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Summer Shootaround: Alex Gauna

With two seasons on the court now under his belt, Gauna enters what looks to be a fierce competition for minutes up front.


Seventh entry in a co-authored series. Previously: Keith Appling, Travis Trice, Gary Harris, Denzel ValentineBranden Dawson, and Russell Byrd.

UPDATE: Total brainfart on my part.  Gauna was a redshirt sophomore, not a redshirt freshman, this past season.  I'm too reliant on KenPom, which doesn't show players who played below a certain minute% threshold.  Anyway, I've made some minor modifications below to make the post consistent with, you know, reality.  FWIW, his numbers weren't much different as a freshman.

In his second season on the court for the Spartans, Alex Gauna appeared in all but one of the team's 36 games, but generally only played a handful of minutes.  He reached double digit minutes just five times.  And he wasn't able to find many ways to get involved from a statistical production standpoint.  His biggest games were a 6-point, 7-rebound showing in the Jenison Fieldhouse game and an 8-point, 6-rebound game in the Immaculate Beatdown.  So largely garbage minutes in both cases.

The book on Gauna coming into the program was that he was a pick-and-pop player--a wider body who could also step out and knock some jumpers down to keep defenses honest.  True to form, he did lead non-walk-on MSU players in the percentage of his field goals attempted as two-point jumpers (45%).  But he also ranked second to last (ahead of only Travis Trice) in the percentage of those two-point jumpers he made (27%).

We've talked at length here about the general ineffectiveness of the two-point jumper.  Really, for a big man's outside shooting to be a difference maker, I think he needs to be able to shoot the three.  So far at least, we haven't seen that from Gauna.  He hasn't attempt any three-pointers as a college player yet.

This analysis shouldn't be overstated.  Gauna only attempted 32 total field goals this past season, so we're dealing with very small sample sizes.  And he was a pretty effective finisher in the lane--converting 78% of shots at the rim.

Other statistical indicators weren't terribly promising.  Among full-season rotation players, he ranked :

--Sixth on the team in both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage,

--Second to last in block percentage,

--Last in assist rate, and

--Second to last (highest) in turnover rate.

Not a lot to hang your hat on.  The one other positive statistical indicator is that he didn't pick up a lot of fouls (3.7 per 40 minutes) for a relatively inexperienced big.  You can never have too many competent post defenders hanging around.

If my instincts are right, Gauna will be competing with Matt Costello, Kenny Kaminski, Gavin Schilling, and Russell Byrd for about 40 minutes of playing time this season.  Given that Costello outperformed Gauna in almost every statistical category last season, Kaminski also has a reputation as a shooter, and Schilling is getting some hype from Tom Izzo already, it looks to be something of an uphill battle for Gauna.

I'm probably judging a still-fairly-inexperienced three-star post player a bit harshly here.  Gauna has time left in his career to improve his game and become a major contributor.  But the pool of potential contributors is about to get a lot bigger.