It would be hard to imagine a more disappointing season than the one Green Bay Phoenix fans just had to endure. Green Bay (5-25, 4-16 Horizon League) just set a new program record for most losses compiled in a single season – which, to state the obvious is less than ideal.
UW-Green Bay began the year with the second least experienced roster in division one hoops (357th out of 358), and was beginning a transitional phase for the program under head coach Will Ryan.
Unfortunately, things didn’t exactly go according to plan in coach Ryan’s second year with the program.
Green Bay battled through an injury and illness plagued season, leaving them incredibly shorthanded – which in turn made it difficult to establish a rotation or any kind of on-court consistency.
Additionally, UWGB dealt with the dismissal of one of the programs most promising players in Boise State transfer Donovan Ivory – who according to sources had a poor attitude, often challenged the coach, and was even referred to as a “cancer” in the locker room.
This wasn’t expected to be a season where Green Bay pushed for a Horizon League title, far from it actually. However, it was going to be a vitally important season for truly establishing their system, and finding a core group of players to build around for the future.
So, what did they find?
It does little to ease the pain suffered by Phoenix fans this season, but anyone with two working eyes and access to ESPN+ can tell Green Bay has something special in true freshman Kamari McGee and Cade Meyer.
Point Guard – Kamari McGee
Kamari McGee was an absolute steal on the recruiting trail for Will Ryan and his coaching staff. Green Bay found a lead guard to build this team around over the next several seasons – and someone who can be a leader on both ends of the floor.
The former Racine Saint Catherine’s standout was a three-time Horizon League Freshman of the Week – and a member of the Horizon League All-Freshman team.
McGee made 21 starts and finished the year as Green Bay’s leading scorer, averaging 11.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game in 29 minutes a game.
The Racine (Wisc.) native is a natural point guard that plays calm, cool, and collected no matter the situation. He’s a very mature and polished player that will undoubtedly put in the work necessary to continue improving his game.
The 6-foot-0 point guard is easily the team’s best play-maker on a team that has very few players capable of creating their own shot. So, the freshman point guard quickly became the go-to player for the Phoenix late in the shot-clock.
He excelled at utilizing ball screens in effort to either penetrate the defense and get to the bucket, or to get off his knockdown mid-range jumper.
This is a player with a very high basketball IQ, and one that uses his craftiness and ability to penetrate opposing defenses to make difficult shots – taking whatever the defense is giving him.
Three-point shooting isn’t what McGee is known for, but I sincerely believe he’s better than the (.275%) he shot this year – he’s more than capable from beyond the arc and will only improve as Green Bay find’s more players to space the floor.
The next step for McGee is going to be improving his ball security. He finished the season with more turnovers (76), than assists (58).
He had a lot of responsibility put on his plate for such a young player, and by and large he handled it well. Limiting turnovers is going to be vital, especially in a system like the one Will Ryan runs.
If Green Bay is able to put a better supporting cast around McGee, i.e… shooters and a player or two capable of creating their own shot – you’ll begin to see just how high of a ceiling he has.
I see McGee as an all-league type of player that will be the most irreplaceable player on the roster moving forward.
Forward – Cade Meyer
Meyer, a Monroe (Wisc.) native started all 30 games for Green Bay this season – and finished the year averaging 9.1 points and 4.3 rebounds in 24 minutes per game.
From a physicality standpoint, Meyer was ready to log minutes from day one. He’s shown good patience and footwork down on the low block – and prove to be a solid scoring option in the paint.
While it’s not a strong suit of his yet, Meyer does offer the ability to stretch the floor some and draw his defender away from the hoop.
I expect this to be an area he works to improve during the off-season to add the pick and pop to his game.
What makes Meyer even tougher to defend for opposing big men is his ability to put the ball on the deck and attack the rim. Most big men in the Horizon League lack the lateral quickness necessary to stay in front of him.
So, despite the hard times the program has fallen on – don’t count on Green Bay being down too long. They found two foundational players that each showed fans a glimpse of what’s to come. This is a 1, 2 punch worth getting excited about for Will Ryan and company.
If Will Ryan can add a few more complimentary pieces to this roster, I actually think this program can become competitive in the Horizon League quicker than most expect.
Stay strong Phoenix fans, better days are just around the corner.
Visit https://horzizoneroundtable.com/ for the best Horizon League basketball coverage all in one place.