Basketball Preview: Frontcourt
Nov. 13, 2009
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjack basketball program leaned heavily on a pair of key players during its runs to Southland Conference titles over the last two seasons. Josh Alexander and Matt Kingsley accounted for nearly 47 percent of SFA's offense in the 2007-08 campaign and provided just over 45 percent of the scoring last year.
Alexander was named the Southland's Player of the Year in 2008, and Kingsley took that honor in 2009. The duo finished their careers as the top two scorers in SFA's history at the Division I level. Now that they're gone -- both are playing professionally in Poland this season -- the question for the Lumberjacks is, "Who is going to take up the slack?"
The answer, according to head coach Danny Kaspar, is "Everybody."
"Last year's team was very dependent on Josh and Matt carrying the scoring," the coach said earlier this fall. "I believe we have to get more balanced scoring this year to produce similar results. I don't know if there are any conference MVPs on this team, but I do think we have a few all-conference-type players, and we have to evenly distribute the scoring responsibilities to be successful."
The scoring column isn't the only vacuum created by last year's departed seniors. In addition to Kingsley and Alexander, the 'Jacks lost seniors Benson Akpan and Nick Shaw. The quartet of seniors were SFA's top four rebounders and accounted for almost 70 percent of the squad's boards a year ago. On top of that, all four were frontcourt players, leaving the Lumberjacks thin on experience down low.
Scott is the team's top returning rebounder after averaging 2.4 boards per contest last season. He scored 3.5 points per game in 17 total appearances.
"Jereal will be expected to play a lot this season and contribute a great deal to our program," Kaspar said. "He did not get the playing time he desired last year, playing behind Matt and Benson. This is his year to give us rebounds, points and minutes like he had hoped to when he signed on."
Smith played in just 14 games last season and averaged 1.9 points and 1.9 boards in 9.1 minutes per contest. After adding some bulk over the summer, he is looking to become more of a threat with an improved inside game to go with his shooting touch.
"Aaron worked very hard in the offseason to improve his strength," Kaspar said. "Now that he is familiar with our system, I think he can give us quality minutes at the power forward spot."
Scott looks to have a hold on the starting center position, but the early favorites to start at power forward are junior transfers Jordan Glynn and Orren Tims. Both are hybrid players, moving to the four spot from other positions. Glynn has spent most of his time at the center position, while Tims has more of a small forward skill set.
Glynn is coming off a junior college career that saw him earn first-team all-conference honors in both seasons at McLennan Community College.
"Jordan's a tough, blue-collar player who works very hard," Kaspar said. "He is a tenacious rebounder, much like Nick Shaw was for us the past two years."
At 6-5, 210, Tims is between the three and the four, size-wise. But his skills combined with his size will make him a match-up problem wherever he plays.
"Orren is a serious candidate to start at the power forward or small forward," Kaspar said. "He can play outside, and he can post up. In the fall, he has struggled at times with learning the new system, but, if he can overcome that, he can be a very good player for us."
Mark Gomillia will share time at the small forward with Tims and junior guard Eddie Williams. The Atlanta native was the player of the year last season in the Jayhawk Conference East Division. He figures to be an asset on the offensive end of the floor.
"Mark is a good shooter and scorer," Kaspar said. "We need to strengthen his defensive abilities and make him realize that is a necessary component in earning playing time here. But he is definitely someone who can help us put up points, and we'll need him to do that."
"Will is a great high school sign for us," Kaspar said. "He has good offensive skills in the post and is a good shooter from 17 feet in. He needs to get physically stronger and improve his conditioning, and he has already made great strides in those areas. I expect Will to help us out a great deal in his freshman year.
"Corey is an exceptional athlete who can run and jump with the best of them. He is an excellent rebounder and shot-blocker. His understanding of the game needs to improve, as well as his poise under pressure."
-- SFA --