It’s no surprise that UAB is winning games, but what is surprising is how long it took for the team to gel together.
Obviously the loss of Nick Norton less than 15 minutes into the basketball season was a huge blow — enter Deion Lavender.
Deion took over the starting point guard spot for the next 15 games. While Deion is a guard, I do not — and I think he’d agree with me — think he is a point guard. The stats don’t lie either. With Deion at the point, UAB did not win or lose consecutive games. The Blazers also had a much lower assist-to-turnover ratio during that stretch. Denzell Watts has now taken over the starting point guard spot and Deion now plays as an off-the-ball guard (shooting guard, or 2 spot) off the bench.
Over the last four games in which Deion has not been the point guard (I would exclude the North Texas game because that was just downright ugly) UAB has committed fewer turnovers and assisted on many more made baskets — 68 assists to 54 turnovers to be exact. While this isn’t ideal, it is certainly much better than the games previously. This isn’t the only factor though, Deion has emerged as a fantastic scorer.
In three of the last four games, Deion has scored in double-digits at the 2-spot. In those games he shot 14-of-24 (58.3 percent) from the floor and found his way to the free throw line and made 11-of-14 of those shots (78.6 percent).
Deion is capable of filling Robert Brown’s shoes, in my opinion. In Robert’s senior season he averaged 14 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 3.1 assists per game, 0.9 steals per game, and 1.8 turnovers per game. In just these last four games at his new role, Deion is averaging 10.8 points per game, 2 rebounds per game, 2.25 assists per game, 1.5 steals per game, and 1.25 turnovers per game.
I believe the difference in rebounding is due to a difference in height and size, and the difference in points is due to Robert’s ability to shoot the three so well. But Deion has something that Robert didn’t necessarily exhibit, Deion has a dribble-drive move to the top of the lane for a jump shot that I have not seen him miss yet — it’s deadly. Deion also is able to slash to the basket and get to the foul line just like Robert.
The biggest difference between the two in terms of playing the game is that Robert had two years of experience at Virginia Tech of the ACC. The ACC, as you know, is a basketball powerhouse of a conference that consistently puts 5-7 teams in the NCAA Tournament. Deion, however, has much less experience against team like Duke and North Carolina because he transferred from SIU after one season. Obviously, experience is important, but that is something you gain over time, and Deion has plenty of it.
Regardless of these differences between the two, I feel Deion will fill Robert’s big shoes perfectly. If Deion continues to improve and play at the level he has shown that he is capable of, then the sky is the limit for him.