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SEC Offseason News Update

October 28, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



Southeast Conference Offseason News Update

by Phil Kasiecki

East Division

Florida

The Gators welcome a good recruiting class, though not quite on the same level as some previous efforts that yielded multiple elite prospects. They get better in the frontcourt with forwards Mohamed Abukar (a former Georgia signee) and Chris Richard, both of whom made many evaluators’ top 100 rankings, and guards Ryan Appleby and Lee Humphrey will add depth. Richard was Mr. Basketball in the state of Florida last season.

Georgia

The offseason had plenty of developments in Athens as new head coach Dennis Felton took over and started to clean up the mess left over from the Jim Harrick days. The most notable personnel moves involved their recruiting class from last season.

Upon the coaching change, the recruits the Bulldogs had were all given the option to sign with other schools; only Corey Gibbs, a combo forward from Georgia, didn’t go. Felton scrambled to fill the class with late signees, none of whom look like SEC stars. They include forwards Marcus Sikes and Steve Newman, center Joey Waldrop, and guards Levi Stukes, Buzz Wehunt and Steve Wolek.

Felton has wasted little time laying down the law with stricter team rules, and there have already been a couple of victims. Guard Wayne Arnold was dismissed from the team in late April after being arrested on misdemeanor drug possession charges. Then in mid-September, Felton dismissed center Steve Thomas after repeated clashes over the stricter rules.

Kentucky

It was a rather quiet offseason in Lexington, and after some tumultuous ones in the recent past, head coach Tubby Smith probably wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Wildcats welcome a good recruiting class. It isn’t loaded with elite talents like the past, but Tubby Smith continues to get good players who will help out, although it’s uncertain how much they will contribute right away. Big man Shagari Allegne has the most upside, as he’s a 7’2″ shot-blocker with a huge wingspan. They also added another big man in Lukasz Obrzut, who won’t play as much right away, and forwards Bobby Perry and Sheray Thomas, both of whom could get good minutes off the bench this season.

In other personnel news, senior guard Gerald Fitch had surgery to repair a hernia in late July, but they expect him to be just fine as the season gets going.

South Carolina

The Gamecocks had a change in the coaching staff, as former Virginia Tech head coach Ricky Stokes joined the staff as an assistant in May.

With regard to personnel, the Gamecocks lost their top recruit when forward Renaldo Balkman, a top 100 prospect, failed to qualify academically. Instead, their recruiting class consists of forward Brandon Wallace, center Paulius Joneliunas, and guards Tre Kelley and junior college transfer Josh Gonner.

Senior center Rolando Howell had a run-in with the law, as he was arrested in August for battery against his live-in girlfriend, and recently pleaded no contest. He was facing 30 days in jail after the plea and was suspended indefinitely by head coach Dave Odom.

Tennessee

The big news in Knoxville in the offseason revolved around the transfer of Elgrace Wilborn. In June, Wilborn was arrested on charges of aggravated assault after punching teammate Brandon Crump in the jaw. Crump sustained a broken jaw, while Wilborn was dismissed from the team. Wilborn eventually transferred to Western Kentucky after initially transferring to Nebraska.

The Volunteers signed a three-man recruiting class, led by talented post player Major Wingate. Guards Dane Bradshaw and Jordan Howell (originally a Georgia signee) will add depth, and Memphis transfer Scotter McFadgon becomes eligible this season and should contribute right away on the wing. Clemson transfer Jemere Hendrix becomes eligible and will add frontcourt depth.

The team also had some turnover on the coaching staff. Kerry Keating left to join Ben Howland’s staff at UCLA, replaced later by Chuck Benson, who has begun his second stint at the school after serving under Kevin O’Neill and Wade Houston about a decade ago.

Vanderbilt

The big news at Vanderbilt in the offseason is one that should not affect the basketball team on the court, but it was certainly eye-catching: the school announced that it will eliminate the athletic department. In September, Chancellor Gordon Gee announced that the move was being made, in part as a sort of political statement. “There is a wrong culture in athletics, and I’m declaring war on it. Let there be no misunderstanding of our intention: Vanderbilt is committed to competing at the highest levels in the Southeastern Conference and the NCAA, but we intend on competing consistent with the values of a world-class university.”

The move may well be motivated by Gee having once been the president at Ohio State, which has made news with its problems concerning star running back Maurice Clarett.

In basketball-related news, there was some turnover amongst the players in the offseason, as sophomores Bryson Krueger and Brian Thornton transferred. Meanwhile, Kevin Stallings signed just one player, shooting guard Dan Cage.

Stallings also hired Dan Muller, who starred at Illinois State while Stallings was there, as an assistant.

West Division

Alabama

Former Kansas State head coach Tom Asbury joined the coaching staff as an assistant in the only coaching move during the offseason. The bigger news involved the loss of Maurice Williams, who declared for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season and was drafted in the second round.

The Tide won’t replace the three starters they lost with recruits, but they did sign five players. They include three frontcourt players who could get a lot of minutes right away, led by forward Jemareo Davidson. Akini Adkins and Shawn Taylor, the team’s tallest player at 6’11”, fill out the frontcourt. Rounding out the class is swingman Justin Jonus and point guard LaKory Daniels.

Arkansas

Head coach Stan Heath has one new coach on his staff this time around, as one assistant resigned for a career change. Heath added Ronny Thompson, son of former Georgetown coach John Thompson, to the staff in late June.

Looking ahead to the action on the court, the Razorbacks signed a good class that continues to raise the talent level in Fayetteville. Leading the way is swingman Olu Famutimi, a big-time athlete who could be a star before long, and small forward Ronnie Brewer is a good prospect trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps. Vincent Hunter will get plenty of minutes up front on a team that is not loaded with size, including Hunter (weighing in at 195 despite being 6’9″).

Auburn

Auburn made its share of news in the offseason as the NCAA was investigating it for potential recruiting violations in the recruitment of Cincinnati sophomore guard Chadd Moore and prep school big man Jackie Butler, who signed with Mississippi State last year but failed to qualify academically. The Tigers had a change in the coaching staff, adding Tracy Dildy.

Looking ahead to the action on the hardwood, the Tigers welcome a perimeter-oriented class of newcomers. All three junior college transfers are considered solid prospects, led by guards Ian Young and Ronnie LeMelle, while forward Quinnel Brown figures to get some playing time as well. Dwayne Curtis, a solidly built rebounder who will bang inside, is the lone freshman and could get some minutes in a crowded frontcourt.

LSU

Although it was largely a quiet offseason for John Brady’s team, it did have an off-court incident in mid-July when senior center Jamie Lloreda broke sophomore Paul Wolfert’s jaw during an unsupervised conditioning workout. Lloreda has since been disciplined by Brady.

This season, the Tigers welcome one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. Combo forward Brandon Bass, a McDonald’s All-American, heads the group, while wing Regis Koundjia has the potential to be a stud very quickly as well. Talented guard Taurean “Tack” Minor also has plenty of potential, while forwards Ross Neltner and Darnell Lazare fill out the impressive class.

Mississippi

Things were quiet in Oxford this offseason, a welcome sight after some off-court matters made news just before last season began. However, those attending games will need a program to identify the seven newcomers that the Rebels will have, as the NCAA granted them a one-time exception to the 5/8 rule. Four of the players are junior college transfers, all considered good prospects to help immediately: guard Ed Glass and forwards Byron Burnett, Tommy Eddie and Marvin Moore. Among the high school players signed, bulky post player Jarvelle Scott is the top prospect, while guards Bam Doyne and Todd Abernathy fill out the class.

Mississippi State

The Bulldogs were hit hard in the frontcourt by personnel losses to the NBA Draft, although it could be argued that they didn’t really lose McDonald’s All-American signee Travis Outlaw since he never played for them. Outlaw was drafted late in the first round, while Mario Austin left and was drafted in the second round. Not helping matters was that another top recruit, big man Jackie Butler, failed to qualify academically and is attending prep school.

On the plus side, the Bulldogs gained Lawrence Roberts late in the summer. Roberts transferred from Baylor after the scandal broke loose there, and was ruled immediately eligible, giving the Bulldogs a much-needed frontcourt boost. His addition helps even more because all of the other newcomers are perimeter players. Gary Ervin, a very quick floor leader, leads the way, while Iowa State transfer Shane Power will get plenty of minutes on the wing and Dietric Slater will also contribute.

     

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