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Atlantic Sun 2002-03 Season Recap

May 5, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Sun Conference Notebook

by Kristy Shonka

The 2002-03 men’s basketball season proved one thing – Anything’s possible in the Atlantic Sun Conference. Mercer went from last to a share of the regular season championship. Florida Atlantic went from champions to chumps. Preseason division favorites Georgia State and Jacksonville finished with .500 conference records. UCF, a team that returned only 5 players from the year before, gave Troy State a run for its money in the A-Sun Championship. The four teams that didn’t make the tournament – Stetson, FAU, Gardner-Webb and Campbell – went a combined 10-54 in league play.

Overall though it was a good season for the conference. For the first time in A-Sun history four teams finished with 20 or more wins. The conference achieved its highest ranking in the RPI with a 20th-place showing. Three A-Sun players led the nation in statistical categories. Belmont’s Adam Mark led the nation shooting 67 percent from the field, while teammate Steve Drabyn shot 95 percent from the free-throw line. Stetson’s Alexis McMillan led the country with 4 steals a game.

Tourney Recap

Troy State won the A-Sun Championship as the No. 3 seed though they finished as regular season co-champions with Mercer. The Trojans beat fifth-seed UCF 80-69 in the championship game behind tourney MVP Ben Fletcher’s 29 points.

The Knights got to the championship game by beating top-seeded Mercer 79-59. The Bears were the only team to sweep UCF in the regular season, but were completely out played by UCF in the semifinals. Troy State held off a pesky Georgia State team 71-61 in the semis. The Trojans beat Samford to open the tournament, while the Knights beat Jacksonville State.

NCAA Tournament

No. 14 Troy State, South Region
First round: Lost to No. 3 Xavier, 71-59

All Atlantic Sun Conference team:
Scott Emerson, junior forward, Mercer
Ben Fletcher, senior guard, Troy State
Adam Mark, junior forward, Belmont
Adam Sonn, senior center, Belmont
Nate Williams, junior forward/center, Georgia State

A-Sun Player of the Year:

Adam Sonn, senior center, Belmont

Sonn was the only player to rank in the top 10 in the A-Sun in points (eighth, 16.1), rebounds (first, 12.1) and assists (ninth, 3.76). He averaged a double-double and had 17 on the year. He grabbed double-digit rebound totals in 20 of 28 games. Georgia State upset the Bruins in the first round of the A-Sun Championship despite Sonn’s game-high 22 points and nine rebounds.

Conference Freshman of the Year

E.J. Gordon, Stetson

Defensive Player of the Year

Alexis McMillan, Stetson

A-Sun Coach of the Year

Mark Slonaker, Mercer

Slonaker coached the Bears to the biggest one-year turnaround in NCAA history. In an injury plagued year Mercer finished 6-23 in 2002, but with everyone healthy, the Bears finished 23-6 in 2003. The Bears were picked to finish third in the South Division, but instead shared the regular season title with Troy State and held the No. 1 seed in the tournament, where they were upset by UCF.

Mercer (23-6, 14-2)

Starters leaving: 2
Justin Howard, graduating
Clarence Baker, graduating
Donny McLendon, transferring

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Scott Emerson, senior forward
Delmar Wilson, senior guard/forward
Wesley Duke, senior forward

Stat sheet:
Aleem Muhammad, 15.5 points per game
Scott Emerson, 9.1 rebounds per game
Clarence Baker, 5.41 assists per game

The Bears will have a new home next season with the 3,500-seat University Center set to open in the fall. Porter Gym, which has been around since 1937, closes this year.

Belmont (17-12, 12-4)

Starters leaving: 1
Adam Sonn, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Adam Mark, senior forward
Wil Howard-Downs, senior guard
Steve Drabyn, senior guard
Brian Collins, sophomore guard
Jese Snyder, junior guard

Stat sheet:
Adam Mark, 16.4 points per game
Adam Sonn, 12.1 rebounds per game
Steve Drabyn, 3.83 assists per game

The Bruins will also play in a new facility next year when the 5,000-seat Curb Event Center replaces Municipal Auditorium.

Troy State (26-6, 14-2)

Starters leaving: 3
Ben Fletcher, graduating
Marcus Millhouse, graduating
Lacedrick Pettway, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Rob Lewin, senior forward
Greg Davis, senior guard
Eddie Baker, senior forward
Herbert Evans, senior guard

Stat sheet:
Ben Fletcher, 13.9 points per game
Rob Lewin, 8.1 rebounds per game
Greg Davis, 4.75 assists per game

Jacksonville State (20-10, 10-6)

Starters leaving: 3
Poonie Richardson, graduating
Jay Heard, graduating
Omar Barlett, transferring

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Scott Watson, senior guard
James Denson, senior guard
Josh Perry, senior forward
Emerson Brown, senior guard

Stat sheet:
Omar Barlett, 15 points per game
Omar Barlett, 7.1 rebounds per game
Poonie Richardson, 4.37 assists per game

News: The Gamecocks will leave the A-Sun for the Ohio Valley Conference.

UCF (21-11, 11-5)

Starters leaving: 3
Ray Abellard, graduating
Ed Dotson, graduating
Marius Boyd, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Josh Bodden, senior forward
Dexter Lyons, senior guard/forward
Roberto Morentin, senior center
Troy Lindbeck, freshman guard

Stat sheet:
Ray Abellard, 16.3 points per game
Ed Dotson, 5.9 rebounds per game
Marius Boyd, 3.29 assists per game

Samford (13-15, 9-7)

Starters leaving: 1
Cornell Felton, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Phillip Ramelli, senior center
J. Robert Merrit, sophomore forward
Tyson Dorsey, senior guard
Eddie Harper, senior guard
Jon Mills, junior forward

Stat sheet:
Phillip Ramelli, 11.5 points per game
Phillip Ramelli, 5.7 rebounds per game
Cornell Felton , 4.04 assists per game

News: The Bulldogs will join Jacksonville State in switching to the Ohio Valley Conference.

Georgia State (14-15, 8-8)

Starters leaving: 1
Leroy Davis, graduating
Cedric Patton, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Nate Williams, senior forward/center
Lamont McIntosh, senior guard
Trello Galloway, senior forward/guard
Reo Logan, junior forward/center

Stat sheet:
Nate Williams, 18 points per game
Nate Williams, 6.6 rebounds per game
Lamont McIntosh, 3.17 assists per game

Jacksonville (13-16, 8-8)

Starters leaving: 5
Kevin Sheppard, graduating
Calvin Warner, graduating
James Daniels, graduating
Tabari Brown, graduating
Antawn Robertson, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Nolan McBride, senior forward

Stat sheet:
Calvin Warner, 16.9 points per game
Calvin Warner, 7.8 rebounds per game
Kevin Sheppard, 4.52 assists per game

Stetson (6-20, 4-12)

Starters leaving: 2
Ravii Givens, graduating
Alexis McMillan, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
E.J. Gordon, sophomore guard
Kevin Craig, senior guard/forward
Mark Stiles, junior forward/center
Josef McNeal, senior forward

Stat sheet:
E.J. Gordon, 14.7 points per game
Josef McNeal, 4.8 rebounds per game
Ravii Givens, 2.92 assists per game

Florida Atlantic (7-21, 3-13)

Starters leaving: 3
Avery Headley, graduating
Nick Neumann, graduating
Antoine Stevens, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Earnest Crumbley, senior guard
Jeff Cowans, senior guard

Stat sheet:
Earnest Crumbley, 16.2 points per game
Avery Headley, 6.3 rebounds per game
Earnest Crumbley, 4.75 assists per game

Gardner-Webb (5-24, 2-14)

Starters leaving: 1
Eli Strait, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Otis Daniels, junior forward
Tim Behrendorff, senior center
Chris Wiggins, senior guard

Stat sheet:
Otis Daniels, 11.8 points per game
Otis Daniels, 6.1 rebounds per game
Eli Strait, 3.03 assists per game

Campbell (5-22, 1-15)

Starters leaving: 3
Jonte’ Edwards, graduating
Brooks Lee, graduating
Solomon Yearby, graduating

Key players staying/underclassmen starters returning:
Tarick Johnson, senior guard
Dominique Klein, junior forward

Stat sheet:
Tarick Johnson, 17.1 points per game
Jonte’ Edwards, 5.8 rebounds per game
Brooks Lee, 4.35 assists per game

New coach:
Former Kansas State assist Robbie Laing replaces Billy Lee as the Camel’s head coach.


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