% Minutes: 35%
Points: 3.9 ppg
Two-point shooting: 50%
3-point shooting: 30%
FT shooting: 63.9%
Turnover rate: 30.3%
Rebounding: 2.2 rpg
Defensive reb %: 11.2%
Block %: 2.4 bpg
Raise your hand if you thought that by the middle of the conference season, Matic would be Mike Brennan's most trusted 5 man. If your hand is raised, bravo. We at the podcast certainly didn't predict that American's late recruit would overtake not just Paris Maragkos, but also Leon Tolksdorf (more of a 4) and the now-gone Gabe Brown in the rotation. This isn't to say that Matic became a star — just three double-digit scoring games is a good indicator of that being far from the case.
But simply, Matic transformed from a freshman from Serbia for which the game was way too fast into the player who pulled down a tough offensive rebound at the end of the regular-season finale vs. Loyola and had the poise to go straight up and get fouled, followed by making the game-winning free throw.
While Matic was actually worse than Maragkos at taking care of the ball as indicated by an abysmal 30.3% turnover rate, the stat that likely helped him move ahead of Maragkos is usage rate. Especially as the season went on, throwing the ball into Matic wasn't as much of a black hole as doing the same to Maragkos.
Paris Maragkos: 30.8%
Andrija Matic: 21.9%
% AMERICAN'S SHOTS TAKEN (when on floor)
Paris Maragkos: 32.7%
Andrija Matic: 18.4%
Matic's post moves — especially his looping running jump hooks — were slow-developing and often allowed surreptitious defenders to poke the ball loose. However, when he got shots up, he converted at a 50% clip on two-pointers.
I don't want to turn this into a Matic vs. Maragkos comparison, but the fact is that Maragkos' early struggles opened the door for the freshman. Matic brought a fun confidence — even a little swagger, if you can believe it — to the floor that benefited him. I won't forget him smiling widely and almost giggling while taking a free throw late in American's win over Navy in Annapolis. Matic is a self-assured kid, which helped his progression.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT
American can finish toward the top of the Patriot League in 2016-17 with Andrija Matic as its center, but only if a couple things happen:
1) Improved ball security. Matic's 30.3% turnover rate was higher than any Patriot League player who was on the floor for at least 40% of their team's minutes. While his head was sometimes up and he looked to pass, Matic wasn't good at it. A quick, smart guard got to the ball before he could finish his move.
2) Rebounding: Matic is never going to be a dynamic player on the glass. Even at 6-10 (which is generous of AU), his lack of jumping ability hurts against the Tim Kemptons of the league. What Matic can improve is positioning and using his body and rear end to create space. His 11.2% defensive rebounding percentage is worse than anyone qualified 6-6 or taller (with the exception of Loyola's 6-foot-6 swingman Eric Laster — 10.6).
If Matic improves his jumper, too, a la Tony Wroblicky 2014, he could make great strides and become the Eagles' go-to big in all games as opposed to more of a fill-in. Just 38.7% shooting on two-point jumpers and 30% from deep leave plenty of room for improvement.
“He’s a good passer, he’s just doing a lot of good things out there. He’s making shots, he’s scored in the post a couple times, he’s gone after rebounds offensively and defensively. He’s doing a lot of good things. It’s not like Paris is doing poor or really bad, it’s just that Andrija is doing positive things.”- Mike Brennan on Matic after beating Holy Cross, Feb. 1.
Matic managed nearly 15 minutes a game as a freshman from a foreign country playing in a complicated system behind a junior who transferred from George Washington. Additionally, 6-5 Marko Vasic, to no one's surprise, stole minutes at the 5. With Vasic gone, Matic clearly Mike Brennan's favorite by season's end at the position, no diaper-dandy freshmen bigs coming in (it will take time for Mark Gesperini to crack the rotation), Tolksdorf still more of a 4 — and who knows what role he'll play especially if Lonnie Rivera develops — and Gabe Brown gone, there is ample opportunity for the smiling, confident Matic to take over as not just the Eagles' best Serbian big with Vasic gone, but also their best big period. I wouldn't say he has the highest ceiling, but he can become a very productive and consistent player in the Patriot League.