Even with one of its most established and versatile player’s future in flux, the backcourt of the UCF Knights men’s basketball team stands to be loaded.
Head coach Donnie Jones has assembled a backcourt that could enable his program to take the next step in 2012-2013 — that step being a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Through battled-tested returners, capable and explosive tranfers and a raw but talented incoming freshman class, the guard on the Knights’ roster could have UCF poised for some program-building wins starting in November.
The new guards
Tyler Coons, Daiquan Walker and Matt Williams represent the newest additions to the backcourt at the UCF Arena. The three freshmen represent a versatile foundation for the coming four years. Walker was the No. 33 guard in the nation as rated by ESPNU and represents another surprising and promising pickup by Jones and company. Williams and Coons are both local products, hailing from Jones High School and the First Academy, respectively, following in the footsteps of UCF forward Keith Clanton. The three should bring some much-needed perimeter shooting once they are game-ready.
Transfer of the guard
The Knights scored big last year when C.J. Reed and Calvin Newell decided to transfer to UCF after departing from their former programs. Reed, formerly of Bethune-Cookman and a former Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Year, brings a composed and experienced element to the program — a very capable point guard who can make an immediate impact and lead his teammates.
Meanwhile, Newell is one of the biggest additions in program history. Newell, highly sought after out of high school, ultimately landed at Oklahoma and played well in limited appearances for the Sooners before deciding to transfer. Newell brings a ton of athleticism and abilities as a pure scorer, something that UCF has lacked in spots in the past.
The old guard(s)
Even for basketball junkies that don’t regularly follow or keep up with the Knights, the junior campaign of Detroit native Isaiah Sykes has to be considered a must-see. After Sykes’ marvel of a sophomore season, where he broke out and emerged as a consistent scoring threat in addition to his skills as a lockdown defender and hustle-point king, the question of how much he can improve in the offseason is certainly an intriguing one. People around the program say Sykes has been relentlessly working on his jump shot in the offseason and an improvement to his perimeter abilities could truly make the athletic guard one of the hardest players to guard in the country.
Sophomore Rod Days, who mostly plays at forward but could find himself getting minutes at guard, had some encouraging games early in the 2011-2012 season before gradually falling out of the playing rotation in conference play. Senior Bobby Horodyski doesn’t play much but is one of the team’s more valuable players and in a lot of ways almost acts as a player-coach with his knowledge of the game.
And then there was Marcus.
Clearly, the Knights are a better team with senior guard Marcus Jordan — he’s played a key role in many of their signature wins the past two seasons. That would be all the more true this season with the Chicago native getting all the added help listed earlier. Still, sources close to Jordan say he is undecided about returning to the program for his final season and his recent arrest in Omaha, Neb., certainly adds to the mountain of doubt.
Nevertheless, anyone who has followed this team for the past three seasons would be hard pressed to envision Jordan, who seems to play his best when the stakes are highest, not finishing his career at UCF. That said, the jury is still out on this situation.