Georgia State Panthers (12-19, 6-12)
Projected starting five:
So. G Devonta White
Sr. G James Fields
Sr. G Jihad Ali
Sr. F Eric Buckner
Sr. F Brandon McGee
G Marques Johnson (5.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg) is the only starter to depart, while Dante Curry (6.5 ppg, 1.2 rpg) and Javonte Maynor (5.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg) also graduated.
69.6 percent of scoring and 81.7 percent of rebounding
Ron Hunter takes over as the head coach, replacing Rod Barnes, who was fired just before the CAA Tournament last season.
The Panthers open with their toughest game, as they play Washington in Seattle in the first of three in the Basketball Travelers Invitational. They also play Portland and Florida Atlantic out there, and later host Rhode Island in what is not the toughest nonconference slate. In CAA play, they take on Drexel, VCU and James Madison twice and have George Mason only on the road.
Projected finish and outlook:
Hunter might be known more for his work off the court as the proprietor of Samaritan’s Feet, but he’s a good coach and is full of energy. He is ready to make this team run, saying that the Panthers will play “a lot faster” this year. They will surely have some growing pains because the Panther guards didn’t take good care of the ball last season, although Hunter is very high on White and will likely hand him the ball to run the team. He feels Ali could be primed for a big year, and likes that he has a veteran team with a lot of seniors, which means this team could finish higher than people expect in a year where not many teams in the conference have as much experience as the Panthers.
There’s good talent with Buckner, McGee and Josh Micheaux, and Hunter also feels Rashaad Richardson could make a big leap this year as well. The Panthers aren’t lacking talent or experience, but as Hunter acknowledged, the experience they have isn’t that of winning, so success won’t come easily. They will need to take better care of the ball first and foremost, and if they do that, they have a chance to surprise some people. Hunter has had a lot of success in his prior stops, and there’s reason to believe he will have more here. The only question is if some of it will come this season.