Dissecting and grading each individual on the Georgia State men’s basketball team

Corey Allen, Justin Roberts and Eliel Nsoseme headline a full analysis on Rob Lanier’s team and the areas they can improve in. Photo Submitted by GSU Athletics

With nine games under the Georgia State men’s basketball team’s belt, the team has had the chance to find its identity and players in leadership roles to take this team to the next level. The Panthers have finished off the non-conference portion of their schedule and have had their first look at Sun Belt opponents with two meetings against Coastal Carolina.

The team boasts a 7-2 record through the first third of the season, tying them with the Chanticleers for the conference’s top spot.

With the spring semester underway and grades back on everyone’s mind, it is only right to see where the individuals on Rob Lanier’s team stand. Overall performance, efficiency and team role on and off the hardwood will factor into each player’s score. Additionally, each player included averages over 18 minutes per game.

Corey Allen, A-

The senior guard leads the team in scoring, averaging 15.4 points a game, but sometimes, it looks like he could score 25 on a nightly basis. 

Allen uses his top-end speed with the ball to create space and exceptional off-ball offensive movement to get to his spots. One of the conference’s best shooters, his 32 makes from deep are the 35th-best in the nation, and his 54% from three ranks 23rd. Even more impressive, Allen’s shooting from the field ranks top-12 in the country among guards at 55.7%.

A big reason for his efficiency comes from the team’s all-around talent on offense. As one of four starters averaging double-figures in scoring, Allen’s ability to make shots and get in a rhythm makes him a lethal weapon.

“He’s not having to force shots; he’s not having to get creative. He’s just getting open,” associate athletic director Mike Holmes said. “When you’re a really good three-point shooter, and you have nobody within five, six, seven feet of you and you get a wide-open look at the basket, you’re going to make those.”

Justin Roberts, A-

The junior guard has recorded a team-best three 20-point games this season, all of which have resulted in wins. He is second behind Allen with 14.8 points per game. Aside from scoring, the 5-foot, 9-inch combo guard does quite a bit of everything for the Panthers, leading the team in both assists (4.6 a game) and steals (2.11 a game). 

Roberts uses his quick first step to create space for open shots, and when he cannot get a good look, he penetrates the lane before finding an open man. His teammates are also scoring off his plays, which is why Roberts leads the team in assists. 

On the other end, he is an aggressive defender and uses his elite lateral quickness and passing anticipation to create turnovers. Roberts’ 2.1 steals per game are also a team-best, in addition to his assists.

Like most of the team, his biggest game of the season came in the opener against Georgia Tech, a 123-120 4OT win for the Panthers at McCamish Pavilion. Roberts finished the game with a team-high 26 points, including five threes, nine rebounds and six assists. To open the season the way Roberts did was remarkable for his confidence as a scorer and a leader for the team, and his spirit continues to grow.

“You want to have confidence in whatever you’re doing. And I think what that Georgia Tech win did is it helped build confidence,” Holmes said. “You see those shots fall, and you know you can compete against an ACC program.”

Kane Williams, B+

Since the beginning of last season, Williams stood out as the team leader when Lanier gave him the keys. 

Williams has done a great job attacking the rim and drawing fouls, evident by his team-highs in both free-throw makes (36) and attempts (57). Additionally, he uses tight handles to stymie defenders and get to the bucket. Williams doesn’t shy away from contact and will crash the boards, averaging 3.9 rebounds a game.

With the most playing experience with the Panthers, Williams knows what it takes to be a leader and inspire his teammates. His rough Georgia Tech game never got to his head, and he is continuing to be the voice the team needs, both on and off the court.

“If you look at the numbers, Kane definitely got off to a slow start this year, putting some pressure on himself as a senior and a leader of this team,” Holmes said. “What we’ve seen [despite the struggle] is his totals have kept going up. It’s like, ‘All right, if I’m not going to make the shot, let me find a guy who’s open and get an easy bucket.’ That’s what you look for in a leader of a basketball team.”

Eliel Nsoseme, A+

There is no other way to say it: Eliel Nsoseme may be the best big man in the Sun Belt Conference.

Although he is undersized for the center position at 6-feet, 9-inches, Nsoseme is a skilled rebounder with great instincts around the rim and averages 10.6 boards a game, 17th in all of Division-1 basketball. 

He finds his shot around the rim using his strength and skilled footwork. He is scoring 13.6 points a game on a team-high 66% shooting from the field. He has posted three double-doubles this season, including a 20-board night against Mercer, where he was just four points shy of recording the second 20-20 game in program history.

“If he continues to put up [those numbers], I think he has to be a [Sun Belt Conference] first-teamer,” Holmes said. 

As a redshirt last season, the Cincinnati transfer sat out for the 2019-20 season. His 2020-21 campaign has turned the heads of many, including Holmes, who watched him practice multiple times every week before last March.

“Having been around Eliel for a year and watching him practice, I thought he was going to be pretty good. He’s turned it up a whole [other] notch this year knowing that he can play,” Holmes said. 

Evan Johnson, B-

The freshman guard looks like a future piece of the unique program Georgia State has become. At first glance, Johnson’s speed and quick handles are the strengths. His offensive awareness is that of an upperclassman, and he pushes the tempo and plays out on the break in his backup role. 

Once Johnson starts attacking the rim and gets a better flow of the offense, his untapped ceiling will rise.

Jalen Thomas, C

Thomas is shooting a solid 50% from the field on the season and capturing 5.2 rebounds per game. However, the second-year Panther is struggling early and is another player who needs to find his confidence and fit in the offense. Thomas does well when crashing the boards and protecting the rim but seems hesitant to shoot the ball at times.

JoJo Toppin, C+

Toppin had a shaky start to the season but began to find his stride during a three-game streak where he averaged 11.3 points a game. The UGA-transfer has also shot the ball well at 61% on the season. 

A raw athlete, Toppin needs to shoot the ball and crash the boards more often to build his confidence and reach the potential he came here to showcase. From there, the sky may (literally) be the limit for the sophomore workhorse.

“The young man can just about jump and touch the ceiling,” Homles said. “I look forward to having fans in the stadium again to see him play just because of the energy he brings. He’s one of the few guys who, after the game, gets shots up and puts the work in for when his time comes.”

Collin Moore, C+

Moore has had a rough time shooting the ball this season, but he is only a freshman. His willingness to not be disgruntled and show confidence in his shot could be valuable for the Panthers team in the years. 

On defense, Moore seems comfortable as he is third on the team in steals with 13. 

Ryan Boyce, C+

Boyce has seen a boost in playing time over the past four games and is shooting 51% from the field. While he does a decent job at grabbing the boards, the junior must develop either a jump shot or improve his finishing ability. The more Boyce builds chemistry with his teammates on the court, the more dangerous this team can become.