See You Later, Austin Nehls
According to Verbal Commits, Austin Nehls is leaving the program as a graduate transfer. For those of you who aren't aware, if a player has graduated, he is eligible to transfer without sitting out a year. Nice perk for those who take care of business in the classroom. Anyway, I have some thoughts:
1. I really cannot disparage Austin Nehls for leaving in any way. He did nothing but represent CCSU with integrity, was a standout in the classroom, and had a very good basketball career. I hope for nothing but the best for him, and if he’s in the NCAA Tournament next season, I’ll be rooting for him.
2. I obviously have no idea what Nehls’ motivations for transferring are, and I won’t even try to guess. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he just wanted a fresh start after the struggles he had this past season. Look at this chart:
*For reference, the D1 average eFG% was 51% in 2017-18 (51.5% during NEC play).
1. 11/17/17- As you can see above, Nehls started each of the past two seasons ON FIRE. Through the team’s first four games this past season, he was 13 of 23 from three (and 8 of 11 from the free throw line).
2. 1/18/18- Nehls went 1 for 9 from three in a home win against FDU, continuing the worst cold streak of his career (7 for 30 over 5 games).
3. 2/10/18- Just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, Nehls was just 1 for 7 in a home loss to Sacred Heart. That, plus the preceding four games, saw him shoot just 4 of 29 from behind the arc.
After conference-play started, he had the worst cold spell of his career here, and never could seem to iron out his issues. Marshall suggested it was mental, so maybe some new scenery will do Austin some good.
3. So where could he end up? Per verbal commits, he’s already received offers from Bowling Green, Ball State and Northern Arizona. He’s from Arizona, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up closer to home, though that’s an assumption on my part. I think he could end up being a nice bench piece on a solid mid major, especially a team looking for some three-point shooting. Given that he’s not really a guy who can create his own shot or play the point, I have a hard time seeing him as a starter on a NCAA tournament team. But he can offer some intangibles, namely a veteran presence and leadership, and that won’t be lost on head coaches with open scholarships.
4. Replacing Nehls from a 2017-18 production standpoint shouldn’t be that difficult (his 100.1 O-Rating was just 46th out of 62 qualified players), but replacing his three-point shooting ability (based on his career output) will be. Especially for a team that shot just 29.9% from three and derived just 25.8% of its points from beyond the arc, both last in the league. We’ve heard about Camacho’s ability to shoot it, and incoming freshman Michael Underwood has a reputation as a good perimeter shooter. Will they be able to do it at the D-1 level? I will be interested to see where the outside shooting comes from.
5. Marshall wasted no time replacing Nehls’ scholarship, signing Cheshire Academy’s Will Ellis. Like Nehls, Ellis was a lightly recruited guard who received high marks from Cheshire’s head coach Kevin Kehoe after leading the team in points, rebounds and assists this past season. “Players like that usually have great careers in the NEC,” Kehoe told NewEnglandRecruitingreport.com. And he’s not wrong. Rich Kelly, a 5’11” PG, just finished a successful first season at Quinnipiac, averaging 11 ppg and earning all-MAAC Rookie team honors. Wing Josh Ajayi has had a strong two year career at South Alabama, averaging double digits in both seasons.
6. The Ellis signing is interesting from a depth standpoint; there are now four PG’s on the roster in Bowles, Batiste, Camacho and Ellis. What does this mean? It could mean someone else is leaving and we just haven’t heard yet. However, I think it’s more likely that Marshall is planning on utilizing two PG’s on the floor at the same time with greater frequency. It’s no secret the Blue Devils struggled with turnovers last year (their 22.1% turnover rate was worst in the conference), and Marshall has said in the past that he’d like to play more uptempo. Utilizing a lineup of, say: Bowles, Camacho, Kohl, Hugley and Bute would have sufficient ball handling on the floor (something Nehls was not adept at), while also potentially having ample outside shooting. We’re way off from projecting depth charts, but that is a reasonable starting five.
7. I’m surprised Marshall went with a freshman rather than feeling out the JUCO/grad transfer market. Given the abundance of upper classmen on the roster, and the sense that this roster is maybe one or two backcourt players from being a legitimate title contender, I expected him to go “all in”.
8. Are we done with roster turnover? My gut says no. But I’d be surprised if any projected starters (Kohl, Bute, Hugley) were to leave.