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2021-22 Vermont Catamounts Preview: Wings

Should the Lack of Depth on Perimeter be a Concern for the Cats?

The Vermont Catamounts season tips-off this weekend as they’ll be hosting division two cross town rival St. Mikes in an exhibition showcase. Cats held a scrimmage at the Barre Memorial Auditorium a few weeks but now they’ll finally get a run in against someone other than themselves. The game is set for 2pm this Saturday so put on your Squid Game costumes and head down to Patrick Gym. Once again, I will not be in attendance (and so it goes when you live out-of-state) but for everyone who can attend, show your support and buy some candy because you’ve all earned it.

Moving on with the roster preview series we arrive at the wing. Technically Bailey Patella is the only true “wing” player on the roster, but others such as Kam Gibson, Eric Beckett and possibly even Nick Fiorillo could all see time out wide for the Cats this year. The season officially begins on Thursday, November 11th as the Cats travel to Cedar Falls to take on a very strong Northern Iowa team. The Cats will have one more exhibition contest before then to fine tune their line-up. Here’s quick gander at how the rotation on the wing will take shape.

Kam Gibson | Senior

The former Western Carolina Catamount turned Vermont Catamount excelled early on in his career, earning Southern Conference All-Freshmen honors while averaging 13.6 points a game. Unfortunately for Gibson he wasn’t able to replicate his freshman success as his PPG and MPG averages regressed in each of the following two years. Sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs – something that Gibson and Vermont will surely be hoping is the case. Technically Gibson is classified as a guard, but Vermont typically tends to deploy a big three-guard set to pair with two bigs and considering Gibson’s lethal ability from beyond the arc he should fit perfectly as an off-ball guard in John Becker’s offense.

For his career Gibson has a clip of just under 40% from deep (39%), and while that won’t classify him as one of the better shooters in the country, it still puts him as one of Vermont’s better deep range threats. The senior transfer can make an immediate impact for the Cats as a three-and-D asset. Shungu and Mazzulla are the most likely suitors to handle the majority of ball-handling duties and Ryan Davis will certainly get his fair-share of touches throughout the game. Gibson will best be served as outlet on the wing who can catch and release at a moments notice. Would not be surprised if Gibson catches lightning in bottle and goes for 20+ in few games this year.

Projected Role: Starter

Projected Stats: 21.2 MPG, 10.8 PPG, 1.8 RPG, 1.0 APG

Honors: America East Third-Team All-Conference

Bailey Patella | Senior

Everyone’s favorite Energizer Bunny returns for a fifth year (donning an incredible new headband look) and should once again be an integral part of the Cats rotation. Patella has excelled tremendously as a vocal leader for the Cats and seemingly always is right in the thick of things for every loose ball. By all accounts Patella has the ability to fill in as starter, but the electricity he brings off the bench with the second unit has been quintessential to the Cats success. Quite simply, Patella is the heart and soul of this team.

Even though Patella will likely remain in his sixth-man role he’ll still be featured prominently throughout the game, likely averaging close to 20 minutes a game. The Johnny Bravo doppelganger continues to get better every year, as his statline has approved across the boards from points, assists, rebounds and even steals, Patella keeps finding ways to make an impact in every facet of the game. If hustle and scrappiness were contributing factors for America East Sixthman of the Year then Patella would be an absolute lock for that award. However, the committee tends to pass along that honor in a more traditional sense with scoring being the de facto number one factor. If Patella can some manage to average close to 7 PPG to go along with his other all-around stats he should be a frontrunner come award season.

Project Role: Bench (6th – 10th)

Projected Stats: 19.2 MPG, 5.7 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 APG

Eric Beckett | Junior

Much like the aforementioned Gibson, Beckett is a big guard who has essentially been converted into a wing in part due to the extensive lack of depth at the position. Yet unlike Gibson, Beckett’s path to playing time is bit more rockier. The junior guard has been unable to break into the rotation thus far and these upcoming year might bring more of the same. That’s not a knock on Beckett by any means, who is a highly talented player but just has just been buried behind a plethora of talent during his time as a Catamount. However, the clock is ticking. Beckett is now entering year three – a point in time when most players are expected to make that leap. Time to play with a sense of urgency.

Beckett has briefly flashed his potential at times when he has been able to see the floor, however those moments have typically come at the tail of a blowout after John Becker has emptied his bench. If Beckett was a more consistent threat from deep he’d likely pick up some additional minutes, though unfortunately his 29% clip from beyond the arc isn’t doing him any favors. The Cats could be in serious trouble if either Gibson or Patella has miss significant time, so hopefully Beckett has spent the offseason honing his game so he can be ready when his number is called upon. This might be another year of riding the pine for Beckett but for what it’s worth his new album is worth a listen.

Projected Role: Bench (11th – 15th)

Projected Stats: 6.9 MPG, 2.7 PPG, 0.8 RPG, 0.5 APG

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