St. John's basketball in review: 2008-09 Dele Coker

#15 - Dele Coker

St John's logo2008-2009 Class: Sophomore

Position: Center

Height: 6'10"

Weight: 260

Age/ DOB: 21 / March 18, 1988

Home: Newburgh, NY/ Nigeria

stats taken from Statsheet, kenpom.com, and my own calculations

2008-2009 Highs

High Minutes
19
(Marquette)
High Points
8
(Marquette, Loyola-IL)
High Rebounds
8
(Rutgers)
High FT Att
4
(Eastern Mich.)
High Blocks
4
(West Virginia)
Fouls/ 40 Min, conf
9.3

It says something about St. John's offense that ordering the players in order of the minutes played in conference (from lowest to highest) means that the three true centers come first. Is there a use for a center on the Red Storm except for as a specialist?

The style of motion offense does not offer many offensive opportunities for a slower, back to the basket player to show their stuff. Indeed, for the power forwards to get shots they have to drive in from 10 feet or so or take a jump shot, a skill that Dele Coker has not yet consistently displayed.

Dele Coker block shot RutgersDele doesn't get much playing time… and some fans are disappointed that he makes little impact on the court. His rate stats refute that; though at about 10 minutes per game, rate stats can easily be skewed.

But despite seeing Coker bobble rebounds or slap at the ball, his in-conference rebound rates are good. Coker would pull in about 10 boards a game in 40 minutes (though only 6 would be defensive), about equal to Sean Evans' rebound rates. Those numbers indicate that there is a rebounder in Coker.

Coker's scoring has improved slightly, and against Marquette in Milwaukee, he displayed about 17-foot range, hitting jump shots. The team got blown out, and I'm not sure why he was stroking jumpers all of a sudden, but his stroke wasn't terrible.

More interestingly, Dele blocks more than a shot a game in those 10 minutes per contest. Even if his footwork is not always up to par, for a guy who is fairly new to the game, he shows some excellent aggression (maybe too much, see below).

He's the only St. John's player who blocks more than 3% of available shots in conference. A good defense is not necessarily dependent on an eraser on the back line. But it helps to have a shot blocker to reduce spots on the floor where the opposing offense can score.

The positive big-man skills are negated by Dele's propensity to foul. A lot. As I stated in the half-season conference report, Coker's foul rate increased. Some of those calls may be non-fouls; his aggression and big body make him targets for phantom calls. But he has to learn how to play and look in control.

In conference, Dele averaged about 9.5 fouls per 40 minutes. That's nearly 2 foul-outs per game, if he could play that long. Dele lived up to his fouling reputation, picking up his 5th foul in 14 minutes of play on the road against Cincinnati and in 13 minutes on the road at Villanova.

Impact on the 2009-2010 Season

Last year Dele was one of 6 bigs (power forwards and centers), and he was more of a specialist while Burrell, Evans, and Rob Thomas were the rotation. This year, Coker is likely the last backup. If there is foul trouble, Coker has to get in there. Injury? Suspension? Coker has to get in there. Here is what this blog thinks Dele Coker needs to improve:

Dele Coker vs Virginia TechFootwork. To make an impact in the upcoming season, Dele's footwork has to improve. He needs better position on rebounds, and better position on man-to-man defense (depending on whether or not he has to step out for a double team, as this version of the Red Storm is wont to do).

His timing on weak side shot blocks seemed to improve during the year. If he can maintain that level of defensive play while fouling less, Coker's skills will help St. John's to become a defensive force. Fewer unnecessary elbows while blocking shots will also aid in the "fouling less" effort.

Post Play + Scoring. Dele's shooting has been poor for a big man, though he doesn't get a lot of touches, and turns over many of the touches he receives. His free throw stroke (70.6% on the season; only 3 attempts in conference) indicates that he might have a little range, though it would be better if he had some touch or good moves in the paint for the easy slams and put backs.

Big Man Skills. On the glass, Dele has potential to be a solid rebounder. With better position – and some increased hand strength to corral the rebounds – his jumping ability and size/ strength combination should help him be an impact player on the glass. Is his rebounding timing getting better? Perhaps on offense, where his rebound rate went up 5 percentage points. Beware, of course, of small sample size distortions.

A player of Dele's size should get to the free throw line more often. If he is going to be a better player on offense, he has to get himself in positions to get fouled, which usually mean: close to the basket, about to put up a point-blank shot.

Even if he improves, he will be a foul-prone player. The St. John's offensive and defensive sets require a lot of movement from post players, many of whom are not good at moving from perimeter to post in an efficient manner. He is often called for offensive fouls while setting picks; he needs to get to position and hold it or else if the pick isn't good enough, just let it go.

Coker's sheer size means he has potential. Whether he will realize it in a St. John's uniform is a story that will be told this fall.

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