has not played for a week and a half, but the last games it did play helped show the offensive attack the Panthers will have for the season.
Last season, Eastern only had three scorers in double figures, and if the game was on the line, there were only a couple players who were truly viable options to take that clutch shot.
But after seven games, the Panthers (4-3) are showing a roster full of scorers who boast many avenues of scoring.
Four players are averaging double-figure scoring, and each of them present different tool sets that will give Eastern the balanced offensive attack it needs to sustain a successful season.
Leading the Panthers in scoring and rebounding is newcomer George Dixon.
Dixon is averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game, and if the start of the season is an indicator for the rest of the season, he gives the Panthers a consistent post scorer who can be relied on for some close baskets.
Dixon, along with Jordan Skipper-Brown, are tearing opponents apart inside so far this season.
Skipper-Brown himself is averaging nine points and four rebounds per game, giving Eastern more depth in the post than just Dixon.
On top of those two, JaQualis Matlock, who was Eastern’s best post option last season, returns as another threat to score in the post when he is aggressive and does not look for a pass out of the post first.
But all three, even if they are not having a good scoring night, are good passers in the post, whether it be kicking the ball out to a shooter or making a sharp pass to a cutting teammate.
With the scoring trio in the post for Eastern this year, it adds another level to the team’s scoring but also gives shooters some space to breath because opposing teams may try to crash on the post scorers.
Marvin Johnson, Eastern’s second-leading scorer (11.8 points per game), and Deang Deang (third-leading scorer at 11 points per game), give Eastern an attack within the three-point arc.
First, to focus on Johnson, he has a great ability to take and make mid-range shots.
It is a niche that one specific scorer for Eastern does not necessarily boast too well; players like Mack Smith and Josiah Wallace can make mid-range shots well, for example, but Johnson is ready to pull up from 12-to-18 feet at a moment’s notice and does it well.
He and Deang both can make shots in the lane as well, on cuts or drives.
Deang also has a great arsenal to utilize for Eastern, as he can get to the lane or make some shots from the outside.
Last season, Eastern had more players attempting three-point shots than it does so far this year, and Smith stands out by far as the main three-point shooter for Eastern this year.
But even with fewer three-point shots being attempted this year, Deang is sneakily a lethal outside shooter for the Panthers.
Deang has attempted the second-most amount of threes for Eastern so far (18), and he made six of them so far (33 percent). Thirty-three percent does not jump off the page, but considering that most of the other Eastern players who play regular minutes are not attempting or making a lot of threes, Deang adds another option to kick the ball out to for a three every now and then.
Speaking of three-point shooting, the main option for the Panthers last year is, so far, not the workhorse this year, which is a good thing.
Too many times last year, a reliance on three-point shooting hurt the Panthers; this year, three-point shots are not as abundant, but they are just as valued and good for the team.
Smith leads the team in every three-point shooting category so far (except percentage), but he is still making 39.5 percent of his shots from beyond the arc.
Smith can spot up for an outside shot, or he can catch-and-shoot for a quick shot from outside.
There is no denying the value Smith’s shooting brings to the table for Eastern, and though Kashawn Charles has not attempted as many threes as Smith, he leads the Panthers in three-point shooting percentage (63.6 percent, 7-of-11).
What makes Charles’ threes so valuable for Eastern is that they always seem to be at a time where they bring the crowd to its feet.
It really does seem a lot of Charles’ threes come at a time when the Panthers need a three, and when the ball goes through the net, the Eastern crowd erupts.
Charles also is really good at catching-and-shooting and being accurate when doing so.
The name on everyone’s mind is Josiah Wallace.
Wallace is only averaging 7.4 points per game so far, shooting 34.4 percent from the field, but Eastern head coach Jay Spoonhour has lauded how Wallace is handling it.
Wallace will have his night where he breaks out and boosts the Panthers, do not worry.
Among the newcomers, and the returning players, Eastern’s players each have their own unique scoring arsenals they bring to the table, and with such depth at all scoring positions, the Panthers can only get better and utilize all of them going forward.
Dillan Schorfheide can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]