Welcome to A10 Talk’s Top Pre-Season Top 25 Player Countdown for the 2017-18 season. Each day, we’ll be publishing a new article counting down our best 25 players for the coming season. Today, we feature #25 LuWane Pipkins of Massachusetts.
Our Top 25 Player Countdown is a compiled list based on voting from our staff and writers from across the league. Thanks to the following for helping configure this year’s Top 25 Atlantic 10 Player Countdown:
Grant Labedz (@GrantLabedz), Mat Shelton-Eide (@MatSheltonEide), Grant Kelly (GrantKelly07), Andrew Phung (@LoveRI401), By George (@ByGeorgeGMU), Davidson Recruiting (@DavidsonMBBRecr), Steve DiMiceli (@SteveDiMiceli), Rhody Rampage (@RhodyRampage), UMass Recruiting (@UMassRecruiting), Bona Blog (@BonaBlog), Petey Buckets (@PeteyBuckets), and UMass Ball Report (@theumbr).
What He’s Done
LuWane Pipkins came onto the scene and emerged as Massachusetts’ best defensive player last season. With a 3.8% steal percentage that ranked 36th nationally, Pipkins was one of the league’s finest at pickpocketing, and I expect that to show once more in 2017-18. Pipkins had some great performances that showed his capabilities on the offensive end of the floor as well; take a 27 point performance against Kennesaw St. for example. Yes, it was Kennesaw St., but at least Matt McCall knows he has a guy that’s capable of putting up this kinds of numbers. Did I mention he hit 8 three pointers that game?
In all honesty, I think LuWane Pipkins is Massachusetts’ most well-rounded returning player. With 10.2 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.9 steals per game last season, there wasn’t a part of the stat sheet Pipkins didn’t affect. While his consistency lacked somewhat towards the end of last season, he wasn’t getting as much playing time and didn’t start the last 5 games of Massachusetts’ season. That will change this year. Pipkins showed how lethal he is on both ends of the floor and was a bright spot for what was a pretty disappointing UMass season.
What He’ll Do
No Zach Lewis and no DeJon Jarreau means that Pipkins will almost undoubtedly reassume a starting role in the 2017-18 season. With Lewis’ emergence towards the end of last season, started by a monster 37 point night against La Salle, Pipkins took somewhat of a backseat. But this year, he’ll be more than just a defensive specialist. Big man Rashaan Holloway is going to draw a lot of attention in the post this season. What that means for Massachusetts is likely more openings on the perimeter. So guys like Jaylen Brantley and LuWane Pipkins will need to knock down outside jumpers when Holloway gets doubled in the post.
Pipkins’ three point shooting is something to look out for in the coming season. Though he shot just 31.8% all of last year, he shot 32.4% in conference play and 37.5% against Kenpom Tier 1 opponents. The problem for Pipkins, again, was consistency. While he had some “very on” nights, hitting 4 or more threes in a game, he also had games missing every one of his attempts. He’ll need to be more efficient from downtown next season.
I really liked Pipkins’ development last season; he proved to be Massachusetts’ scrappiest and hardest working defender all year long. I like the fact that Pipkins has his game together on the defensive end of the floor, because it’s hard to teach effort. With an offseason of shooting improvement, I expect Pipkins to come back and be a dominant threat for the Minutemen on offense as well. Look out for the combination of LuWane Pipkins and Jaylen Brantley to be one of the better, more underrated backcourts in the conference next season.