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Isaac Copeland’s Junior Adjustments

How might Isaac Copeland help Georgetown return to the NCAA Tournament?

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Georgetown vs DePaul William Hauser-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 was a rough year on The Hilltop. Georgetown’s 15-18 record was the worst under John Thompson III and the worst percentage-wise for the Hoyas since 1971-72. The Hoyas’ nonconference schedule included head-scratching losses to Radford, Monmouth, and UNC-Asheville, and they struggled down the stretch with a 1-9 record in their final 10 regular season conference games. The loss of four seniors to graduation (Aaron Bowen, Mikael Hopkins, Joshua Smith, Jabril Trawick) and two sophomores to injury (Paul White, Akoy Agau) proved to be too much for the Hoyas to handle.

In the midst of the flux, forward Isaac Copeland had a hit-and-miss season. The 2015 Big East All-Rookie Team selection saw improvement in certain areas but issues in others. It wasn’t a full-on sophomore slump, but there are key facets that Copeland hopefully worked on over this summer.

There were a number of positives in Copeland’s game this past season. He saw an increase of minutes as he retained the starting role he earned in the final stages of 2014-15. While his 19.4% usage rate was identical between years, Copeland was able to put up more shots in 2016, going from 5.6 per game to 9.2. If you extrapolate those averages to a per-40-minute basis, the field goal ratio is actually the same: 5 makes on about 11 attempts. The difference was that he took fewer two-pointers per-40 in his elder season.

He shot from inside the arc more efficiently, jumping from 47.7% to 53.9%. That increase can be credited to his finishing ability. He was pretty good at scoring in transition and on cuts to the basket. Copeland’s best scoring performance saw him go for 32 at Marquette on 11-of-14 shooting inside the arc. It really helped that he was a good spacer on offense, aware of how to fill lanes in transition.

Away from the scoring column he saw an increase in his rebounding per game, increasing from 3.8 to 5.4 boards a game. His top performances included pulling down 13 in a losing effort at Villanova in March and grabbing 10 in a January victory versus Creighton. He was also able to improve as a distributor, going from averaging 0.7 assists and 1.1 turnovers his freshman year to 2 assists and 1.6 turnovers last season.

He also did some things well defensively. He was good on-the-ball, able to keep up with some of the nation’s better forwards and bigs such as Henry Ellenson and Nigel Hayes. Most importantly, despite playing on a team that had the 11th most total fouls in America (755), he himself did not fall victim to foul trouble. While he picked up four fouls on six occasions, he only averaged 2.1 per game, good for sixth on the team.

Even with the number of improvements Copeland had between 2015 and 2016, there were areas that needed improvement.

Copeland’s scoring repertoire was quite limited. While his 2-point percentage improved, his 3-point percentage regressed. Copeland went 38.9% from three as a freshman, yet plummeted to 27.2% last season. He seemed to hit a scoring wall in January. Copeland averaged 5.8 points per game in the 9 games played that month. He averaged 13 points across all other games. He was able to bounce back in February, but closed out the last three games of the season with single-digit outputs.

Despite his finishing ability, he never drew enough contact to garner a strong free throw rate, finishing at .304 free throw attempts per shot. He was certainly capable of getting points on the board, yet wasn’t particularly adept at playmaking or creating his own shot.

On defense, he ended up with fewer steals and blocks than you would expect for a 6’9” forward that was on the floor as much as Copeland, failing to hit the 1-per-game mark in either category for the second straight season. He also struggled at times with help defending, getting lost on switches sometimes when he would fail to communicate with teammates.

The net of his struggles saw his overall efficiency take a hit. His offensive rating dropped from 107.1 points per 100 possessions to 106.7. His defensive rating worsened from allowing 102.4 points per 100 to 105.5 in his sophomore year.

Isaac Copeland has yet to miss a game as a Hoya, and chances are that will continue in his junior year. While the additions of Jonathan Mulmore and Rodney Pryor will look to help the Hoyas offensively, John Thompson III will certainly still tab Copeland to be a key contributor in the gameplan. Copeland will need to get his three-point stroke back, continue to improve his assist-to-turnover ratio, and increase his aggressiveness on defense (generating more steals and blocks) and rebounding. If Copeland can make inroads in those areas, he will be able to help Georgetown return to the Tournament and make the down year of 2015-16 old news.