Next stop, sophomore Austin Etherington. Austin had a bit of a growing year last season which was largely expected of him and like most players that come in with a development plan his minutes contracted as the rotation did late into the season. However, he was a key leader of the #benchmob in tight situations.
16 games played, 4.8 mpg, 20 points, 1 assist, 2 turnovers, 14 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Austin came into last year with an expectation that he would get some early minutes and try and offer a versatile spark off the bench. Though I expected him to see action in nearly every game that was under the assumption that the team wouldn't be nearly as good as they were. Remember last year when we were predicting 21 wins as a successful season? Well it turned out that the growth of the team and the addition of Zeller meant more than what we were banking on. So AE's minutes were limited late into the season.
I wouldn't expect a whole lot of change this year. AE should see more games as he has experience in the system and added strength but he still needs to prove himself in game situations early in the year to earn more minutes. He's a smart guy that knows how to play the game but now he needs to assert himself more. He was way too passive as a freshman last year when he did see time. Defenses would leave him wide open on the perimeter and he at times downright refused to make them pay for it. That has to change. AE is capable of being a very good secondary player on the floor. He will likely never be the go to guy but he could certainly punish teams for neglecting to keep an eye on him.
So what should we expect from Austin this year?
Aggression. When Austin hits the floor we should expect him to have a mentality that he's going to draw defenders. When he has the ball he needs to force the defense to collapse and kick it or take them to the bucket. If he's open he needs to shoot. Quit deferring to teammates in lesser situations. Other than the aggression he has the tools to increase his minutes into Big Ten play and that's where we should expect them to be. Tom Crean is going to run up and down all night long. That means the team could go as deep as 11-12 men on the conference rotation. AE has to be in that rotation. If he can fight his way in there, expect much more from him as a junior and senior.