Breaking down the frontcourt for 2012-2013
Senior forward Keith Clanton anchors talented group featuring five returners, two incoming freshman
Published: Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 16:07
When the UCF Knights men’s basketball team takes the floor late this fall, it will be with a loaded backcourt. That fact alone should be enough to help the Knights along to a pretty good season. The difference between a good season, though, and a great one — complete with a program-defining win or two — will be the productivity of the Knights’ frontcourt.
Anchored by star senior Keith Clanton, the UCF frontcourt has plenty of upsides. The questions will likely surround whether the Knights’ big men have enough size against opponents from the power conferences and enough depth as the season wears on.
The new guys
With the losses of P.J. Gaynor and Dwight McCombs in the offseason, head coach Donnie Jones’ program took a substantial hit in depth to a frontcourt that already wasn’t deep.
That issue was addressed, however, with the additions of Staphon Blair and Dylan Karell.
Blair was rated the No. 29 power forward in the country by ESPN coming out of high school.
He is a scoring threat, having averaged 14 points per game his senior season, but more importantly the 6-foot-9 forward from Fort Lauderdale brings athleticism. Blair averaged 14 rebounds and 4.5 blocks per game last season.
Also from South Florida, Karell was a go-to scorer last season for Dr. Krop High School, where he averaged 16 points per game.
As always, the question regarding these incoming freshmen will center on how quickly they can acclimate to the faster play of the college level.
What the Knights do have is athletic wingmen returning. Rod Days, who also plays guard, and Tristan Spurlock can create all sorts of matchup problems at small forward. Both have good length and can play comfortably from the perimeter, spreading the defense.
In terms of true “big men,” a lot of responsibility will be on the shoulders of Josh Crittle and Kasey Wilson. Crittle, a fan favorite, can be very effective in spurts but will have to transition and be able to be on the floor for prolonged amounts of time.
Meanwhile, Wilson has one the biggest upsides on the program’s roster. Wilson utilized his raw athleticism and had some breakout games last season, including a 15-point outing against Palm Beach Atlantic.
Wilson, who stands only 6-foot-7 but plays taller, will have to transition into a more consistent player and capitalize on his upside for Jones.
“I think [that] if I can just do the little things that will help me stay on the floor and help me contribute to our team to win,” Wilson said in January.
Clanton’s last stand
The true success of UCF’s frontcourt will, in a lot of ways, depend on the success of Clanton. Clanton has quietly put together one of the best careers in program history and is looking to build on that for one last season.
While Clanton has always been smooth on offense, he knows that for his last go-around with the Knights adding explosiveness to his game will be key.
“[I’m] working on getting more athletic, working my legs and getting more explosive,” Clanton said.
In a lot of ways, the versatility of UCF on the wings and the squad’s athleticism will enable the Knights to beat some opponents simply on principle.
But when it comes time to face the programs from the power conferences and the contenders in Conference USA play, the success of Clanton and company, and their ability to hold down the post may make all the difference.