Pitt transfer Damon Wilson, Nelson Phillips make their Panthers debut
ATLANTA — The Georgia State Panthers hosted Georgia College Thursday in an exhibition game in which the Panthers defeated the Bobcats 78-58 at the GSU Sports Arena. Malik Benlevi, who played a significant number of minutes at the center position, scored a game-high 26 points, while his counterpart Jeff Thomas added 17 points.
Damon Wilson, the transfer combo guard from Pitt, scored nine points in his debut, as well as freshman guard Nelson Phillips.
The Panthers were without three key contributors: D’Marcus Simonds, Devin Mitchell, and Kane Williams. Head coach Ron Hunter used this game to analyze the play of his newcomers and ultimately escape without his most coveted players suffering terrible injuries.
The inexperience of the freshmen was on full display early in the game as the Panthers trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half before Benlevi showed his leadership and dominated the game.
There were glaring issues on both sides of the ball for Georgia State during this game, here’s my analysis of some of the newcomers that saw game action:
Damon Wilson: As mentioned earlier, Wilson is a transfer player from the ACC, whom the coaching staff believes is the second-best player on the roster (the first being Simonds, of course.) However, Wilson didn’t log many minutes at Pitt, and he also had to sit out a year due to NCAA transfer rules. So, realistically, Wilson hasn’t played meaningful basketball in relatively two years — and it was evident. While Simonds is on the bench, Wilson will be the primary ball handler, that is if he can take better care of the ball. Against the Bobcats, he had his fair share of turnovers and didn’t seem comfortable running the offense. He also had four fouls and missed several open threes (that I’m sure he will knock down as the season progresses). Fortunately for Wilson, the Panther shave a grueling non-conference schedule that will prepare him for conference play.
Nelson Phillips: Seeing Phillips in person will have you gazing at his physical stature. He has the length and athleticism that makes him a dynamic guard at the D-1 level. At 6-foot-4, he can be a great compliment to Simonds in the backcourt while not giving up size defensively. Nelson attacked the basket effectively but failed to finish at the rim which caused him to shoot a low percentage from the field. He also didn’t display a consistent jump shot which could hinder him if he fails to convert layups. Nonetheless, Nelson will play significant minutes for Hunter if he plays defense and continues to progress offensively.
Kavonte Ivory: Ivory played around 20 minutes and had a somewhat decent game. He was 1-of-3 from three-point range and was active on the boards. He didn’t do anything extraordinarily well, but he also didn’t make mistakes which is a great sign in a young player. He will play sparingly this season if veteran guys like Jordan Tyson, Chris Clerkley and second-year player Josh Linder play well throughout the year.
D’Mitri Chin @1DMitriChin