Last Friday, I commented on the plight of Longwood’s Jeff Havenstein. He started in Longwood’s win over Charleston Southern, but played just two minutes. These kinds of occurrences aren’t all that unusual, but they often involve some sort of tragedy, like a serious injury. In Havenstein’s case, it was a coaches decision. That got me wondering about which coaches make a mockery of the starter label, and likewise which bench players might as well be considered starters.
First, let’s look at the guys who don’t start but play the most. The following players have played the highest percentage their team’s minutes without starting a single time. You can call these guys sixth men if you want, but it’s very misleading.
5. Shannon Evans, Buffalo. Evans has played at least 30 minutes in four of the Bulls’ 18 games, and on the season has appeared in 64.5% of Buffalo’s minutes. While Bobby Hurley starts a conventional lineup in terms of size, the 6-1 Evans’ early appearance into a game usually comes at the expense of a big, meaning Buffalo goes with three guards.
4. Tre Demps, Northwestern. Chris Collins has had to do some work to keep Demps out of the starting lineup. With JerShon Cobb, Drew Crawford, and Dave Sobolewski each missing games at various times this season, it would have made sense for Demps to make a start at some point. He made nine starts last season, so it’s not like Demps is unfamiliar with jump ball procedure. He’s played in 65.6% of the Wildcats minutes and hasn’t played fewer than 24 minutes since December 4th.
3. William Gates, Jr., Furman. You could make a documentary about this guy’s season so far. Gates’ particular hoop dream is to start a Division-I basketball game, and despite playing in 65.7% of the Paladins’ minutes, the freshman has yet to do so. He’s played at least 30 minutes in a whopping nine of Furman’s 19 games against D-I foes.
2. Ian Miller, Florida State. Miller was the leader on this list, but he sprained his ankle early in Saturday’s loss to Clemson and played just seven minutes. His status for Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech is in doubt. He’s still played in 66.8% of the Seminoles’ minutes, which included a team-high 34 minutes of regulation action in his most-recent healthy game against N.C. State.
1. Jon Harris, Cleveland State. Harris somehow played 36 minutes in a game against UIC on January 22. The 6-7 senior entered the game at the 17:01 mark of the first half, and at the 18:47 mark of the second half, and didn’t take a seat until the end of each period. Overall he’s played in 67.1% of the Vikings’ minutes, and along with Anton Grady, is one of the more formidable offensive duos in the Horizon League. Based on pure production, Harris should be starting, although I’m sure Gary Waters has his reasons for bringing him off the bench. What will Waters do on Senior Day?
Now for the guys who wear the starter label proudly, but spend most of the game on the bench. This group includes players that have started and appeared in each of their team’s games but have played the lowest percentage of their team’s minutes.
5. Michael Holyfield, Sam Houston State. Fourth-year head coach Jason Hooten runs a deep bench, so it’s not like he has something particular against Holyfield, who currently ranks 11th nationally in OR%, 31st in DR%, and 43rd in block percentage. Hooten would have probably given the junior more than 41.7% of the team’s available minutes if it weren’t for him committing over seven fouls per 40 minutes played.
4. Adam Woodbury, Iowa. Speaking of big men on teams with deep benches, Woodbury has started each of the Hawkeyes’ 22 games, but has played at least 20 minutes in just four of them. The 7-1 sophomore has played just 40.6% of the Hawkeyes’ minutes, eerily similar to his 40.8% mark of last season, when he also started every game.
3. Zac Tillman, Monmouth. Monmouth’s 6-10 freshman has played single-digit minutes three times in his 22 starts and overall has appeared in a mere 37.6% of the Hawks’ minutes. Like Holyfield and Woodbury, Tillman likes to foul (6.7 per 40 minutes) perhaps knowing that his time on the court is going to be brief anyway.
2. Jeff Havenstein, Longwood. Havenstein has started 23 games and taken 29 shots. Partly because he hates to shoot and partly because he doesn’t stick around long after the opening tip. This is his fourth season in Farmville and he’s never taken more than 10% of the Lancers’ shots when he’s on the floor. After the two-minute game against Charleston Southern, he’s back in head coach Jayson Gee’s good graces, playing a combined 23 minutes in Longwood’s last two games. His season high is 21 minutes and overall Havenstein has appeared in just 34.5% of Longwood’s minutes.
1. Matt Milk, St. Francis Brooklyn. Milk’s honor gets an asterisk since he actually didn’t play in a recent game against Bryant. However, his presence here is legit because even if he had played 40 minutes in that game, Milk still would have the lowest percentage of minutes played among players that have started each of their team’s games. There have been 11 games where he’s played single-digit minutes including twice where he played just four. In the 21 games he’s played against D-I teams, he’s appeared in a mere 22.6% of the Terrier’s minutes. He’s giving Ben Gillery a run for his money. Every game Milk is on the floor for the jump, but when he subs out, he’s out for the rest of the period. He may or may not start the second half, but if the does the drill is the same. Head coach Glenn Braica can tell people he’s got Milk in the starting lineup, but just know that Milk is the least-used starter in the land.