After spending a few months as back-up to Chris Jones, Quentin took the reins following the senior’s departure and did not at all look out of place. In fact, he actually got better with the increased role. In his 10 games as Louisville’s starting point guard (counting the Syracuse game for which Jones was suspended), Snider averaged 9.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.7 turnovers. Those aren’t bad numbers for a point guard in any season, let alone as a freshman having to step in on short notice and lead his team through a period of significant adversity. And his impact isn’t just measured by those numbers either. With Snider as the starting PG, none of his teammates’ numbers dropped, and in fact, some went up; notably Wayne Blackshear, who scored 2.2 more points per game, able to take on a more primary role with Snider as his point.
After an impressive freshman campaign, or at least an impressive stretch as the replacement starter, Snider is unsurprisingly the early favorite for the starting spot for the 2015/16 season. While I think the local star is the right choice for the starting spot, and destined for great things as a Cardinal, expectations may already be unreasonably high for him, and I’d like to take this time to temper those expectations just a tad.
First, and foremost, next year’s Louisville roster is going to look very very different, with the team’s 4 top scorers all departing. Snider, himself, is U of L’s leading returning scorer. After Snider, the top scorers are Chinanu Onuaku and Mangok Mathiang. The scoring leaders, the defensive leaders and even the lockerroom leaders, have essentially all departed following this season. Looking back, I can’t think of a year-to-year turnover, at least in terms of the importance of the players graduating/turning pro, in Pitino’s tenure at Louisville.
Secondly, and this ties in a little with the first point, Louisville’s strategy on both ends of the floor will have to change, due to the personnel available. Without the defensive presence that Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell provided, Louisville may resemble some of Rick’s early teams that stayed truer to traditional 2-3 zone as opposed to Rick’s pressure match-up zone. You can’t even compare how next year’s team will setup their offense, with the scoring load now falling on players with different skillsets than Rozier, Blackshear and Harrell.
Realistically speaking, a whole lot of Louisville’s success will depend on a young leader in Quentin Snider. It’s not often a leader on a team is an underclassman, but Quentin is pretty used to that. He played a significant role on both his AAU and high school teams all 4 years, and is no stranger to running a team in the midst of pressure situations. This year’s experience will only aid his progression as the team’s floor general. However, he’s still very young and still developing several aspects of his game.
There are several areas of his game that could use a little improvement and Snider will no doubt be working on those this summer:
His season averages aren’t very flattering – 34.9% FG, 28.4% 3FG – though his numbers did improve at the tail end of the season, when he shot 38% from the field and 33% from 3 as the starter. They could still use a little bit of a bump. Quentin has good shooting form and steps into most of his shots, and his shot selection has actually been very good. If he spends enough time in the gym this summer, I could see a boost of a couple of percentage points, that would take him to ~40% from the floor overall and above 35% from 3, which would definitely be solid numbers for a starting point guard. He’s also got a lot of room for improvement at the free throw line, which, if he does improve, may push his scoring potential comfortably into double digits for average.
Q isn’t the quickest guy on the floor and he’s really never been known as the kind of harassing pest we’ve become accustomed to seeing in Pitino backcourts. I don’t know that he’ll develop into a lockdown defender, but what Quentin does have is a very high basketball IQ. What I’d like to see more from Quentin is purely good positioning on weakside defending. If he cuts down passing lanes, turns a few into steals and others into contested shots, he’ll have significantly improved one of few weak areas of his game. That’s still very new to him, so I’ve no doubt he’ll pick it up over time.
Make no mistake, Quentin Snider’s vision is very good, a product of that high basketball IQ we talked about. He sees openings that other players don’t see, and he’s not afraid to take them. Pitino has remarked several times that Quentin is fearless, which is a good thing, but sometimes he takes unnecessary risks with cross court passes or trying to thread the needle too closely. I want him to keep trying to make plays and elevate his team’s play (hence the asterisk), but I also want him to pick and choose those moments as sometimes when he sees those opportunities he passes on simpler options that could result in a good scoring opportunity for another teammate as well. That also will improve with more time.
With a different cast around him, Quentin will be more than just the reliable reserve/role player he was this year. As odd as it may seem, this is more or less his team to run. More than just as a facilitator and contributor in the scoring department, the offense will run through him as opposed to Terry Rozier or Montrezl Harrell. There’s a pretty sizable weight about to be placed firmly on Snider’s shoulders, similar to Peyton Siva’s role changing from his freshman to sophomore season.
Beyond his stats and wins/losses, Quentin just needs to be himself next season. What Louisville needs from Quentin is not a superstar. What they need from him is to be steady and consistent, which Quentin has always been. That’s what got him Mr. Basketball, that’s what earned him all of the honors he’s achieved to-date, and that’s what makes him Louisville’s floor general. He’ll continue to develop, refine his skills, and improve his stats over the course of his college career, and we’ll get to watch another hometown kid make a name for himself as he becomes more of a focal point. We just need to be patient, have confidence in the player and the process, because good things will come. He’s got some improving to do, and he may not light up college hoops next season, but he’s got a bright future at U of L. He’s probably not going to be national player of the year next season or a projected 2016 lottery pick, but he’s going to be the bit of continuity Louisville needs in a period of transition, because he ‘gets it”, if you will. He knows what it means to be a Louisville guy. And if he plays his game, he’ll make his 15/16 teammates better, just as he did with his 14/15 teammates.