By THOMAS BLACK (ByTheNumbers.co) – Original Article
The “sophomore slump” is a popular label applied to collegiate athletes by sports fans everywhere. The hyped freshman comes in and shocks the world by what they can do. Then, after a year of success and praise, the player may become a little lackadaisical or opponents better prepare for them after seeing weaknesses on film. Whatever the case, the sophomore season sometimes just doesn’t seem to be as special as the first season.
On the other hand, there are a great many sophomore spurts that are not properly noted. College basketball is a game dominated by freshmen, but it’s easy to forget some of the freshmen that don’t go the route of the one-and-done. P.J. Dozier is one of those sophomores. He’s off to a fantastic start this season, helping No. 16 South Carolina to an 8-1 start. Here’s a statistical snapshot of what the 2016-17 season has held so far, in comparison to Dozier’s freshman season:
Dozier’s numbers are up across the board. Particularly impressive to me are his increases in points and steals per game. To go along with those, Dozier’s dedication to improving his shooting can easily be found in both his free throw and 3-point shooting percentages.
While Dozier’s minutes are currently up 42 percent, he has increased his scoring by 103 percent, his rebounding by 53 percent and his steals by 130 percent. He has also gone from being a poor all-around shooter to an above-average all-around shooter. Part of Dozier’s repertoire is a post-up turn-around free throw-line high-arcing jumper that is very difficult to defend because of his long, rangy, athletic 6-foot-6, 205-pound frame. His length and ball-handling abilities give Dozier the capacity to play any position from point guard to small forward. It’s a range of versatility that will greatly benefit head coach Frank Martin all season and has been noted on the national landscape:
— Seth Greenberg (@SethOnHoops) December 13, 2016
Dozier has been a big leader for the Gamecocks this season. Sure, Sindarius Thornwell is widely thought of as the leader for South Carolina, but Thornwell is also currently under an indefinite suspension from Martin. He’s missed each of the last two games with that suspension. Dozier has stepped up in response. As a freshman, he played 34 games and never reached 20 points. Dozier failed to reach that plateau in each of this season’s first six games. But he has reached a minimum of 20 points in each of the last three games. Dozier has averaged 20 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals in the two games spanning Thornwell’s suspension.
The Gamecocks travel to South Florida (5-3) Saturday in an attempt to reach their ninth win of the season. Thornwell’s status for this one has not been officially released. Regardless, the Gamecocks appear to be in good hands with Dozier leading the way in his absence.