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A-Sun Offseason News Update

October 29, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Atlantic Sun Offseason News Update

by Ashley Burns

Belmont Bruins

The talk surrounding the Bruins this year has mainly focused on veteran head coach Paul Byrd. The 17-year coach of the Bruins, Byrd has just signed a contract extension that will allow him to stay at Belmont through his 22nd season. Byrd and the Bruins are hot off a 17-12 2002-03 campaign, which saw them capture the A-Sun north division title. Byrd is 346-193 in his career at Belmont. To add to the recognition, Byrd was recently selected to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.

Belmont also played host to two of the A-Sun’s finest players last year, and for that the individuals were justly rewarded. The departed Adam Sonn was named the A-Sun Player-of-the-Year at season’s close and went on to receive All-American honorable mention by the Associated Press. Returning senior Adam Mark not only received All-Atlantic Sun honors, but was dubbed 2002-03 Atlantic Sun Conference Male Student-Athlete of the Year.

The Bruins will open their 2003-04 campaign in their brand new, state-of-the-art Curb Event Center.

Campbell Camels

Coaching was the key to the Camels’ off-season, as they made two huge personnel changes. First, the Camels announced in April that they had hired Robbie Laing as their new head basketball coach. Prior to joining Campbell, Laing was the assistant head coach and head of recruiting at Kansas State University. Laing’s career as an assistant coach has given him experience in the Big-12, Southeastern, Atlantic Coast, Conference-USA, Sun Belt and Atlantic Sun conferences on the Division I-A level.

The Camels then announced in May that they had hired Brian Alexander as their new assistant basketball coach. Alexander joined Laing and company after spending two years as assistant coach at Southeastern Louisiana University.

UCF Golden Knights

UCF’s off-season revolved primarily around filling the spots left by seniors Ray Abellard, Marius Boyd and Ed Dotson. Wasting no time, the Knights set their target on junior college prospects.

Head coach Kirk Speraw made the first step in filling the void when he announced the signing of Schoolcraft Community College standout Gary Johnson. The point guard led his team to a 30-2 record and averaged 8.2 points per game and 3.06 steals.

The Knights followed up by inking two more key players in guards Kingsley Edwards and Joshua Peppers. Edwards joins UCF from Monroe College in New York where he averaged 16.1 ppg. Peppers hales from Whitehaven High School in Memphis, where he scored 28 ppg.

FAU Owls

Head coach Sidney Green, who was named Palm Beach County Coach-of-the-Year in April, announced in May the signing of three junior college players.

The Owls signed forward Mike Bell, guard Darren Dickerson and guard Pierre Tucker. Dickerson is a highly awarded player from Laney High School, the same school that graduated Michael Jordan. Bell and Tucker are joining the squad from neighboring Palm Beach Community College.

Gardner-Webb Bulldogs

The Panthers started the off-season with bad news as they found out that sophomore forward Otis Daniels would not return to the team. Daniels averaged 11.8 ppg, but had a constant problem with his behavior.

Following the announcement of eight Bulldog players being named to the A-Sun All-Academic Team, head coach Rick Scruggs was rewarded with a contract extension through the 2006-07 season. Under Scruggs, the Bulldogs have amassed a 75-48 record.

Joining Scruggs’ staff is newcomer Chris Holtmann. Holtmann, who spent the previous four seasons as an assistant coach at Taylor University, was signed in July.

Georgia State Panthers

After being upset in the semi-finals of last seasons A-Sun Tournament, GSU rewarded head coach Michael Perry with a three-year contract extension. Perry took over mid-season for the Panthers when “Lefty” Drisell retired unexpectedly.

Perry wasted no time in the off-season in adding to his staff as he lured Doug Durham away from Jacksonville to become an assistant head coach at GSU. Recently, Perry also announced that Chris Cheeks, formerly of West Virginia University and Virginia Commonwealth, would join the coaching staff as well.

Jacksonville Dolphins

The Dolphins added some size to their roster in the off-season, as they announced the signing of seven-foot center Jure Lozancic from Croatia and 6-foot-7 forward Haminn Quaintance from Riverview High School in Sarasota, Florida.

The Dolphins announced in July that they had added Ronnie Dean to their coaching staff as an assistant coach. Dean spent last season as an assistant coach at Montana.

Head coach Hugh Durham, who also serves as JU’s athletic director, was also granted a one-year contract extension.

Lipscomb Bisons

The Bisons are celebrating their first season of Atlantic Sun Conference play, despite being ineligible for the conference tournament. The Bisons were invited to join the conference after the departure of Jacksonville State and Samford.

The Bisons signed two exciting high school recruits in Ryan Wiley and Eddie Ard, and added O’Brien “Pete” Lowe from Itawamba Community College.

Mercer Bears

Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker was named the 2002-03 Jim Phelan National Coach-of-the-Year back in March for turning the Bears’ basketball program completely around and winning the A-Sun regular season championship. The Bears turned in a 23-6 overall record and went 14-2 in the A-Sun. Slonaker was also named Georgia Coach-of-the-Year by the Atlanta Tipoff Club.

The Bears received some bad news, however, when guard Donny McLendon asked to transfer. However, two weeks prior to this May announcement, the Bears signed guard Maxi Rios from Middle Georgia College.

Mercer will start their 2003-04 campaign in their beloved Porter Gym, however they will change over to the brand new University Center, which will seat 3,700.

Stetson Hatters

The Hatters wasted no time in the off-season adding new recruits as they welcomed 6-8 forward Boris Djordjic, who transferred from Cuesta College in California. They followed up in August by signing Karl Hollingsworth, who transferred from Tulane, and Will Holloman, who joins the Hatters from Richmond University.

Stetson head coach Derek Waugh added a home court hero to his coaching staff by signing former Hatter player Sebastian Singletary as an assistant head coach.

Troy State Trojans

While it was a relatively quiet offseason for the Trojans, fresh off their NCAA Tournament appearance, the school was affected by the conference shuffle, accepting an invitation to join the Sun Belt Conference for the 2005-06 season, with the Trojans starting in the Sun Belt in the fall of 2004 for football.


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