Is the Ajax, Ontario Native Ready to Become the Next Great Canadian Catamount?
After closely examining the likes of Vermont’s walk-on prospects, (Adiang, Garrison and Fiorillo) we’ve now arrived at official scholarship players on the Catamount roster. First up is soon to be sophomore guard, Eric Beckett. The Ajax, Ontario native is yet another Catamount with Canadian ties, as Vermont is hoping the young guard can join the growing list of Canadian Catamounts who’ve been able to carve out exceptional careers in Burlington.
Before joining the Cats, Beckett starred in high school, where he attended the prep school Tilton (just north of Manchester), as he would help guide them NEPSAC AA crown and National Prep Championship Final Four. After finishing his career at Tilton with over 1,000 points, he would be ranked as the second best shooting guard prospect and ninth best overall prospect out of New Hampshire during his senior campaign. Besides Vermont, Beckett also garnered interest from other division one programs, including an official offer from Central Connecticut, but the Vermont-Canada pipeline runs deep. Fellow Ajax, Ontario native and former AAU teammate Stef Smith was no doubt pushing for Beckett to join the Cats, as he’s seen first hand the type of success Canadian players have had under John Becker’s tutelage.
Beckett easily could’ve chosen to take his talents elsewhere, as he most likely would’ve received more playing time at a lesser program, but the chance to be a part of an already established winning culture that also cares about their players and community proved to be a high selling point. Without a doubt Beckett has the necessary skills to compete at the division one level, but has been stuck behind some very impressive guards during his short time at Vermont so far. The young guard would only appear in 14 games this past season, but was able to take full advantage of his abbreviated time on hardwood.
Unfortunately for Beckett, the Catamounts boast one of, even not the best backcourts in America East led by AE Player of the Year frontrunner, Stef Smith and current AE Defensive Player of the Year, Benny Shungu. Likewise, Robin Duncan, Aaron Deloney and now former George Washington standout, Justin Mazzulla round out the rest of the depth. If Beckett is going to see an increased role for his sophomore campaign he’s going to have to earn it. Luckily Beckett does have experience playing on the wing and being officially listed at 6’5, 215lbs, he possesses the strength to handle himself from the 3 spot – an area that Vermont is in serious need of depth. It might be another year of progressing and development for the former Tilton School standout, but with a patient and hardworking mindset, Beckett could find himself in contention for a much larger role.
How Beckett can Make an Impact
As previously mentioned, Vermont’s plethora of impressive guards aren’t doing any favors towards Beckett’s playing time. Stealing minutes away from the likes of Robin Duncan, Aaron Deloney and Justin Mazzulla will be no easy task. In fact, those three are more than talented enough to start for damn near every other team within the America East. Barring any injuries it’s hard to envision Beckett jumping ahead of any of those aforementioned three at the moment.
So where can the second year guard provide the biggest impact for the 2020-21 season? Beckett was an integral part of the enthusiastic bench mob for the Cats last year and should once again look to get creative with his celebrations and support off the bench. Though his minutes were scarce and the majority came during mop up duty, John Becker and the rest of the coaching staff didn’t bring Beckett in just to send him for the final 90 seconds. Beckett has talent and even flashed during his limited appearances, such as dropping 10 points and 2 assists against Gallaudet, as well as shooting 33.3% from beyond the arc on the season.
In the 14 contests Beckett checked-in for, he managed a 1.8 points, 0.3 assists and 0.7 rebounds per game average on a 5.2 minutes per game basis. Ideally Beckett will see a larger role in year two, but with an already stacked guard rotation it’ll be tough seeing the young Canadain guard break the 10 mpg average. Nonetheless, Beckett needs to be prepared to have his number called at any given moment. Injuries can strike in an instance, so Beckett needs to be ready for any scenario that’s thrown his way.
On the flip side of the coin, Bailey Patella and NAU transfer Bernie Andre are Vermont’s only true wings. Though Beckett might not have the proper length, he does have the strength to compete at the small forward spot. John Becker likes to position his wings beyond the arc and uses ball rotations to get them open looks. If Beckett can continue to hone his three-point shooting he’ll have a much easier shot of cracking the rotation from the wing spot. Continuing to progress, supporting and pushing his teammates and providing excellent depth will likely be Beckett’s biggest contributions to the Cats for year two of the young guards career.
Room for Improvement?
There’s plenty of key areas that Beckett should look to improve upon before the start of the 2020-21 season. Two spots in particular that will assist in helping the young guard find the court more often will be honing his defense and elevating his three-point shooting. John Becker loves a good defense and with the ability to defend multiple positions, Beckett should look to focus heavily towards a defensive mindset. Likewise, the long ball needs to be one of Beckett’s best weapons within his offensive arsenal. Whether he’s playing at the guard or wing position, coach Becker likes to weave the ball around the perimeter to find the open man, so Beckett has to be ready and confident to shoot at a moments notice.
The other area that Beckett should make his primary focus this offseason is his conditioning. By all means this is not meant as a slight against the young guard and his strength is by far one of his best weapons. However, if Beckett can improve upon his conditioning routine, while molding his weight into more defined muscle he should be able to dominate and post up smaller guards with ease. This would also help staying one-on-one with more quicker and agile guards/small forwards.
Most college freshmen athletes have never been on a legit strength and conditioning program before, so it’s not just Beckett who should be singled out. Vermont might not field the best athletic trainers in the country, but even comparing players such as Trae Bell-Haynes, Anthony Lamb and Stef Smith from their freshmen years to their senior years and you’ll notice they’re completely different looking players. Even though Beckett might be a little “chonk”, he’s still a great athlete who has shown he can compete at the division one level. Spending the 2020-21 season with a passion towards improving his strength and conditioning will pay massive dividends in Beckett’s chances of earning a much more significant role in future years.
It’s going to be tough with the depth ahead of him, but one of Beckett’s goals for the 2020-21 season should be to double his stats across the board. Averaging around 3.6 points, 1.5 boards and 1.0 assists on a 10.5 minutes average would be a great sign in Beckett’s development. Ideally this would be a good role for the young guard in year two as he’d provide solid contributions off the bench while spelling his teammates for short breathers. Will it actually come to fruition is an entirely different question, as it might take an injury in the backcourt for Beckett to crack the double-digit minute mark.
Another goal for Beckett is to adequately show the progression and strides he’s made in his game. Fellow freshman guard Aaron Deloney was able to earn a larger role as the season progressed and is projected to breakout further in year two because of the improvement he showed over the course of the year. With Stef Smith and Benny Shungu set to depart after this year, there’s going to be plenty of minutes up for grabs. The coaching staff would love to see Beckett flash even more potential in year two, signaling that he’s ready for a much more significant role. Without a doubt John Becker would prefer Beckett be the one to take on this challenge rather than searching for a potential transfer or freshman to inherit such a task.
Both of Beckett’s goals for the season revolve around his progression and development, however it shouldn’t be considered a disappointment if the young guard isn’t able to hit all his marks. There’s plenty of factors working against Beckett, with the biggest being stuck behind some seriously impressive guard play. Likewise, many players that have come through Burlington, let alone the entire country often don’t have that breakout moment until their upperclassmen years. In a way Vermont has been spoiled recently with the likes Anthony Lamb, Stef Smith and Ryan Davis who have all seen tremendous success early on in their careers. Beckett absolutely has the talent and ability to succeed at this level, but right now it’s about patience. Let the young man find his own path and trust the process.
There were some whispers last season that Beckett would forgo his freshman campaign and redshirt the year, as finding playing time for the young guard was going to be a challenge. Ultimately nothing would come of it, as Beckett’s game action over the course of the season exceeded the redshirt requirements. While the extra year would’ve been nice in the long run, giving Beckett the chance to submerge himself in the division one pace of play should also help benefit the young guard in year two.
Now, a redshirt option for his sophomore season isn’t completely out of the question, especially with such a crowded backcourt. However, the coaching staff royally dropped the ball last year when they tried to redshirt sophomore Isaiah Powell, before eventually un-redshirting him midway through the season. It was a seriously bad look and because of their mistake last year the coaching staff will be extremely hesitant surrounding the matter this year. On a different matter, if Beckett wants a larger role he could transfer to a lesser program, but at this point in time that seems unlikely. If Vermont were to bring in a highly touted transfer or freshman guard next year then Beckett might reconsider, but ideally he’ll see a much larger role in year three up in Burlington.
We briefly examined Beckett’s statistical outputs from a season ago, along with what his stat line might look like if it were doubled. He might not be able to crack the double-digit minutes per game average in year two, though he should see some type of increased role for the 2020-21 season. Year one was essentially just dipping his toes in the water for Beckett, while year two projects a bit more responsibility, but no drastic changes. Beckett’s role will most likely entail continuing to support his teammates, further developing his skills and providing excellent depth. Stay patient and trust the process young buck.
2020-21 Statistical Predictions
- 7.2 minutes per game
- 2.1 points per game
- 0.8 assists per game
- 1.0 rebounds per game
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