Guard play
GCU sophomore guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. is going to have his hands full when Nevada and Arizona state come to GCU Arena this weekend. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

Guard Play is Key if GCU is to Upset Nevada, Arizona State

On Friday night, the world is going to find out a lot more about the GCU men’s basketball team. The Lopes host Mountain West Conference foe Nevada at GCU Arena. And while the Lopes have relied heavily on big men Alessandro Lever and Asbjørn Midtgaard early in the 2020-21 season, Friday night’s contest may come down to the guard play. 

Reigning WAC Freshman of the Year Jovan Blacksher Jr. is a stat stuffer. Blacksher is averaging 9.0 points, 3.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game. But, playing against a non-DI team and the worst team at the Division I level in Mississippi Valley State will do that. 

However, the Wolfpack feature a pair of guards in Grant Sherfield and Desmond Cambridge that present a huge challenge for the Lopes. Sherfield averages 16.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and just under five assists per game.

Perhaps the stat to pay attention to is the shooting percentage. Sherfield is shooting 40 percent from the field and 44 percent from 3-point land. 

“I really like Grant as a player,” GCU head coach Bryce Drew said. “He scores the ball very well. He’s definitely more of a lead guard that can really score the ball and put a lot of pressure defense and ball screens. They utilize him a lot in transition ball screens. And a lot of times in the half court the ball will be back in his hands to make a play.”

Drew also explains what he is looking for and what his star guard has to expect.

“He’s definitely going to be a load. He is very good at shooting behind screens but he also a stronger guard that can get to the basket and use his body to score. Jovan’s going to have to really move his feet well. Be aggressive but not foul as Sherfield tries to get in the paint on him.”

Guard play
GCU guard Sean Miller-Moore needs to step up both offensively and defensively if GCU is to pull off an upset this weekend at home. Courtesy GCU Athletics.

Drew needs to get more out of Oregon State transfer Sean Miller-Moore as well as Mikey Dixon. GCU won’t have any success against Nevada without solid guard play from someone other than Jovan Blacksher Jr. 

Miller-Moore is averaging 6.3 points while Dixon is averaging 5.3 points. Along with these two veterans, freshman guard Jayden Stone may see an increase in minutes on Friday. Stone averaging 6.3 points despite hitting just two of his eight 3-point attempts. 

“I think our guards are excited,” Drew said. “They know how good Sherfield is … they know just how good these perimeter players are. Our big concern is defensively. We want to hopefully be able to contain the ball and keep some of these guards in front of us. Obviously, it’s much easier said than done … can our guards handle the ball, make good decisions under duress, under pressure? These games are only going to make us better.”

Can GCU Big Men Continue to Dominate the Paint?

WAC Player of the Year candidate Alessandro Lever and Wichita State transfer Asbjørn Midtgaard have been on fire to start the 2020-21 season. Lever is averaging a team-high 16.7 points per game. Midtgaard is second at 14.3 points per game. And the duo combines to pull down 19 boards per game.

Once again, it has been against less than stellar competition. But, Midtgaard allows Lever to play a little more on the perimeter. And the passing ability of both players is phenomenal. 

Nevada and Arizona State are going to give both GCU big men a mid-term exam. Can Lever and Midtgaard handle the pressure? 

Forwards Gabe McGlothan and Oscar Frayer will have their hands full, as well. 

Friday night surely will tell us more about the GCU men’s basketball team. 

Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. MST and can be seen on ESPN3. 

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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