Junior guard Biggie Minnis showed flashes of his play-making ability on March 17 against Iona College, and Rhode Island could win the Atlantic 10 outright next year if he brings it every day.
Minnis put up a career-high 13 points to go with six rebounds, three assists and one steal in 27 minutes off the bench in the Rams’ 88-75 victory over the Gaels. He stepped up from his usual 3.7 points per game and 2.4 rebounds and played nearly seven more minutes. Granted, URI had seven double-digit scorers, but Minnis’ explosion was the best he had played all season.
He was trending in the right direction. In Rhode Island’s first-round Atlantic 10 Tournament win against George Washington on March 13, he supplied five points, five rebounds, two steals and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench. Minnis had his off days, though, both in losses to Dayton in the A-10 semifinals and Stanford in the second round of the NIT. His success off the bench could be the linchpin for the Rams to succeed next season, and these past few games provided a changing of the guard.
Minnis started the season as one of the three guards in Rhode Island’s backcourt. He had four points in each of Rhode Island’s first two games, including a four-steal, four-rebound performance against Pace. Minnis frankly could not put up starter numbers, though. He failed to score against No. 21 Nebraska in an overtime win, and only had one point in a double-digit loss to No. 11 Kansas. Inconsistency continued to plague him as he put up seven against Santa Clara, but once again failed to score the next day versus Georgia Tech. Even in blowouts, like URI’s 83-44 win over Delaware State, Minnis barely scored above his average.
Freshman Jarvis Garrett started in Minnis’ place after URI’s 65-60 loss to Virginia Commonwealth University at home on Jan. 13. Despite some early troubles from Garrett, he never lost his spot in the lineup to Minnis.
The sixth-man role is Minnis’ now with Garrett snatching his place in the backcourt midseason and senior T.J. Buchanan graduating in the spring. Garrett’s late-season play (8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds and five assists in his last five appearances) certainly did not help his case. If he can harness his star power from before his college days and have an Iona-like output on a nightly basis, he can earn consideration for Atlantic 10 Sixth Man of the Year.
The Texas Tech transfer was elite at Egg Harbor Township Atlantic Christian School in New Jersey as a junior and senior, and brought South Philadelphia High School a Philadelphia Public League Class AAAA Championship as a sophomore. His seasons at Egg Harbor were sensational, putting up 18.5 points, six assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.8 steals per game as a senior. During his junior season he had 17.1 points per contest to go with a remarkable 3.4 steals.
When Rhode Island head coach Dan Hurley recruited him in 2012, he told GoRhody.com that Minnis would “bring a real physical, athletic presence to our backcourt.” Anything like his presence at Egg Harbor, accessing the potential he has stored up, can deliver a fruitful season for not only Minnis off the bench, but the Rams as well.
Stepping into the sixth-man shoes will be no easy task for the 6-foot-3 Philadelphia native. The electricity that Buchanan brought off the bench will be tough to match, along with his 5.9 points and more than one steal per game. Compounding that uphill battle will be the other guards against whom he will have to compete for minutes. Sophomore Matthew Butler was good for a clutch 3-pointer occasionally, and the addition of recruits Christion Thompson and graduate student Four McGlynn will provide greater adversity.
McGlynn, a Towson transfer, shot 40 percent better from the charity stripe (91.7 percent compared to 51.1 percent) than Minnis did this season and was nearly a 40 percent shooter from beyond the arc. Minnis was 6-for-23 on 3-point attempts, making just better than 25 percent of them.
Minnis can be what Buchanan was this season, the senior leader coming off the bench to pour in crucial buckets while at the same time, making the Thomas M. Ryan Center crowd roar to their feet. McGlynn has years of experience under his belt, too, but this will be his first and only season with Rhode Island.
Minnis showed the ball-handling ability and scoring potential he can bring to the game very late in the season and during postseason victories. If he can simply bring more consistency next season, the artist formally known as DeShon Minnis can make his 2014-15 struggles a thing of the past.