Green Bay: Beginning the rebuild

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Returning

Seniors: None

Juniors: F Emmanuel Ansong, G Blayton Williams

Sophomores: G Donovan Moore, G Mitch Listau (transfer portal)

Freshman: G Lucas Stieber, F Japannah Kellogg, F Ryan Claflin, F Cem Kirciman, G Kamari McGee, G/F Brayden Dailey, F Cade Meyer.

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Departures

G Amari Davis, G PJ Pipes, G Josh Jefferson, F Terrance Thompson, F Parris Taylor, G Jacob Jones, G Damonte Taylor, G Collin Schaefer.

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After finishing last season (8-16), Will Ryan and company have some work to do. A year ago, the focus was on establishing culture and creating a foundation to grow from. This off-season, Will Ryan will officially begin a full rebuild of UW Green Bay. The system Ryan implemented is meant for a specific kind of player, and finding fits on a roster of holdovers proved to be a daunting task. 

There is no way to sugarcoat losing a player like Amari Davis. However, the sky is not falling. Yes, the list of outgoing transfers is up to 8, but none of those players were recruited by coach Ryan. The optics of the roster turnover may look bad, but this isn’t a reflection of the job Coach Ryan has done to this point. According to the NCAA, approximately 40% of men’s basketball players who play Division I out of high school leave their initial school by the end of their sophomore year. Especially given the landscape of college basketball today, transfers happen all the time. Even more so when a new coach is hired. The exodus was to be expected, and could actually prove to be a blessing for the retooling of the programs roster. 

There are plenty of open spots, but this offers Coach Ryan the chance to recruit players that fit his style of play. With the increasing number of players available in the transfer portal, CC, and late signee’s due to the odd circumstances of this last season, Coach Ryan won’t be devoid of options. 

Another priority may be attempting to even out the classes. With players attaining an extra year of eligibility, most programs are going to have the issue of lopsided classes. As it stands the Phoenix only have two upper class-men on the roster. So, pursuing a few upper class-men to play now, who won’t further disorient the current number of graduating classes could prove to be advantageous. 

When played correctly, the system doesn’t require top tier talent (although it helps). It’s more important each player is sound in their assignments and versatile. While most fans seem to think the team needs to find one or two players who can immediately come in and get buckets, I don’t think it’s quite as pertinent. Yes, Green bay lost a significant amount of their offensive output, but this offense isn’t designed for one or two guys to carry the load offensively. It’s designed to spread things out and have multiple players score at or near double figures on any given night. 

Green Bay certainly has some needs in the short term, all of which revolve around shooting. In a perfect world they would land a big man above 6’8 to help on the glass. If that player can shoot, even better. A veteran play-making point guard or a combo guard who can stretch the floor are also positions of need. Overall, specific positions aren’t a huge deal, as the system allows for players to be somewhat interchangeable. It’s more about the skill-set they bring than the Guard/Forward designation. I can’t begin to speculate on who they might be interested in, but what I do know is they will be able to stretch the floor. 

To those who think Coach Ryan should have adjusted the offense and defense to better fit last year’s personnel, I wholeheartedly disagree. This defensive system is assignment specific and needed to be implemented right away. I would argue that ingraining the systems ideals and attempting to turn it into muscle memory was more important. I feel similarly about the offense, because creating a foundation to grow from, and add to, trumps the need to win now. Coach Ryan mentioned this off-season that he did his best to take the skill-sets of the players on the roster and find ways to put them in position to succeed within the offense he was wanting to run. 

Coach Ryan’s phoenix noticeably improved as the season wore on, even with a group that largely didn’t fit his style of play. So, I think that should give fans the optimism to see what he can do with players that are hand-picked.

Will Ryan was hired to create something sustainable, the school knew this wasn’t going to be an overnight success. They believe in what he’s selling and are going to give him time to build things his way. I have no doubt that Green Bay will recruit significantly more high school players (predominantly in state) and see less roster turnover down the road. The model is to get old, and stay old. 

While rebuilds can be tough, they can also be a beautiful thing. You get to see things built from the ground up and watch everything come full circle. Enjoy the process, I think it’ll be worth the wait. 

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Transfer Portal Addition

Mitch Listau – Guard

Waunakee, Wisconsin Native.

 Ranked 6th best player in WI (2018)

 Belmont transfer

3 years of eligibility 

1.016 PPP (85th percentile)

1 PPP on spot ups (70th percentile)

Mitch Listau is the first domino to fall for Will Ryan and the phoenix. The former Waunakee standout is headed home. Listau, a career 35% three-point shooter at Belmont, thought it best to pursue greater opportunity in his home state. The sweet shooting lefty should be in a position to vie for a significant role next season, and likely a lock to be a part of the rotation. Listau has some size for his position, which should allow him to play either spot on the wing. He’s also a decent ball handler for his position and has a knockdown mid-range jumper. Green Bay needs all the shooting it can get right now, so landing an in-state kid who fills a need seems like a no brainer.  

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Transfer Portal Wish List

Jacob Ognacevic – Forward 

 Sheboygan, WI native. 

Ranked 4th best player in Wisconsin (2020)

Valpo Transfer

4 years of eligibility

Averaged: 6.3 points, 2 rebounds in 13 mpg as a freshman.

1.237 PPP (99th percentile)

Jacob Ognacevic is exactly the kind of big man that fits into Will Ryan’s system. Ognacevic is a stretch four, who has good footwork and a soft touch for a big man. A big man like Jacob Ognacevic would be a plug and play stretch big for the next four years, with potential to be an all-conference performer. Rumor has it that Ognacevic wants to get closer to home, and Green Bay can offer both opportunity and proximity to home. On paper it makes sense, and would definitely be a fan favorite. 

Give me a follow on Twitter at @Badgers_Notes

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