D-1 Independents Recap
by Stephen Murphy
A lot has transpired in the off-season for Division 1 independents. Gardner Webb has departed and is now a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Birmingham South is in their last year of Independent basketball before entering the Big South Conference. David Lipscomb will soon follow in Gardner Webb’s footsteps, and join the A-Sun for the 2003-04 Season. Savannah State and Indiana-Purdue Ft Wayne are in their first full seasons of Division-I basketball. No independent team qualified for post-season play as Gardner Webb and Texas Pan-American were left out of the NIT tournament. Centenary has just accepted a bid to join the Mid-Continent Conference – they begin play in 2003-04 season. Here’s a recap of last season’s Division 1-A Independents in 2001-02.
Tex Pan American Broncs
The Big Gun is done. Gone is senior guard Mire Chatman, who ranked third in Division I in scoring (26.2 points per game) and steals (3.6 per game) and was Defensive Player of the Year last season. Texas Pan-American was 20-10 last season. Senior guard Marcus Quinn was also named to the first team, while Coach Bob Hoffman won coach of the year. The Broncs still have a sour taste left in their mouths after being spurned by The NIT for their post-season tournament. The Broncs have five JuCo transfers in forwards Allen Holcomb, Delvis Diaz, Matt Berry, and Chris Fagan. Prince Thompson also is a transfer.
Centenary Gents (The oldest school west of the Mississippi)
The Gents are coming off a 14-13 season, they were 11-1 at home in Shreveport, Louisiana. An aggressive man-to-man team defensively, they were 10-0, when they held their opponents under 65 points. They have their ace coming back in junior guard Andrew Wisniewski, who led the team in scoring 20 out of their 25 games. Andrew exhausted himself in his off-season regiment to help improve his stamina. He is coached by Kevin Johnson, a disciplinarian who looks for leadership. The Gents were 6-3 against other Division-I independents, and beat Louisiana Tech, a NIT team 84-71. Gone is Kevin Atamah, a major loss whose work ethic and leadership on and off the court will be missed, as well as 6-9 center Brian Rabenhorst. The Gents are pleased with two Junior College transfers in Shawn Davis, a 6-7, 240 forward, and Paul Buettner, a 6-10 center. The Gents were beaten up on the boards last year and need to upgrade in the post.
Birmingham Southern Panthers
Injury and lack of depth were too much to overcome for this young Panther team in 2001-02. Although Birmingham Southern considers themselves part of the Big South Conference, they don’t officially count in the standings until next season. The Panthers finished 6-6 against their future conference opponents and 13-14 overall, which marked the first time in head coach Duane Reboul’s career that he had a losing season. Corey Watkins, who received a medical redshirt this season, tore his ACL and only played in four games for the Panthers. Sophomore point guard Jakob Sigurdarson was forced to pick up the slack by starting 21 games, and contributed adequately, averaging 9.8 points. BSC lost only two starters in T.R. Reed (8.7 points per game) and Rashard Willie (11.3 points per game). At one point in the season the Panthers were down to nine men on their roster, and couldn’t run in transition due to lack of depth. This year they added seven newcomers, four walk-ons and thus have a roster seventeen deep.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders
The Islanders have to find a way to deal with the loss of Brian Hamilton and Chuck Archambault. Hamilton, a 6-4 forward, tallied 12.2 points and a team leading 6.9 rebounds per game. Louisiana Lafayette now has his services. Archambault, who would be entering his senior season, was a catalyst off the bench last season for the Islanders. TAMCC is coming off a 12-15 season with losses at Texas and Illinois. They kept it close in Texas before the game got away in the third quarter. The Islanders were a team of streaks last season, losing six in a row, then winning four. They won four consecutive to end the year after they lost their previous four straight. Fourth-year coach Ronnie Arrow’s objective is to push the ball up the floor and take advantage of the opponent’s mistakes. The Islanders thrive in transition. The only problem is they were mistake prone at times, and lost games they shouldn’t have. Like most independent teams they often found themselves outmatched in the post.
Help needs to arrive quickly, especially after the loss of Hamilton. They return four starters this season and will rely on Brian Evans to provide leadership. Evans averaged 13.5 points a game, and shot 40 percent from the field. The Islanders did get Junior College transfer Kyle Edwards, a 6-9 forward/center from West Valley Community College. The Islanders also signed Aaron White, a 5-10 guard from Milan, Mich. Chuck Taylor, fresh off a two-year stint as assistant at Paris JC, was hired as an assistant to Coach Arrow. Taylor, 34, replaces the departed Bobby Taylor (no relation), who resigned in August. Also returning for the Islanders are Derrick Murphy, brothers Travis and Thomas Bailey, and Corey Lampkin.
David Lipscomb Bisons
Awaiting their entrance into the Atlantic Sun, the Bisons are coming off a disappointing 6-21 season. Head coach Scott Sanderson signed an extension that will keep him in Nashville until 2012, a reward for his career mark of 145-57 (.718) including a 61-32 mark at Lipscomb. Sanderson has been preparing his team this off-season with an extreme conditioning program – I would too if I had to play Kansas State, Pepperdine, and Nebraska on the road. The incoming freshman class is solid. The Bisons signed 6-1 guard James Poindexter of Birmingham, Alabama, and Cameron Robinson of Raleigh, North Carolina. Poindexter, who will compete for the starting point guard position, is quick on both ends of the floor and a good shooter off the dribble. Robinson is a 6-7 guard/forward who is a double-double threat. In addition, the Bisons also signed Charlie Jenney, a 6-9 210-pound center who will be a great addition in the post, and Craig Schoen (pronounced Shane), a 5-11 point guard who has the potential to be a remarkable floor general. This incoming class will create more offense this season, something the Bisons were well in need of the last few seasons. They will also blend in nicely with Independent Freshman of the Year Jeff Dancy. Departed are Kyle Stephens, Ron Sarver, and Russell Gentry.
Morris Brown Wolverines
Head Coach Derrick Thompson told me the other day the Wolverines are on the upswing, but it will be a difficult road to climb. Last season, Thompson’s team played 8 teams who qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Wolverines played a controlled game last season , and tried to capitalize on what opponent defenses gave them. They were often outmatched athletically, especially due to their depth problems and had trouble with up-tempo teams. Anthony Adams, the teams leading scorer the previous two seasons, received an extra year of eligibility, and will be ready to play in the seasons opener. The success of Morris Brown will depend upon returning starters Akeem Claiborne, Larry Washington, Amien Hicks, and Jeffrey Singleton. Junior college transfers Rashad Alonzo (forward), and Ed Benton (guard) need adjust effectively to Coach Thompson’s system for the Wolverines to be ready November 24th against Florida Atlantic. Senior guard Joseph Dunn has graduated.
Indiana Purdue Ft. Wayne Mastodons
The Mastodons were 7-21 under head coach Doug Noll last season. They struggled in the post against strong teams and lacked aggressiveness. The addition of former NBA star Cliff Levingston will prove to be a high-quality addition to their staff. Levingston, a who played with the Atlanta Hawks and Chicago Bulls, will help the Mastodons improve their game in the post. He will spend a good amount of time with returning Center Jim Kessenich and incoming freshman Kyle Thrasher, along with sophomore power forward David Simon. This season’s squad is Coach Noll’s deepest ever. 900 IUFW fans showed up for Midnight Madness where the men’s and women’s teams showcased their upcoming talent. The talk of Fort Wayne, however, is the signing of 6-4 freshman Quintin Carouthers, one of the best guards to come out of the state of Michigan this year. With the addition of Carouthers and Thrasher, and returning starters Deangelo Woodall (guard), and Jeremy King (forward) the Mastodons have addressed their needs in the off-season.
Savannah State Tigers
Oh, what a state Savannah is in! Savannah State, coming off a D-1 Independent worst 2-26 record, resulted in interim coach Jack Grant being relieved of his coaching duties. Grant had been the interim coach for the past two years, and had a compiled record of 6-47. Replacing the Grant is Edward Daniels, who comes to SSU from Groves High School in Savannah, Georgia, where he had a 42-38 record during his three-year tenure. Daniels began his career as an assistant at Savannah State in 1987. Leaving the Tiger team is Alvin Payton, a 6-5, 203 forward, and also Darris Kelly, a 5-11 guard. Returnee Brian Fisher is the most experienced player on the roster. The 6’9″ senior center averaged 4.8 points and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, and also blocked 21 shots. Also returning for the Tigers is sophomore guard Carlos Smalls. The Savannah native averaged 7.4 points, had 49 assists and 31 steals last season. Newcomers include Raphael Sharper, Mike Mitchell and Jamal Daniels. SSU petitioned the NCAA and was granted permission to move to Division I permanently effective September 1, 2002.