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MAILBAG: Answering Reader Questions About JMU Hoops

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James Madison is well into the conference play now, losing their first three CAA games, but responding nicely to knock off a Charleston team that will challenge for the conference crown.

So what should we think about the Dukes, and how much do we really know about Louis Rowe’s third JMU team? We’ve seen some good and bad things from Madison thus far, and frankly the Dukes have been a tough group to figure out.

So we turn to the readers and Twitterverse to find out what they really want to know about JMU and CAA basketball, and did our best to provide some answers:

We'll start with Flowers, who sat out the start of the season, played a total of 12 minutes in three games from Nov. 29 to Dec. 20 and hasn't dressed since CAA play began.

He's been battling injuries since the offseason and hasn't been able to get to a point where he can play consistently without risking further injury. The 6-9 freshman has potential to add depth in the post, but if things don't change soon he could call it a season and apply for a medical redshirt.

Smith, who has had two season-ending knee injuries in his career and was granted a sixth-year of eligibility this summer, hasn't played this season and has suited up sporadically.

JMU coach Lou Rowe said he thought Smith has rushed back prematurely in other seasons, and he wasn't going to risk his long term health this time around.

At this point, the Dukes are noncommittal about his odds of playing this season, but if I had to guess I'd say it's unlikely, other than maybe an appearance on Senior Night.

If the Dukes add another player in the 2019 class, which is a possibility now that freshman Jonathan Hicklin left for Winston-Salem State, it does look like they are seeking a point or combo guard who can do just that.

In recent weeks, the Dukes have offered a pair of junior college players. Sean McNeil is a dynamic shooter out of Ohio who could possibly play some point, but would also add some instant offense to the mix. Tariq Simmons, who started his career at The Citadel, is listed as a shooting guard, but could play the point some as well.

JMU has also recently offered two high school point guards from Georgia. Hunter McIntosh is a 6-1 2-star prospect from Greater Atlanta Christian, the school that has produced some big time talent, including Milwaukee Bucks guard Malcolm Brodgon.

The Dukes also offered 5-10, 148-pound Pebbleton High School product Jalen Harper. Harper is a 2-star prospect with an offer from Kennesaw State, according to recruiting site Verbal Commits.

Deshon Parker looks like he is going to be the Dukes starting point guard for the next few years, but JMU is clearly interested in adding depth there, which could allow Matt Lewis and Darius Banks to both flourish off the ball and could lead to some smaller lineups in the future.

Which leads into…

1.) Yes, the offense has been a lot better since Parker moved into the starting lineup and started playing more minutes. I don’t think it is a coincidence Lewis and Banks shooting percentages are going up and a four-guard look matches up pretty well with a lot of CAA teams.

2.) I’m not sure if I would say he will get more minutes, but I think he can be used at key times. If you are into th +/- stat, JMU has been outscoring opponents with him on the floor. I’m not sure that necessarily means playing him 20 minutes a game would translate, but it means he’s doing good things when he’s out there. He’s capable of making defenses pay if they don’t guard him and he’s able to play aggressively because he knows his role is to get in there and play hard for a few minutes at a time.

Emailer Matt from Chantilly asked a similar question about the starting lineup change, but avid reader @randy_nj also wondered about the style of play so I will answer it here.

The staff eased Parker into things this season, but he’s certainly shown throughout the year he’s ready for this role as starting point guard (look out later in the week for a bigger story on him). Rowe talked during his weekly press conference about how taking away some of the point guard duties from Lewis has really allowed him to focus more on his role as a scorer.

How much Develle Phillips and Dwight Wilson play together in the post will probably depend on matchups. If an opponent uses a traditional two-big lineup, it makes a lot of sense of them to play together.

Against smaller teams though, they can each add a different kind of energy as the man in the middle. Teams have to be very conscious of Wilson getting easy buckets with weak side offensive rebounds and lately he’s done well using his wide frame to seal defenders on pick and rolls. Phillips is more explosive at the rim and has quickness to deny entry passes on defense. They both have their strengths and the more JMU plays four guards, the more they have to split time.

When it comes to style of play, JMU likes to get up and down the court. The Dukes will run on the break when they can and try to make it possible with defensive pressure, sometimes in the backcourt and other times around the 3-point line. I don’t think Rowe feels comfortable enough with his depth to go to a full-court VCU Havoc-like system, but they will mix it in from time to time.