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Erten Gazi Can Not Be “Nearly Invisible” This Year

Erten Gazi enters his second year in Chicago needing to be more of a factor in the Blue Demons offense.

NCAA Basketball: St. John at DePaul Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

According to Kenpom.com, DePaul sophomore guard Erten Gazi played 35.3 percent of possible game minutes. In that time he was used on 11.8 percent of the team’s possessions. That number made Gazi “nearly invisible” on offense in relation to the rest of the team.

Erten Gazi will have to lose that label in 2016-17.

Gazi finished his first year in Chicago averaging 2.2 points, 1.3 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 14.6 minutes per game. He failed to score double-digits in any appearance, with his season scoring high being the 8 points he put up in a win at UIC.

“Deference” was the name of the game for Gazi on offense. He rarely left an impression when he was on the floor, despite playing in 30 games and getting a sizable amount of minutes.

He was normally assigned with bringing the ball up when Billy Garrett wasn’t in the game. Once he made the first pass to initiate the offense, he would essentially disappear from the play. Whenever he would get the ball back it was usually as the middleman at the top of the key to reverse the ball to the weakside of the floor. What he did when he kept the ball was a little hit-and-miss.

Gazi was good at getting to the basket. He shot 63.6 percent from inside the arc, and his .286 free throw rate was the team median. These attacks normally came off of pick-and-rolls and open lanes to the bucket. If a defender was entrenched in front of him, he struggled to create his own opportunity off of the dribble.

Erten couldn’t find his outside shot in his freshman year. Gazi finished the year going 4-of-23 (17.4 percent) from three-point range. This was a matter of him putting up a three-point attempt or two every so often, and the misses adding up over time.

His struggles from outside may have made him a less-willing participant in the offense. When you can’t get your shot going in-game, it makes sense to defer to the other playmakers - Billy Garrett, Eli Cain, Myke Henry, Aaron Simpson, etc. - that tended to fare better with the ball.

They really could have used the extra scorer or playmaker, considering that the Blue Demons scored the 57th-fewest points in the country once the season was said and done. He will probably continue to be tasked with playing both guard positions. Improvement in those two aspects will be an even more pressing need heading into the new year.

Erten was a better player on the defensive end. He normally had good defensive positioning, making it hard for opponents to get by him off-the-dribble. When he did sag off a bit too much, he was still better at closing out on shooters than most. He made his share of freshman mistakes, but Gazi was full of hustle. That often made up for things.

His athleticism was key to him being a talented defender. He had a couple of moments early in the year on transition defense where he did not give up on a play. One time I can personally remember came in a loss at Penn State where he and Rashaun Stimage chased down a Nittany Lion and thwarted his lay-up. Stimage was credited with the block.

The other time came in a win against Chicago State when Erten emphatically shut down a Jawad Adekoya layup. Gazi did not log another block for the rest of the season. DePaul is going to need more athletic defensive plays like that moving forward.

With a year under his belt, it’s important for Erten to gain confidence in his abilities. We’ve seen what he was capable of at the U18 level. The flashes of that talent were rare in 2015-16. Part of DePaul’s improvement this season will require Gazi to be much, much more than “nearly invisible”.