Free-scoring guards Keon Johnson and Chris Clemons will be the primary focus of Saturday’s Winthrop-Campbell Big South men’s basketball game.
They can fill it up; Clemons is fourth in the country in scoring and Johnson is 17th. Both players pack all the muscle and athleticism that can fit into their 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-7 frames. Many of their full-speed blasts toward the rim end with a wince-worthy splat on the deck, typical for two of the toughest college basketball players that most of the country has never seen.
There is also a fair chance that Clemons and Johnson cancel each other out Saturday. What the others do will have a huge say in the outcome, and that's where Winthrop (12-4, 4-1 Big South) has a big advantage against Campbell (10-7, 3-2) and almost every other Big South team.
We pick each other up when we see somebody down. Whoever is hot, we’ll keep going to them.
Winthrop senior Joshua Davenport
“That’s what we are, we’re deep,” Winthrop coach Pat Kelsey said back in November. “Keon, on the other team’s scouting report his name’s gonna be at the top of it and there’s gonna be a big neon strip over it and red circle around it. That’s what happens to great players. You’ve got other guys that can step up and make plays and take the pressure off of him.”
Anders Broman (7.4), Davenport (7.3), Roderick Perkins (7.3) and Bjorn Broman (6.1) all average between six and eight points per contest for the Eagles. Johnson and Xavier Cooks have consistently produced thus far, and the supporting cast has taken turns augmenting the star duo.
Senior Joshua Davenport scored 22 points to go with eight rebounds and five assists in the early morning win at Manhattan in November. Anders Broman hit four 3-pointers, including the game-winner, in the victory over Furman, while his brother, Bjorn, hit four 3s in the victory at Hampton. Perkins chipped in 11 points in the Georgia Southern win, and Bjorn Broman hit five triples in wins over Charleston Southern and High Point.
“I think we have the best bench players, probably, in the league,” said Davenport. “One of us can have a good night, any night. That’s what I like about our team.”
1 Winthrop sophomore point guard Bjorn Broman has one turnover - and 10 assists - in five conference games.
In the Big South, only UNC Asheville could argue Davenport’s claim. He and fifth-year senior Tevin Prescott both agreed this is the deepest team since they’ve played at Winthrop.
More than any point in his five-year tenure, Kelsey has a team full of specialists. Duby Okeke, the shot-blocker, Adam Pickett, the energizer, Davenport, a stat-stuffer and maybe the opposite of a specialist, and Anders Broman, a marksman from long range, all have distinct roles that can lift the team at various times.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that can contribute in their own way, not just scoring points,” said Johnson. “Off the stat sheet and energy, and stuff like that.”
A couple of Eagles were playing 1-on-1 before Thursday's practice. Freshman Josh Ferguson crossed up Pickett with a cross-over dribble, staggering his teammate. Davenport was watching from the base of the a Coliseum stands and patted on the concrete step.
“Come sit over here,” he said to Pickett, laughing.
After eight wins in nine games, Winthrop is enjoying a good vibe. Players knowing the team needs them contribute in their unique way has helped.
“It’s really gonna come down to the sixth man, the seventh man, the eighth man, in the long run,” said Prescott.
Big South men’s basketball standings (as of Jan. 13)
at Charleston Southern
at High Point