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What Trey McGowens Can Bring to Nebraska Basketball

May 21, 2020

The NCAA Division I Council decided on Wednesday to push back the much-discussed one-time transfer waiver issue until at least the the 2021-22 academic year. That’s bad news for a couple of Nebraska basketball transfers hoping to avoid a sit-out year.

The Huskers might have a good case to get Kobe King a waiver to play immediately anyway, but it might be a bit tougher for Trey McGowens. A redshirt year very well might serve the former Pittsburgh point guard well as he clearly has a lot of talent but has plenty of things to polish up as well.

To get a better feel for McGowens as a player and the growth he made from his freshman to his sophomore year, I took a look at his Synergy Sports Technology numbers.

McGowens is a 6-foot-4, 195-pound guard who Nebraska sees as a point guard, though he was stuck playing more two-guard at Pittsburgh. As a freshman, he averaged 11.6 points and 1.7 assists while producing 1.079 points per possession (PPP) between his buckets and assists (45th percentile nationally). Individually, McGowens scored 0.897 PPP, good for the 55th percentile (good). 

As a sophomore, he put up 11.5 points and 3.6 assists, upping his distributing while taking a step back in his own efficiency. McGowens produced 1.066 PPP (46th percentile), though his assist-to-turnover ratio jumped from 0.7 to 1.2 and his assist rate increased from 11.4% to 18.6%. Individually, he scored 0.77 PPP (27th percentile, “below average”).

It’s worth pointing out that Pittsburgh was one of the worst 3-point shooting teams in the country without a single player who made better than a third of his attempts. That isn’t exactly an ideal environment for a slashing, play-making guard.

As a freshman, McGowens’ most common play type was transition. He got out in the open floor on 32% of his plays, scoring 1.241 PPP while shooting 58.1% from the field and earning his way to the foul line 28.5% of the time. He led the break himself as the ball-handler nearly 60% of the time and scored 1.241 PPP (92nd percentile, “excellent”). 

He didn’t get as many opportunities to run as a sophomore with 54 fewer possessions as transition only made up 16.9% of his total plays. His effectiveness dropped as well, down to 0.904 PPP. His turnover rate almost doubled, he shot less than 50% from the field and his foul rate dropped as well.

Whereas he showed some real promise in the open floor as a freshman, his numbers in the half court were pretty ugly both seasons. As a freshman, he scored 0.735 PPP (23rd percentile, “below average”) and shot 33% from the field. As a sophomore, he scored 0.743 PPP (27th percentile, “below average”).

Former Husker commit Xavier Johnson had the ball in his hands quite a lot, so McGowens spent a lot of time spotting up. As a freshman, 29.9% of his plays were spot-ups (which includes both jumpers and attacking off the catch). He scored 0.773 PPP (27th percentile, “below average”). Of his 128 possessions, 52 were catch-and-shoot opportunities and he shot just 28.6%, scoring 0.962 PPP (39th percentile, average”). On nearly a quarter of his plays, he attacked the basket, shooting 9-of-24 and scoring 0.968 PPP (43rd percentile, “average”). He pulled up for a jumper 15 times and made just three of them, and he turned the ball over without getting a shot off 21 times.

McGowens had the ball a bit more as a sophomore but he still spotted up 24.4% of the time, even if he wasn’t any more effective at it. He scored 0.742 PPP (30th percentile, “below average”). He shot 17-of-51 on catch-and-shoot opportunities and scored 1.0 PPP (49th percentile, “average”). He was even worse at the rim, converting just five of his 15 shots for 0.65 PPP, and he shot 4-of-19 (0.571 PPP) on pull-up jumpers. He turned the ball over 11 times without getting a shot off and shot 2-of-9 on runners.

McGowens didn’t show much off-ball equity at Pittsburgh, largely because he’s not a great shooter but also because he didn’t finish all that well at the rim either when he attacked closeouts. Pittsburgh also didn’t run him off screens or use him as a cutter very much at all.

McGowens shot 15-of-51 on catch-and-shoot looks as a freshman (0.902 PPP, 34th percentile, “average”) and 20-of-56 as a sophomore (10.071 PPP, 67th percentile, “very good”). The improvement as a sophomore is a good sign, especially on his unguarded looks which went from 0.944 PPP to 1.2 PPP, albeit with a small sample size for both.

McGowens’s third-most common play type as a freshman was the pick-and-roll, which he ran on 22.9% of his plays. Between his passes and his shots, McGowens produced 0.761 PPP in the pick-and-roll. He kept it himself 55.7% of the time (0.673 PPP, 35th percentile) and found a teammate the other 44.3% (0.872 PPP, 35th percentile), though he was “average” either way.

He showed some improvement as a self-creator as a sophomore and his volume went up as well as pick-and-roll became his most common play type at 33.2%. He produced 0.841 PPP (54th percentile, “good”) between his passes and shots, and the split was nearly 50/50. He scored 0.773 PPP (60th percentile, “good”) and his passes led to 0.911 PPP (46th percentile, “average”).

As a passer both seasons, McGowens kicked the ball out to a teammate spotting up more than three times as often as he hit the roll man, so that is certainly one area in which he can improve. As a scorer, McGowens struggled quite a bit to finish at the basket out of pick-and-rolls, though he did a decent job of drawing fouls. As a sophomore, he expanded his game to include more pull-up jumpers and runners and was much beer in house areas than he was as a freshman.

As a freshman, McGowens didn’t score a single point in isolation as he hardly attempted to create on his own without a screen. Pittsburgh gave him the ball and let him go to work a bit more often as a sophomore, 11.8% of his possessions, but he wasn’t anything special, scoring 0.741 PPP (47th percentile, “average”) and shooting 37.2%.

McGowens is an athletic guard with decent touch and some natural playmaking ability. Here’s some highlights from his time at Pittsburgh if you’re more of the visual learner.

“Trey McGowens is a hell of a player,” Coach Fred Hoiberg said during a teleconference with reporters after signing day. “You see the numbers that he put up; he had 35 in a game against Louisville in a game in the ACC and he had a 30-point game against Florida State, which is not easy to do against Florida State. He’s another guy that is a combo guard. He made a lot of really good plays, and you can see with his numbers, his assist numbers went up in year two and his assist-to-turnover ratio got much better in year two as well. He’s very athletic. He’s a guy that can shoot the ball at a high clip. He’s played at the highest level. He played in the ACC and I think he started 64 of his 66 games that he played in at Pitt playing for a coach I have a lot of respect for in Jeff Capel. I’m excited about what he brings to the table.”

Hoiberg is clearly high on McGowens, and his job is to coax more consistent play out of the dynamic guard. Putting the ball in his hands with shooters around him and letting him run as often as possible should suit him well, but to take a big step forward he needs to polish up a few things (most importantly, the perimeter jumper) and continue his development as a distributor. A redshirt year, if he has to take one, could help him do all that.

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