The three biggest questions around men’s basketball

Damon Wilson walks down court during their loss against the Texas State Bobcats. Photo by Unique Rodriguez | The Signal

Georgia State has set a high standard for its Sun Belt Conference basketball rivals over the last few seasons.

Two NCAA Tournament appearances and multiple victories over Power Five schools propelled the Panthers onto the national stage. However, this year may bring about more adversity than the previous two.

From the departure of head coach Ron Hunter to the loss of key players, such as D’Marcus Simonds and Malik Benlevi, a feeling of unpredictability has overshadowed the program.

Here are three of the biggest questions the Panthers will face heading into the 2019-20 campaign.


1. Who is the best player on this team?

This is arguably the biggest question mark heading into head coach Rob Lanier’s first season at the helm.

The Panthers must replace their four best players from last season: D’Marcus Simonds, Malik Benlevi, Devin Mitchell and Jeff Thomas. Returning guard Kane Williams could be a name that emerges as the leader of the team. Being the only returning player to average over 10 points per game last season, expect him to handle the brunt of the ball-handling and play-making responsibilities this season.

For Williams, the departure of last season’s star players is not necessarily an issue. The 2019-20 season will highlight the group’s potential.“I think [this season] is going to be a team effort [and] more than individuals,” he said.

So, will Williams become the new face of the team? The answer will be revealed soon, as the team enters a new age when it takes on Brewton-Parker College on Nov. 6. 


2. How will Lanier replace Hunter?

When the hiring of former University of Tennessee assistant became official, a new era began at Georgia State.

The former St. Bonaventure player has been part of many successful coaching staffs, including Tennessee and the University of Florida. His resume is exceptional. Lanier has experience with many players who are now in the NBA, including Bradley Beal, who recently signed a two-year $72 million contract with the Washington Wizards.

The coach has inherited a young, new-look team and will look to usher them into a new age of success.


3. Will perimeter shooting haunt them?

Last season, the Panthers were second in the conference in three-point percentage. Their 38.4% mark was exceptional as a whole, ranking in the top-20 of Division I. 

But there’s one thing that’ll make it hard to repeat that this year: The top three shooters from last season are no longer with the program. Coach Hunter’s offense was at its best when players like Mitchell were shooting the lights out from behind the arc. Will Lanier’s offense be similar? And, if so, will it ultimately haunt the team?

There’s plenty of room for optimism. Georgia State will be returning three exceptional shooters from last season in Williams, sophomore guard Nelson Phillips and redshirt senior Damon Wilson. Each of these players shot 40% or better from the three-point line last year.