The concerns I have about Aquinas have to do with the team's youth and inexperience as a unit. The team's lone returning major contributor from last season, San Antonio Brinson, is as gifted as any area player. And he is probably becoming a major college basketball player. But the quiet and well mannered 6'6" forward is just now learning to lead a team. His smooth jump shot and his solid athleticism, ball handling skills, and footwork give coach Bernie Norris all the needed ingredients of a game changing player. But he will need to become more aggressive offensively, especially in attacking the basket, for his team to reach its full potential.
And his teammates will need to do a better job handling pressure, delivering the ball to Brinson consistently, and providing scoring help. During the first two of three Aquinas games at the Monterrey Classic at Evans High School, Jalen Holbrook and Brian Jessee showed signs of stepping into leadership roles. Jessee attacked the basket consistently and used his exceptional athleticism to finish over and through defenders in a win over Grovetown in the quarterfinals and a semifinal loss to a solid Midland Valley squad. Holbrook made two first half threes against Midland Valley to help the Fighting Irish mount a comeback that eventually fell short.
Besides getting the most out of Brinson's gifts and finding scoring help from others, Aquinas will need to be a better rebounding team and generally give more effort to overcome its lack of size (besides Brinson), experience, and muscle. The turnovers and mental mistakes (multiple lane violations during teammates' free throws) will likely persist as players learn how to handle game pressure better. But the effort level will need to immediately become more intense if the Fighting Irish want to limit opponents' easy shot attempts. Midland Valley basically rebounded their own misses until they converted in the semifinal matchup, and no team can consistently win without cleaning the defensive boards.
Our area has several high level players. None have the size and versatility of Brinson. And because of his character and his demonstrated rate of improvement, I predict he will be a force in single A basketball for the next season and a half. Hopefully Jessee, Holbrook, junior Kham Gordon, and freshman Tre Gomillion can speed up their learning curves so Aquinas can reach its full potential in upcoming regular season region competition. With the proper focus and effort level, I see know reason the Irish can't enter the post season with a high seed in tournament play, as they have every season in recent memory.