by Beth Iskoe
While top-seed UNC Wilmington winning the CAA Tournament at the Richmond Coliseum in Richmond, VA was expected, the strong play of last-seed Hofstra was not. The Pride destroyed No. 7 Towson 72-52 and upset No. 2 George Mason 82-76 before their luck finally ran out in a 70-54 loss to No. 3 Virginia Commonwealth.
The Dance Card
UNC Wilmington pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the NCAA Tournament by shocking No. 4 seed USC 93-89 in OT. The No. 13 seed Seahawks were able to hold on after blowing a 62-43 lead with 11:35 remaining. UNC Wilmington fell just shy of knocking off eventual runner-up Indiana, losing 76-67. The Seahawks trailed 49-32 with 12:39 left in second half and were able to cut their deficit to 66-63 with 2:45 left, but could not complete the comeback.
George Mason managed to receive a bid to the NIT even though they only had 19 wins and were knocked out of the CAA Tournament by the worst team in the conference. The Patriots’ stay in the NIT was short-lived, as they lost 73-64 to St. Joseph’s in the first round.
Coaches on the Move
After UNC Wilmington’s outstanding season, head coach Jerry Wainwright left for Richmond to compete in a stronger conference. Wainwright is familiar with Richmond, as the Spiders were in the CAA just two seasons ago. The Seahawks promoted assistant coach Brad Brownell to replace Wainwright.
After the season, Virginia Commonwealth’s head coach Mack McCarthy resigned, and was replaced by assistant coach Jeff Capel.
Hofstra will have a hard time improving on their last place finish last season due to the loss of senior shooting guard Rick Apodaca and sophomore power forward Wendell Gibson. They have both been suspended for the first half of the season for violation of University policy. They will miss all nine non-conference games including games at Gonzaga and St. John’s and their first five CAA contests. They are allowed to return Jan. 18. Apodaca was the Pride’s leading scorer last season, averaging 17.7 points per game. He was named to the second-team All-CAA last season and was chosen for the 2002-03 Preseason All-CAA first team. Gibson averaged 6.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.
George Mason will also be without three players from last season. Sophomore guard Lamar Butler and forward Colin Wyatt sustained off-season injuries that will sideline them for at least the first two months of the season, and Dereck Franklin will not return for his senior season, choosing to concentrate on academics. Butler suffered a severely strained groin muscle over the summer. He was named to the CAA All-Rookie team and was the runner-up for the CAA Rookie of the Year award. He tied for the team lead in made three-pointers at 57, and led the team in both three-point (.380) and free throw shooting percentage (.819), while averaging 10.4 points. Wyatt underwent surgery to repair meniscus and cartilage damage in his left knee. He averaged 2.0 points and 1.2 rebounds. Franklin played in 21 games last season, was named to George Mason’s Athletic Director’s Honor Roll both semesters, made the Dean’s List in the spring and was named to the CAA All-Academic team.
In other injury news, UNC Wilmington sophomore center Aaron Coombs will have surgery to repair a fracture in his right foot and will miss the first eight weeks of the season. He played in all 33 games last season, averaging 2.5 points and 2.0 rebounds.
The CAA had its share of players transferring both in and out of the conference. Delaware alone had three transfers and a fourth declared academically ineligible. Junior guard Austen Rowland left for Lehigh, sophomore forward Sean Knitter decided on Lafayette, freshman forward Mark Curry chose St. Peter’s and junior guard Vohn Hunter failed to meet the university’s minimum academic standards. Old Dominion sophomore center Clay McGowen transferred to Ohio University and sophomore center Charles Dunnington transferred to Division II Virginia State.
Towson will welcome the services of junior point guard Jamaal Gilchrist who sat out a year after transferring from Texas A&M where he was a two year starter. Four other schools will have to wait a year before they can benefit from the abilities of their transfers. Sophomore guard Tom McLaughlin transferred to William and Mary from Princeton, sophomore forward David Cooper from Southern New Hampshire University to James Madsion, junior guard Terry Reynolds from the University of Toledo to George Mason and sophomore guards Taylor Lay (University of Denver) and Halston Lane (Georgia Tech) transferred to UNC Wilmington.
We Wish Them Well
We definitely wish George Mason senior guard Darren Tarver well. His playing career is over after he went into cardiac arrest due to a heart arrhythmia while playing a pickup game in May. He can no longer compete in intercollegiate athletics as a result of the cardiac problem and the implant of an ICD (similar to a pacemaker). The Patriots also lost senior forward Rob Anderson and guard Terrance Nixon to graduation. William and Mary graduated four players including forwards Tom Strobehn, Bill Davis and Mike Johnson, as well as guard Cody Carbaugh.
Towson lost three starters to graduation: guard and leading scorer Sam Sutton, forward Kerry Augustus and center Michael Shin. Also, high school phenomenon and now sophomore guard Tamir Goodman said he would not play for head coach Michael Hunt after Hunt allegedly held a chair over his head in a frightening manner after a game, and later, while yelling at his team, kicked a metal stool that hit Goodman’s leg. Goodman recently signed a three-year contract for the Tel-Aviv Maccabees to play in Israel. Drexel lost its two lowest scorers in senior Julius Williams and junior walk-on Jay Overcash.
Two other schools have one player playing professionally, but none in the NBA. UNC Wilmington forward Ed Williams signed a contract with the Thames Valley Tigers of the United Kingdom, and Virginia Commonwealth center L.F. Likcholitov was drafted 78th overall, in the 8th round of the USBL draft by the Dodge City Legend. The Seahawks also lost forward Stewart Hare to graduation and junior guard Lou Chapman left the team for personal reasons, while junior forwards Josh Graham, Josh Clark and Konstanti Nekerov as well as sophomore center Dennis Orlov left the Rams for undisclosed reasons.
Delaware lost four underclassmen, junior guard Vohn Hunter was declared academically ineligible, junior guard Austen Rowland transferred to Lehigh instead of staying to back up sophomore guard Mike Slattery, freshman forward Mark Curry chose St. Peter’s after leaving the team in February and sophomore forward Sean Knitter hopes to get more playing time at Lafayette. Hofstra sophomore guard Joel Suarez also left his squad in mid February for personal reasons and has not transferred anywhere yet.
Old Dominion had the biggest turnover in the offseason, losing five players. Guard Pierre Greene graduated, sophomore center Clay McGowen transferred to Ohio University, sophomore center Charles Dunnington transferred to Division II Virginia State, freshman forward James Smith dropped out, but may transfer to a junior college and freshman forward Alan Treese decided not to return to the university in the spring. James Madison lost four people from last year’s squad. Forwards Ron Anderson and Tim Lyle graduated, while junior forward Jerian Younger and freshman guard Femi Akinnagbe left for undisclosed reasons.