Three Fridays from today, the Hoos will kick off the 2016-17 campaign against UNC-Greensboro. Today, we take a look at No. 21, forward Isaiah Wilkins.
Perhaps not surprisingly for a guy who grew up with an NBA Hall of Famer for a step-dad, Isaiah Wilkins is fundamentally sound. Though Wilkins was just fifth on the team in minutes per game, he finished third on the team in rebounds and first in blocks. Maybe that isn’t much of a surprise considering the Hoos played three wings most of the time. But Wilkins also finished third on the team in steals and fourth in assists. Yes, assists. In fact, Wilkins had more assists than the rest of the frontcourt put together. Despite scoring less than five points per game, Wilkins was an all-around contributor.
As a freshman, Wilkins shot just 39% from the field and made just six of his 11 free throw attempts. After Darion Atkins graduated, the Hoos needed a post defender who could handle the screen-n-roll and block some shots. Despite Tony’s love of defense, he wasn’t likely to give a lot of minutes to a “zero” offense guy. Wilkins needed to get better offensively if he was going to get consistent minutes and be that defensive stopper.
So Wilkins worked during the offseason on improving his offensive game. As a freshman, Wilkins’ O-Rating (a complicated measure of offensive efficiency which amounts to points produced per 100 possessions) was 88. That is very bad. Last year, his FG% went up to 52% (he still struggled from the free throw line, shooting 58%). His O-Rating was 113. That is very good.
Wilkins started 21 out of 37 games, averaging about 21 minutes per game. His minutes were always going to be shaky with seniors Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey around. This year, both of those guys are gone and Wilkins is the veteran in the frontcourt. Barring injury or something, Wilkins will be the starting PF in every game the Hoos play. His role really shouldn’t change very much. Wilkins isn’t likely to suddenly become a consistent post scorer like Gill was. But Wilkins is a better outside shooter than Gill ever was. Throw in Austin Nichols operating down low and tons of talent on the wings, and Wilkins is going to see the same looks he saw last year. He just needs to continue knocking them down.
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