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Five Potential Redshirt Candidates

Who’s Going To Be On The Outside Looking In?

The elephant in the room. Vermont’s roster currently sits at 16 and is as deep as it’s ever been. 11 of the 16 are upperclassmen, with six seniors (future eligibility for Justin Mazzulla and Tomas Murphy still to be determined). The only underclassman with a lock for playing time is guard Aaron Deloney, who could be starting for plenty of other America East teams, but sits behind a logjam at guard for the Cat’s.

Last year the Cat’s roster stood at 14 (excluding legend Josh Speidel). John Becker typically deployed a 9-10 man rotation throughout the season and will likely continue to utilize a similar game plan moving forward. With an even larger and top-heavy roster this year, coach Becker and his staff will in all likelihood look to identify players who could benefit from a redshirt year to help the team in the future.

While there’s no shame in redshirting a year, it’s still a fine-line to walk. As much as coach Becker and the Cat’s would love to see everyone get involved, it’s damn near impossible to find consistent minutes for 16 players. In previous years the Cat’s have tried to utilize redshirt years, but injuries forced their hand (see Isaiah Powell, 2019). 

Redshirting isn’t as simple as slapping a player with that designation and calling it a day. It has to work for both the team and the player. If a player fully intends on graduating in four years with no plans on pursuing a future education, then a redshirt year is essentially pointless. Likewise, conveying to a player that the coaching staff intends to sit them for the year despite all the work they’ve put in is not an easy conversation to have.

However, if the player has no qualms with sitting and taking another year to further their development it can be a huge success, a la Ben Shungu. With the Cat’s being so deep and top-heavy, it’s likely one, two or even three players could be redshirted. It’s a tough decision to make, but balancing out the roster to help stabilize the rotation in future years is paramount for Vermont’s continued success.

Georges Lefebvre | Forward | Freshman

The Case for a Redshirt

Lefebvre is Vermont’s only incoming freshman and while there’s no denying his talent, he faces an uphill battle for playing time. Ryan Davis and Tomas Murphy are all but locked in as the starting frontcourt, with incumbents Isaiah Powell, Duncan Demuth and possibly Nick Fiorillo battling behind them. Senior transfer Bernie Andre is also a lock as a wing/forward. Fiorillo is probably the most raw out of the bunch, including Lefebvre, but as a redshirt last year that option is off the table. 

Fiorillo might not see consistent minutes, but the Cat’s will still likely keep only two of the three (Powell, Demuth, and Lefebvre) on the active roster. Powell and Demuth are both upperclassmen with more experience. Likewise, coach Becker has typically shied away from giving freshmen extensive minutes, as he prefers to slowly get them accustomed to the pace of division one basketball. 

One of the prominent selling points for the Cats redshirting anyone is the need to balance out the roster in future years. With ten open scholarships come 2022, Vermont’s roster is in for a major overhaul in the next two years. Lefebvre projects to be an impact player for the Cat’s in the years to come, but a year of patience and development might be the best option for now.

The Case Against a Redshirt

In years past Vermont has proven to be one of, if not the best at identifying talent in the America East. Lefebvre fits that mold, as he projects to contribute immediately as a highly athletic three-and-D player whenever that might be. In all likelihood Lefebvre is one of the most talented incoming freshmen in the America East, but breaking into the rotation is easier said than done on a team like Vermont.

Vermont is the epitome of “we not me” and values team success far more than any individual achievements. While Lefebvre knew this going in, the coaching staff likely see’s Lefebvre as a significant building block in their future plans. However, the young forward will be given every opportunity to win minutes this year. If Lefebvre showcases his potential and his knowledge of the game, he might be able to leapfrog the likes of Powell and Demuth. 

While neither Powell or Demuth have a firm lock on that backup forward role, it will still have to take an impressive performance to take either of their spots. Those early “training camp” practices and workouts are where Lefebvre will have to shine. It’s going to be a tall order for Lefebvre, but if the coaching staff ultimately decide to ride with the young forward, you best believe Vermont has found another gem.

Eric Beckett | Guard | Sophomore

The Case for a Redshirt

Last year, Beckett appeared in 14 games for the Cat’s and averaged only 5.5 minutes a game. He seemed like an ideal candidate for a redshirt a season ago, but that ultimately was not the case. As previously mentioned, redshirting has to work for the player as well and if Beckett didn’t want to sit out the year it was his decision to make and nobody should fault him for it. However, a lot can change in a year and Beckett might realize that his biggest contributions to the team will happen in the years to come. If that is the case, a redshirt year could be the best option for both Beckett and the team.

A season ago, Beckett was essentially the fifth option behind some pretty impressive guards. Unfortunately for Beckett’s playing time the Cat’s added another stellar guard this year in transfer Justin Mazzulla. Early whispers and rumors report that Mazzulla is the real deal and provides the Cat’s with yet another outstanding combo guard who could easily start for any other America East team. While this is great news for Vermont, it does not bode well for Beckett’s minutes in the upcoming season.

Vermont now lists Beckett as a wing and while he has a better chance of breaking through in that aspect, it’s still going to be an uphill battle to win playing time. Much like Lefebvre, Beckett could be a solid building block in the Cat’s future plans. While the coaching may try to convince Beckett to redshirt the season, that decision will conclusively be Beckett’s decision to make.

The Case Against a Redshirt

The aforementioned plethora of Vermont guards isn’t doing any favors for Beckett’s minutes, but lack of depth at wing could be a huge factor in the Cat’s decision to keep him on the active roster. Bernie Andre and Bailey Patella are the only other officially listed wings ahead of Beckett and while both project to play a significant role this season, an injury to either could leave the Cat’s in a dangerous spot.

Beckett might not have the same type of ceiling as some of his peers, but in the brief minutes he saw action last year the young guard was able to flash at times. 1.8 points on a 5.5 minutes average might seem rather pedestrian, but fellow freshman guard Aaron Deloney averaged 3.6 points on a 12.2 minute basis. No one knows if Beckett’s numbers would translate to around 4 points per game with a 12 minute average, but it’s worth noting considering Deloney is projected for a more significant role in the upcoming season.

While the coaching might prefer to let Beckett sit and develop this year, he does provide great insurance should there be a string of injuries at either guard or wing. Even if Beckett is on the active roster he’s likely to remain as an emergency option for Vermont this year. There is a chance he excels in his development, but with so many upperclassmen in front of him don’t expect Beckett to be a major contributor just yet.

Isaiah Powell | Forward | Junior

The Case for a Redshirt

Powell was a surprise redshirt last year, but after injuries struck Vermont’s frontcourt the redshirt tag was pulled and Powell was forced into action. It was an extremely unfortunate situation, as Powell essentially missed half the season for nothing and could have been a phenomenal asset off the bench for the Cat’s during that time. Nonetheless, Powell handled the whole situation incredibly well and gave Vermont some much needed depth as he worked his way into the rotation. 

It seems strange to list Powell as a potential redshirt candidate this year after last year’s debacle, but there still remain some pros to applying a redshirt tag for the upcoming season. While plenty can change in a year, Powell did have a positive outlook on taking a year to further his development. He might still have planned to graduate in five years rather than four, giving the coaching staff some leeway, however, coach Becker and his staff need to be sure this is still the case and that Powell would have no reservations about sitting out the season.

If Powell is okay with the decision the coaching staff would also need to have full confidence in the likes Demuth, Lefebvre and Fiorillo handling the lion’s share of backup minutes in the frontcourt. If that is the case then a redshirt year would be the best option for both parties as it gives Powell another year to grow, helps to balance the roster and provides Vermont with an experienced player for the following two years.

The Case Against a Redshirt

Powell essentially giving up half the season a year ago for nothing was tough to watch. The coaching staff in particular must’ve felt terrible, especially considering the fact that Powell provided such great depth and didn’t deserve to have half his season taken away. Even if Powell signs off on another redshirt year the coach staff is going to have to tread lightly. Davis and Murphy might be the presumed starters, but Powell is a solid option off the bench and might be best suited to help the Cat’s win now.

Even with Vermont’s stacked roster for the upcoming season, Powell projects to be a main contributor off the bench. While it would be great to have someone with his experience in the following two years to help bridge the gap, the Cat’s need to focus on winning now rather than hoping to maintain their status quo in the years to come. Vermont has shown they can find the right players through both recruiting and transfers, so there shouldn’t be a pressing need to brace for a potential drop off.

Coach Becker and Vermont are serious about making a run in the NCAA Tournament and having a veteran presence like Powell coming off the bench is a necessity. His stability in the frontcourt is much needed and while some might believe that Vermont has the luxury of redshirting players like Powell, his impact on the game would be sorely missed and could ultimately hurt the Cat’s in the long run.

Duncan Demuth | Forward | Junior

The Case for a Redshirt

Duncan Demuth is an interesting case. He transferred to Vermont a season ago via Oklahoma State and received a waiver to play immediately despite common transfer rules. In hindsight it might have been more beneficial for Demuth to sit out a year and learn coach Becker’s system, as his first year in Burlington was riddled with growing pains and nagging injuries. Despite being one of Vermont’s more highly-touted recruits (3 stars per Verbal Commits), another year of familiarity within the system might be for the best.

Appearing in 20 games a season ago for the Cat’s, Demuth never quite found his footing, managing just 1.6 points on a 10.2 minutes per game average. On paper Demuth looks like a solid stretch-four option who could create mismatch problems on both ends of the floor. Yet, some reason it just hasn’t clicked for the Florida native. Is it simply a case of the yips or does it go deeper than that? 

Along with Demuth, Vermont will be trouting out the likes Powell, Lefebvre and Fiorillo to compete for those back-up forward minutes. Demuth and Powell are the two likely frontrunners, but if Lefebvre and Fiorillo flash enough upside, it could be Demuth who is on the outside looking in. Again, this will have to be a decision that works favorably for both sides, but another year of development, along with acclimating better to Vermont’s system might be the right move.

The Case Against a Redshirt

Similar to Powell, Demuth is an upperclassman who has that veteran experience. Despite struggling a year ago, Demuth should have a better sense of comfortability heading into his second year at Vermont. The Cat’s will be relying heavily on their upperclassman this year, as Demuth’s previous experience should give him an edge over the likes of Lefebvre and Fiorillo.

The combination of Powell and Demuth as the two main big men off the bench seem to be ideal chess pieces in coach Becker’s system. The two have varying styles of play and allow coach Becker to get creative with how he deploys his second lines. Lefebvre and Fiorillo are built closer to Demuth more so than Powell, but Demuth’s experience and knowledge could ultimately be the tipping point.

It’s still to be determined if Demuth will break out of his slump in the upcoming season. Despite the recent struggles, the talent is undeniably there for Demuth. There are numerous factors in play, but Demuth could have his resurgence. While some fans and media might have quickly written off Demuth, the coaching staff surely hasn’t and hopefully their patience pays off.

Robin Duncan | Guard | Junior

The Case for a Redshirt

Annnnd here’s the surprise pick. Duncan seems like he should easily be omitted from this list, but during a conference call over the summer John Becker dropped Duncan’s name as a possible redshirt candidate much to the shock and awe of everyone. On paper it doesn’t make much sense (or any), but for the sake of argument let’s delve into why Duncan could be considered for a redshirt year.

Duncan is a phenomenal player who has already appeared in 65 games with 32 starts for the Cat’s. He’s a great two-player who reads the floor extremely well and can cover multiple positions defensively. So why redshirt him? The only logical explanation would be the gridlock at guard currently for the Cat’s. Vermont has three senior guards in Stef Smith, Ben Shungu and Mazzulla who are all expected to play a significant role this year. That, along with the emergence of Deloney, has left the coaching staff scrambling for available minutes. Redshirting Duncan would be a crazy luxury for Vermont, but if he’s fine with it then it might ultimately be for the best.

That last part is what’s likely the foremost reasoning behind the talks of Duncan redshirting the year. It’s worth noting that both of the elder Duncan’s before him (Ernie and Everett) each took a redshirt year and Robin has undoubtedly spoken with both on their experience from sitting a season out. Regardless, it’s strange for such a noteworthy player to essentially volunteer to take a step away, but if it can help the team both now and in the future then so be it.

The Case Against a Redshirt

There’s countless reasons why redshirting a player of Duncan’s caliber would be a dumb move. Again, if not for the overwhelming talent at guard there’s no chance this conversation would even have an ounce of credibility. Yet, even with the plethora of talent in Vermont’s backcourt, this move could easily backfire.

Last year it was Powell as the surprise redshirt to begin the year, but after a run of injuries up front forced him back into action there was no remedy to make up for the time he had missed. Even though the Cat’s are deep at guard, a string of injuries could seriously set them back – especially if Duncan opts for a redshirt. Although Vermont still managed to cap the year with a 26-7 record, Powell could’ve easily helped sway a few of those games in the Cat’s favor. Does Vermont actually have enough to withstand the loss of Duncan?

To that point, Vermont is eyeing a run at the NCAA Tournament. In order to do so they’ll need to be at their best and firing on all cylinders. Offsetting the loss of Duncan is not a simple plug-and-play situation. While having Duncan around as a captain and leader in the following two years would be fantastic, it could also be the deciding factor in advancing to the next round. This is something John Becker and the coaching staff will need to strongly consider before making any moves this year.

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