Experienced Northwestern State backcourt expected to lead, score for Demons

NATCHITOCHES – Experienced backcourts have been a hallmark of successful college basketball teams for decades, and Northwestern State boasts one of the most experienced groups in the Southland Conference.

All seven members that played at least 100 minutes this past season return.

Senior C.J. Jones and junior Brian White have a combined 70 starts and 100 appearances at point guard, a unit that NSU coach Mike McConathy said can go five deep.

McConathy credited Jones with figuring out how to move the ball in an offense featuring eight newcomers.

The result was a group that averaged nearly 76 points per game and shot 44 percent from the floor and 36 percent from 3-point range, drastic improvements from recent seasons.

“C.J. had as much to do with our offensive improvement as anybody,” said McConathy, who will try to build on a 15-15 mark (11-9 in SLC play, which tied for fourth). “That made a lot of difference – the ball didn’t stick and we didn’t dribble that much.

“Not only do we have (Jones and White), but we’ve got a senior in John Norvel that can play the point. We’ve practiced Trenton Massner at the point because we had to slide over and play that position at McNeese because of injury. Massner and freshman Carvell Teasett allows us to go bigger at the point guard spot if we need to because of matchups.”

Jones and White split time as the primary point guard with White averaging nearly eight points and a team-high 83 assists. Jones sported the squad’s best assist-turnover ratio (62-31).

Norvel is a defensive stopper who can make big shots off the bench, including 10 points against Nicholls in a road win.

Teasett helped Scotlandville High to four state titles and a 93-10 record in his tenure.

Equally as important as experienced point guards is the presence of returning leading scorers Massner and Jairus Roberson.

Roberson’s 80 3-pointers ranked second all-time in NSU history, and his improvement throughout last season factored into the Demons’ increased shooting percentages. Roberson averaged 12 points per game and shot 37 percent from deep. He made at least four 3-pointers seven times overall and in four of his last seven games.

Massner is an efficient jack-of-all-trades who averaged nearly 10 points per game at 53 percent shooting with four rebounds per game and third in assists with 57.

The resurgence of senior LaTerrance Reed after he played just seven games this past season adds another sharpshooter to the mix. Reed was second on the team in scoring two seasons ago (nine points per game) and was shooting 42 percent from 3-point range before the injury.

“Roberson is exciting to watch and he’s very vocal in practice,” McConathy said. “We’ve got seven or eight guys we feel comfortable shooting the ball.

“Massner and many of those newcomers started to put it together at the end of last year, and having a year under their belts going into this year has made all the difference.

“We have a lot of confidence partly because there are a lot of familiar faces in practice right now. We know how to play together, and that was one of our biggest struggles up until the last 10 games last year.”

The resurgence of senior LaTerrance Reed after he played just seven games this past season adds another sharpshooter to the mix. Reed was second on the team in scoring two seasons ago (nine points per game) and was shooting 42 percent from 3-point range before the injury.

“LaTerrance has some really nice things after he’s spent almost a year away from the game,” McConathy said. “He’s definitely better.

“He’s effective as a catch-and-shoot guy, and he can have a big impact for us.”

Sophomore Jovan Zelenbaba also benefits from a second year in Division I basketball as he aims to build upon a season in which he appeared in 30 games with nine starts.

“Jovan is more confident this season – that’s been his biggest issue,” McConathy said. “He’s skilled and can really run and jump.

“He’s a fluid player that moves gracefully.”

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