How can the Phoenix Improve?
2022 was largely a year to forget for the Green Bay Phoenix. The calendar saw just five wins, and promising youngsters like Kamari McGee transferred to bigger programs. Thankfully, it wasn’t all bad. Forward Cade Meyer made the Horizon League All-Freshman team last year and the team is young with lots of room to grow. Besides, what better time to look to improve than the start of a new year? As we turn our calendars over, I’ve decided to help some of the players out with their New Year’s resolutions.
Cade Meyer: Take more shots
After making the Horizon League All-Freshman team last year, expectations were high for forward Cade Meyer, especially after fellow All-Freshman-teamer Kamari McGee transferred to Wisconsin. Meyer has lived up to the hype so far. He’s started in every game, his 11.4 points per game lead the team, and he’s second in several categories, including rebounds, blocks, and true shooting percentage. He even dropped a career high 25 points to lead the Phoenix past UMKC on December 10th.
Although he also leads the team in shot attempts at 8.1 per game, I think he can easily become a guy who takes at least ten shots a game, and I expect him to do so as we head into conference play. In the three games that have seen Cade take double-digit field goals this year, he’s dropped 19, 25, and 24 points – three of the four highest scoring performances of his young career. He’s not a shot chucker either. Including last season, he’s taken double-digit shots in 10 games. In those games, he’s averaging 17.1 points with a 56.7 field goal percentage, and has failed to score in double figures just once.
Zae Blake: Hold on to the ball
Zae Blake has been stuffing the stat sheet this season. His 9.9 points is second on the team, and he leads the Phoenix in rebounds, assists, and steals. He’s doing all that on team leading efficiency as well, with a 63.9 TS%. Unfortunately, he also leads the team in turnovers, 39 on the year to his 44 assists.
He’s been fairly boom or bust as well. He struggled in the win against UMKC, turning it over eight times and dishing just three assists. However, he followed that up with seven dimes and just two turnovers in their next game against St. Thomas (MN).
While it’s fair to expect a player who has the ball as often as Blake to have his fair share of turnovers, hanging on to the ball a little more would be hugely beneficial for a team that ranks near the bottom of the nation in TO%.
Brock Heffner: Eat more turkey
Green Bay’s playboy Brock Heffner has been a freshman standout on a very young team. After catching some sun during a redshirt year with Hawaii last year, Heff has returned to his home state and quickly earned his coach’s trust. He’s started 11 of his 12 games played. After a slow start to the season saw him averaging four points on awful efficiency, something changed after Thanksgiving.
Since Green Bay’s game against UIC on Nov. 26th, Brock has come into his own. In that span, he’s been averaging over 11 points per game on an efficient 59.8 TS%. Other than a couple of stinkers against Stanford and Detroit-Mercy , he’s scored at least 12 points in each game and has made nearly half of his shots from distance. While these numbers will come down to Earth as the season continues, it’s been great watching a young player come into his own. Whatever Heff did over Thanksgiving break has worked.
Randy Tucker: Make more threes
Coach Ryan was hoping that Randy Tucker could space the floor when he transferred to Green Bay a little over a year ago. The junior guard leads the team in attempts by a significant margin; he’s taken 63, 23 more than any other player . However, he hasn’t been making the most of his chances, knocking down less than 29% of his shots from range. It’s an improvement from last year, which saw Tucker make just over 20% of his threes on slightly lower volume.
While he hasn’t shown much from beyond the arc in Green Bay to justify his attempts, Tucker has a history as a shooter. Before he joined the Phoenix, he was a sharpshooter at JUCO Vincennes University in Indiana. In the 2020-21 season, Tucker shot over 38% from three, and led the Trailblazers with 99 shots from distance. He’s also improved at the free throw line each year of his career, and including JUCO, is a career 74.5% shooter from the charity stripe. He’s also the only player on the team who will shoot without hesitation off the catch, which forces teams to care about him at least a little on the perimeter.
Clarence Cummings III: Foul less
Clarence’s first year in Green Bay has been solid. He leads the team in minutes and has started all games but one. He also is near the tops of the conference in personal fouls. His 40 personal fouls is third in the Horizon, and he has just six games so far with two or fewer fouls. Coach Ryan isn’t particularly conservative when it comes to playing guys in foul trouble, but he would definitely rather take players out than keep them in.
Nate Jenkins: Sit out until February
After two uneventful years at Iowa State, guard Nate Jenkins transferred to Green Bay last season and had easily his best year yet. He averaged just over six points per game, mostly off the bench, and shot 35.3% on 3-pointers. He’s been playing more this season, starting 11 games and playing in all 15. Unfortunately, he’s lost his shot from last year.
After a pedestrian start to last season, Jenkins turned it on in the month of February, averaging 11 points, three rebounds, two assists, and one steal on good efficiency, including 38% from long range. This year, he’s shooting 12.5% from outside the arc and 30% inside. I’m sure this is just a cold stretch, and not indicative of who Jenkins is as a player, but Ryan is hoping that Jenkins activates February mode a little early this year.