Friar fans received surprising news on Monday night, when it was announced South Carolina forward Justin Minaya would be transferring to the Friars. Minaya is a 6-6 hybrid forward that spots up from 3 and has is known as a good defender and rebounder. Minaya averaged 7 ppg and 6.3 rpg for the Gamecocks last season. Minaya has multiple years of eligibility remaining.
Minaya reminds me a bit of Seton Hall’s Jared Rhoden, with his ability to play on the wing but score around the basket. Friar fans may be quick to point out that he only shot 23% from 3 last season but his freshman year he shot it at a 36% clip. That is a bit concerning, but likely is due to factors like injuries more so than regression.
With Alpha Diallo graduating last year, the Friars badly missed a physical, tough minded guard on the wing that didn’t mind mixing it up in the paint and rebounding bigger than his size (Minaya is only 6’6, which makes his rebounding numbers in the SEC all the more impressive). Cooley also loves to have a forward that can create offensive mismatches on the wing a la Diallo and LaDontae Henton. With the addition of Minaya, Cooley and staff are looking to see if he can fill that void.
Minaya also figures to be a guy that can groom incoming freshman Legend Geeter. The Friars lost both Duke and Gantt as primary rotation pieces. They replace those two with the additions of IU’s Al Durham and now Minaya. At worst, Minaya provides an upgrade over the roster minutes that had previously been allocated to Gantt and Monroe. Cooley also seems to have swapped out athleticism (Gantt) with toughness, experience, and durability (Durham and Minaya).
Lastly, Minaya should be able to see spot minutes and potentially vie for a starting spot in 2022-2023 after the graduation of Reeves. It is a luxury to lose a player that has started in and played games his entire career and potentially replace him with somebody who started in the SEC for 3 years.
With Durham and Minaya now in the fold, it will be interesting to see if the Friars look to add anyone else later this summer. Regardless, with the roster they currently have, I’m intrigued by how the rotation for the 2021-2022 Friars will shake out. As of this writing, we should see the following players slotted in the following areas:
Guard: Bynum, Breed, Durham, Goodine (Epps?)
Wing: Reeves, Minaya, Geeter
Big: Horchler, Watson, Croswell, Castro
If we are putting ourselves in Cooley’s shoes and analyzing who has joined the program as transfers since the start of the season, it is clear Cooley emphasized 1. Experience 2. Toughness 3. Grit.
Minaya fits the fold here for all 3. Even though he doesn’t have eye popping statistics, it says something that a very demanding coach like Frank Martin started him in 75 of the possible 79 games he was enrolled at South Carolina. It illustrates that he trusted Minaya on the court, something that Cooley probably wouldn’t say for all of his players last year that played. This commitment may not move the needle in a big way, but it helps remedy the culture and adds another experienced Power 5 player to the mix. Any time you can upgrade the roster talent and depth, that is a win, and that is precisely what Ed Cooley did here.