Excitement is surrounding the George Washington Colonials program after Jamion Christian seemed to turn the direction of the team around in a single season.
Now that the trajectory is up, the Colonials face the tall task of getting better in one of the best mid-major conferences in the country. Keep in mind with all the positive momentum surrounding the program, the Colonials were still one of the bottom-four teams in the Atlantic 10. They were 12-20 (6-12 A-10), which is a long-distance away from the top half that GW has resided in before their recent slide.
In Christian's second season there was a fair amount of turnover. Some guys transferred out, some in, and of course, others graduated.
This year will be key for the progression of the team under Christian. Even if it's just a minor step forward, there will a lot to be positive about in the upcoming years.
How can they keep that momentum going up and have a successful season? Here are some questions for the team entering a new year.
How much impact will LSU transfer James Bishop have?
A slew of transfers decided to descend into Foggy Bottom this year. One is a highly regarded guard from LSU in James Bishop. Last season he was really out of the rotation in the Tigers' backcourt. Starting point guard Javonte Smart rarely came off the court and minutes were tough to come by. It resulted in Bishop playing 167 total minutes in 16 contests.
Bishop comes to GW where that will drastically improve. Armel Potter Jr. graduated leaving a notable hole in the Colonials' starting lineup.
There are not many playmaking guards on the roster for George Washington. Jameer Nelson Jr. could take on a bigger role as he continues his growth. But aside from him, there's no clear guard next in line. Maybe second-year transfer Amir Harris but minutes are still open.
There were flashes for Bishop in his limited time at LSU. His most minutes (22) were against Northwestern State where he went 4-for-7 and had 11 points. Against UMBC he had four assists and shot 3-for-5 in that contest.
It's nothing to say it's Bishop's position to lose. Possibly there could be a split between Nelson and Bishop/Harris as a secondary playmaker, at least to start the year. As for Bishop, there's reason to be encouraged for how he could contribute.
Can Jameer Nelson Jr. continue his upward progression?
Son of former NBA star Jameer Nelson, there is a ton of anticipation on what Nelson Jr. can bring to the team. As a freshman, he was the energizer. Emphatic dunks, circus-like plays at the rim and timely threes were his calling card.
With the leadership surrounding the young guard, he was really able to grow into the college game. Sure, there were times where he struggled, there were plenty of stretches where he lacked the consistency that is expected of players of his caliber.
In his first season with George Washington, he was the fourth-leading scorer on the roster as a starter. He averaged 10.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists. From the field, he shot an adequate 41.5% but behind the arc, he only made 25% of his shot attempts.
As a guard in the Atlantic 10, he has to become more efficient from behind the arc.
But with some support coming back, it will be another season where Nelson can thrive. Distribution will be even for several contributors on the squad. It's just a matter of if he becomes the team's top point guard, how well can he succeed after playing off the ball for much of last season?
Will the Colonials take the next step in Year 2 with Christian?
For those that are unfamiliar with Christian, wherever he goes, he is able to enact a quick rebuild. It happened at Mount St. Mary's, Siena and there's an encouraging start after Year 1 with GW.
One thing that Christian does well and leads to success season after season is getting freshmen involved. A year ago he had three freshmen in the Colonials' starting lineup. While there were growing pains at times, it certainly set them up for success this season and beyond.
All those freshmen are now sophomores. A handful of Power 5 transfers are now in the system, and some still waiting on eligibility waivers.
No, the Colonials won't likely jump into the middle tier of the A-10 after sitting in a four-team basement last season. Losing Potter and Arnaldo Toro, even as a limited contributor, is still a big gap to make up.
However, if those sophomores continue to build off what was seen last season and a transfer becomes a difference-maker, then yes Christian firmly has the program pointed in the right direction.