Over the past two seasons, Duane Wilson’s production has served as a familiar presence among constant roster turnover. That is to say Duane Wilson’s 2015-16 numbers were pretty much identical to 2014-15.
Heck, even his advanced stats were nearly carbon copies.
On some teams, identical numbers like this would be considered “consistent”. But on teams that miss the postseason both years, these numbers lean more towards “stagnant”.
It’s unfortunate that the numbers bear out that way, because the eye test on certain nights would show that Wilson has the tools to be a better player. At his best he’s confident and has the desire to improve as a team leader. He’s dangerous when he’s attacking the basket, able to contort his self in mid-air around contact, but not afraid to take some as well. When the team is down, he’s willing to step up and make the necessary plays. He has decent passing vision, which gives him the ability to set up teammates for good shots every now and again. He also has quick hands, which lead to steals that end in breakaway layups.
In terms of his contras, his in-conference struggles carried over from 2014-15, albeit with slightly improved field goal and free throw percentages. He especially had it rough against the league’s elite.
While he averaged strong outputs against teams like Creighton and St. John’s, he tended to hit a wall against the Big East teams that made the NCAA tournament. Even his 16-point game at Xavier in February featured 7 turnovers, a 2-of-7 performance inside the arc, and a 0-for-3 output from the line.
For all the good and the bad, by the time Duane walked off the floor for the final time in March, everything had evened itself out to a mirror image of his prior season.
In 2016-17, Coach Wojo does not want more of the same from Duane Wilson.
“He’s a guy that we need to have a great summer,” Wojciechowski said in a video posted on the athletic department’s YouTube channel last month, “we need Duane to be a really good leader and do whatever the team needs in order for us to win”.
In the middle of the video, he elaborated on one of the needs. The bolded emphasis is my own:
“One of the things that we have this year that we haven’t necessarily had in my first two years here is we’re going to have a lot better depth. So guys across the board may have to sacrifice some individual good for the greater good. The people we need to show that example the best are the older guys”.
What I took from that bolded phrase was this: as an influx of new scorers join the fold, Duane Wilson won’t need to put up as many shots as he did over the past two seasons. Instead, as Wojo indicates elsewhere in the video, he would rather have Duane focus on being more of a veteran that is willing to do whatever it takes to win and set the tone in the locker room for how the team should comport itself on and off the floor.
With the potential for fewer touches, Wilson will need to be more efficient with his scoring. That could be by improving his shot or by being more aware of when to attack and when to distribute. He will also need to improve on defense. Per 100 possessions in Big East play, he sported the worst defensive rating (109.2) and 2nd worst efficiency gap (-11.9) amongst Steve Wojciechowski’s normal 8-man rotation. Also, despite his knack for pilfering the ball – well enough that he finished 10th in the Big East in steals per game and steal percentage – he did have the tendency to get beat off of the dribble by swifter ball-handlers.
2016-17 is going to be an important season for Duane Wilson. On a team that is flushed with guards, the hometown kid will have to be a more efficient scorer, a better on-ball defender, and a more vocal leader if he wants to help the team reach the postseason for the first time in the Wojciechowski era.