The shifty defender from Midland, Texas, Joseph Venzant, made considerable noise on the Flames’ roster during his freshman season. He was arguably the most impactful freshman last year for the Flames. The Flames’ faithful will recall Venzant’s game-saving steal against Kennesaw State on February 26th. The 6’3,” 195-pound upcoming sophomore was a three-star recruit, touted for his athleticism, motor, and ball-hawking defensive ability.

Below are Joseph’s career stats per ESPN:

The Numbers

The most noticeable of Venzant’s stats is the number of games played, especially as a freshman. He saw considerable playing time and head coach Ritchie McKay readily placed his trust in him. JV started 31 of the 32 games due to his ongoing position battle with capable defender Isiah Warfield. Still, Venzant proved to be the preferred starter. He competed in over half of each game, making his presence felt with considerable minutes for a freshman.

Venzant shot well from the field for a freshman. Any player who finds himself shooting nearly 100 attempts on the season and connects on 45 percent is someone you can look to for good offensive output. Everyone took note of Venzant’s shooting from three. He will continue to work to improve that 15 percent number on the season, and I believe he will find it with the help of his coaching staff this summer. Shooting becomes much more difficult at each advanced level, with the speed of the game complicating players’ ability to find their rhythm. As he continues to settle into the pace of the D1 level, his shot will fall. On a positive note, JV’s free throw percentage was impressive for a slashing, defensive minded guard. He shows great promise from the charity stripe shooting nearly 80 percent on the season. That is a player you feel very comfortable with getting to the line and driving for contact.

On the other end of the court, Venzant was an obvious standout. He was assigned to guard the opposing team’s best player during numerous games, and he consistently rose to the occasion. He averaged nearly a steal a game, which is impressive on two fronts. First, it’s impressive for someone playing an average of half the game. Secondly, it’s noteworthy because the packline is not a defensive scheme that thrives on chancy defense. Venzant made an individual impact on a highly five-man- oriented-scheme without trying to be an individual standout. I look forward to seeing how his steals and rebounds will increase in the coming season (JV was an exceptional offensive rebounder, as well).

The Intangibles

I’ve stated before how much of a sucker I am for defensive-minded play. There is something uniquely exciting about watching a player devoted to something that is simply a mix of heart, good anticipation, and savvy. JV is the ideal combination of all that makes a great defender. I credit my wife’s basketball IQ for coming up with a likely theory as to why Venzant thrives on defense, apart from the already mentioned skills. His brother, Daniel Venzant, is a professional basketball player in Mexico with exceptional ball-handling. Who knows, but maybe some drawn out driveway battles gave Joseph all the know-how to fear no offensive threat.

I anticipate Joseph will surprise fans even more in the coming season with his offensive improvements. Venzant thrived off of chasing loose balls and trash baskets last season. Since the Flames are primarily a half-court offense, it’s unlikely to expect him thriving in transition, but, like Darius McGhee, I wouldn’t be surprised if the unique defensive up-tempo talent of Venzant allows us to see a more vertical and pacey offense at times. I also am hopeful that JV will continue to be a slippery cutter, giving his teammates an unexpected option in drive-and-dump offensive situations. I also think Joseph will shoot two or three percent higher from the field in the coming season and mid to high 20 percent from three, depending on his amount of attempts. Because he is such a hard-working player (his most valuable intangible), I believe he will have shocking improvement each off-season.

All in all, Venzant will continue to be a fixture in the rotation this season. His offense will be multi-faceted and his defense will be (somehow) even more impactful and noteworthy than it was last season. He is a fan favorite for all the right reasons.

Previous Breakdowns:

Kyle Rode
Blake Preston 
Darius McGhee
Shiloh Robinson
Stephen Burgraff  
Isiah Warfield
DJ Moore