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Big South 2002-03 Season Recap

May 13, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Big South Conference 2002-03 Season Recap

by Michael Protos

For the third time in five years, the Winthrop Eagles captured the Big South regular season championship. The Eagles dominated conference opponents all season, finishing with a conference record of 11-3. Guard Pierre Wooten and forward Tyrone Walker formed a lethal combination, which opponents rarely overcame. Winthrop played strong from beginning to end, winning eight of its final ten games.

The rest of the conference remained tight throughout the season. Liberty, Charleston Southern and Elon each finished at 8-6 in conference play and only three games separated second place from seventh. Each team flirted with Winthrop for the division lead, but they dropped every game they played against Winthrop.

Birmingham Southern will join the Big South conference next season and tested the waters this past season. The Panthers finished 19-9 and would have finished second if their conference games counted.

Big South Conference Tournament:

The Big South conference tournament offered a lesson in why March Madness is such an appropriate term. Winthrop had earned the automatic bid for four consecutive years. It had the number one seed. The semifinals and finals were at Liberty University, the host of the tournament. One of those teams figured to be destined to reach the NCAA tournament.

Big South All-Conference Team:
Torrey Butler, forward, Coastal Carolina
Tyrone Walker, forward, Winthrop
Pierre Wooten, guard, Winthrop
Danny Gathings, forward, High Point
Andre Smith, guard, UNC-Asheville

But then Madness kicked in. Winthrop lost to UNC-Asheville in an overtime thriller and Radford upset Liberty on the Flames’ home floor. UNC-Asheville then defeated Radford 85-71 in the championship game to earn its first bid in team history to the NCAA Tournament.

NCAA Tournament

No. 16a (South) UNC-Asheville:
Play-in game: Won over No. 16b Texas Southern 92-84
First round: Lost to No. 1 Texas 82-61

Big South Season Awards

Big South MVP:

Torrey Butler, Coastal Carolina

Senior forward Torrey Butler provided the most significant contribution to his team by averaging 18.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game. Although other players like UNC-Asheville’s Andre Smith and Winthrop’s tandem of Pierre Wooten and Tyrone Walker all put up great numbers this season, Butler was most critical to his team’s success. Without Butler, the Chanticleers probably would have finished below High Point at the bottom of the division.

Big South Rookie of the Year:

Whit Holcomb-Faye, Radford

Guard Holcomb-Faye proved to be a team leader even as a freshman, averaging 14.3 points per game and leading the team in assists with 4.1 per game. He has a strong career ahead of him and may flirt with averaging 20 points a game by his senior year.

Big South Coach of the Year:

Gregg Marshall, Winthrop

Even though Winthrop faltered in the conference tournament, Marshall deserves his props for building a dynasty at Winthrop. The Eagles are the perennial favorite to win the Big South and should continue to maintain that spot in the next few years.

Winthrop Eagles 20-10 (11-3)

Starters returning/leaving: 4/1
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Guard Pierre Wooten (13.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.7 apg)

Key players returning:
Junior forward Tyrone Walker, junior forward Marcus Cooke, freshman center Billy Houston, sophomore guard Ivan Jenkins, sophomore forward Josh Grant

Coach: Gregg Marshall

Scoring leader: Tyrone Walker – 13.2 ppg
Rebound leader: Walker – 7.0 rpg
Assist leader: Pierre Wooten – 3.7 apg

The Eagles stormed through conference play to win the division title but faltered in the championship of the Big South tournament for the first time in several years. Despite the upset, the Eagles figure to be back on top of the division with four of five starters returning next season.

Charleston Southern Buccaneers 14-14 (8-6)

Starters returning/leaving: 3/2
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Guard Gene Gragner (9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg), forward Charles White (12.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg)

Key players returning:
Sophomore forward Kevin Warzynski, junior guard Ed O’Neil, sophomore forward Trent Drafts, junior center Chris Warzynski

Coach: Jim Platt

Scoring leader: Kevin Warzynski – 13.3 ppg
Rebound leader: Charles White – 7.0 rpg
Assist leader: Ed O’Neil – 3.7 apg

The Buccaneers started conference play on fire, winning five of the first six conference games. They faltered down the stretch primarily because junior point guard Ed O’Neil went down for a few weeks with an injury. Charleston Southern lost five of its last seven games.

Liberty Flames 14-15 (8-6)

Starters returning/leaving: 4/1
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Forward Vincent Okotie (12.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)

Key players returning:
Junior guard Gabe Martin, junior guard Ryan Mantlo, junior forward Jason Sarchet, freshman guard Jeremy Monceaux

Coach: Randy Dunton

Scoring leader: Gabe Martin – 15.1 ppg
Rebound leader: Jason Sarchet – 6.8 rpg
Assist leader: Ryan Mantlo – 2.7 apg

Liberty struggled to find its rhythm for most of the season, neither winning or losing more than three straight. The Flames heated up toward the end of the season by winning four straight games before losing a pivotal match-up against division-leading Winthrop. The Flames never recovered from that setback and lost five of their final six games.

Elon Phoenix 12-15 (8-6)

Starters returning/leaving: 3/2
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Guard Ross Sims (5.7 ppg, 2.8 apg), forward Shamar Johnson (5.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

Key players returning:
Freshman guard Scottie Rice, freshman center Rasmi Gamble, sophomore forward Gary Marsh, sophomore forward Jackson Atoyebi, sophomore guard Steven Harvin

Coach: Ernie Nestor replaces Mark Simons

Scoring leader: Scottie Rice – 11.8 ppg
Rebound leader: Rasmi Gamble – 5.3 rpg
Assist leader: Steven Harvin – 3.5 apg

The Phoenix fit the mold of a typical middle-of-the-road team this season. It beat most of the easier teams on the schedule and lost to most of the more challenging teams. Elon will hope that new coach Ernie Nestor can guide the Phoenix to greater success in the coming years.

UNC-Asheville Bulldogs 14-16 (7-7)

Starters returning/leaving: 2/3
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Guard Andre Smith (15.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.6 apg), forward Ben McGonagil (14.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg), guard Alex Kragel (11.1 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Key players returning:
Sophomore forward Bryan McCullough, sophomore forward Joseph Barber, freshman forward Chad Mohn

Coach: Eddie Biedenbach

Scoring leader: Andre Smith – 15.9 ppg
Rebound leader: Ben McGonagil – 7.3 rpg
Assist leader: Smith – 3.6 apg

The Bulldogs completed one of the miraculous runs of early March by winning the automatic bid in the conference tournament to appear in their first NCAA tournament. UNC-Asheville was primed for big games after playing the likes of Michigan State, Minnesota, Kansas, Oklahoma and Connecticut during the regular season. The Bulldogs were atrocious on the road, finishing 2-14, but pulled off a big win at Elon in the first round of the conference tournament. Despite mixed success during the season, all Bulldog fans will remember from this season is the March magic worked by a strong cast of hard-working seniors.

Radford Highlanders 10-20 (6-8)

Starters returning/leaving: 4/1
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Guard Raymond Arrington (14.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)

Key players returning:
Freshman guard Whit Holcomb-Faye, sophomore guard Olumuyiwa, junior forward Aaron Gill, freshman guard Chris Goodin, sophomore center Kyle Zaharias, freshman guard Andre Bynum

Coach: Byron Samuels

Scoring leader: Raymond Harrington – 14.8 ppg
Rebound leader: Aaron Gill – 7.4 rpg
Assist leader: Whit Holcomb-Faye – 4.1 apg

The Highlanders have a bright future after struggling for most of this season. Radford started the season 3-11 but came fourteen points away from beating UNC-Asheville in the conference championship game. Freshman sensation Whit Holcomb-Faye led Radford in his first year and will continue to do so for the next few years. The Highlanders return a strong lineup next season that should place Radford near the top of the division.

Coastal Carolina Chanticleers 13-15 (5-9)

Starters returning/leaving: 4/1
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Forward Torrey Butler (18.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg), guard E.J. Gallup (9.9 ppg), forward Mihai Raducanu (5.1 ppg, 3.1 ppg), forward Derrick Robinson (5.2 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Key players returning:
Junior guard Tony Darden, junior forward Kelvin Coggins, sophomore guard Colin Stevens, junior forward Alvin Green

Coach: Pete Strickland

Scoring leader: Torrey Butler – 18.6 ppg
Rebound leader: Butler – 6.8 rpg
Assist leader: Alvin Green – 2.7 apg

The highlight of Coastal Carolina’s season was a sweep of division-winner Winthrop, the only team to accomplish that feat. The rest of the season ended with mixed results as the Chanticleers often lost close games. Senior forward Torrey Butler was another bright spot for Coastal Carolina as he led the team with 18.6 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game.

High Point Panthers 7-20 (3-11)

Starters returning/leaving: 3/2
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Forward Dustin Van Weerdhuizen (14.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg), forward Kashan Hampton (6.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

Key players returning:
Sophomore forward Danny Gathings, sophomore guard Joey Knight, junior forward Brent Halsch, freshman guard Jeff Allen

Coach: Bart Lundy replaces Jerry Steele

Scoring leader: Danny Gathings – 18.7 ppg
Rebound leader: Gathings – 7.6 rpg
Assist leader: Dustin Van Weerdhuizen – 3.0 apg

The Panthers struggled all season despite having two of the conference’s most potent scorers – sophomore forward Danny Gathings and sophomore guard Joey Knight. New coach Bart Lundy will get the opportunity to coach these prolific scorers in an attempt to bring High Point out of the cellar.

Birmingham Southern Panthers 19-9 (0-0)

Starters returning/leaving: 3/2
Key players leaving:
Graduating: Forward Josiah James (13.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg), guard Corey Watkins (11.4 ppg, 4.4 rpg)

Key players returning:
Junior guard Derrick Williams, sophomore guard Jakob Siqurdarson, junior forward Grant Davis

Coach: Duane Reboul

Scoring leader: Josiah James – 13.7 ppg
Rebound leader: James – 6.3 rpg
Assist leader: Derrick Williams – 3.4 apg

Birmingham Southern completed its dry run this past season, and it probably wishes that the conference had been keeping track of the Panthers’ success. Birmingham Southern lost only five games to conference opponents and would have finished in second, but the games did not count because the Panthers will not officially become part of the conference until next season. The Panthers lose most of their firepower but do return a solid guard in Derrick Williams to lead the way.


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