#123 UAB: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #123
Conference Rank: #6 Conference USA
2009-10: 25-9, 11-5
2009-10 postseason: NIT
Coach: Mike Davis (85-48 at UAB, 200-126 overall)
Three straight NIT appearances for Coach Mike Davis and UAB is not good enough. The Blazers continually have roster turnover, but they tend to overachieve and still manage to win 20 games and reach the postseason. Sooner or later all of the turnover will come to an end and this will be a team that competes for a Conference USA title. Unfortunately, it will be closer to later than sooner.
Key Losses: C Kenneth Cooper, F Howard Crawford, G George Drake, G Elijah Millsap
Once again UAB will have to rely on some newcomers to get the job done. The most important of the bunch right now is Beas Hamga. The well traveled junior is a talented player who has yet to really find his role on any team. At 7-0 and 225 pounds, Hamga provides UAB with a much needed interior threat on both ends of the floor. Redshirt freshman power forward Anthony Criswell may be forced into some backup duty due to lack of frontcourt depth. Depth on the perimeter is an issue as well, but UAB has a few more options there. Wing Preston Purifoy is the best freshman in this class and will likely step into a starting position right away. Redshirt freshman Robert Williams has a year on the sidelines and Quincy Taylor should be the point guard of the future.
Purifoy will certainly be in the regular rotation on the wing, but Jamarr Sanders will be the star. Sanders started all 34 games a year ago and averaged 10.4 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals. Obviously the 6-4 senior can do a little bit of everything and possibly the most important aspect to his game is his outside shooting. Sanders was by far the most effective long range shooter on the team last year and that will be a very important piece of the offense now that super scorer Elijah Millsap is gone. The other option on the wing is Dexter Fields. Fields had a decent freshman campaign, but he is not likely ready to take over a starting role. His defense is a liability, but he could turn into a fine shooter off the bench.
The frontcourt lacks a dominating player like Sanders, but Cameron Moore and Ovie Soko are not a bad duo to work around. Moore has had some good outings during his first two years in Birmingham. Last season the 6-10, 225 pound San Antonio, Texas native averaged 3.1 points, 3.2 rebounds and led the team in blocked shots. He only started seven games and averaged under 13 minutes per game, but Moore is now an upperclassman and expected to play a much bigger role on the team. Soko does not have as much size as Moore, but he showed some promise during his freshman campaign and earned a half a dozen starts on the season. He may not put up big numbers, but Soko could find himself in the starting lineup unless Coach Davis wants to play big with Moore and Hamga.
Who to Watch:
The reason why UAB could overachieve is the presence of Aaron Johnson. The speedster point guard has been around for a long time and knows how to run this team. He dished out nearly five assists per game last year and he will get his teammates involved and find the new and old scorers. Johnson is not a bad scorer in his own right either. He can use his speed to get to the basket and he is enough of an outside shooting threat that the opposing defense has to defend him beyond the arc.
With Johnson and Sanders leading the way, this could be a good UAB squad. Maybe they are not good enough to reach the NCAA Tournament, but another NIT bid could be in the cards. But the conference is getting stronger and UAB could run into some trouble if the new big guys struggle to play a larger role and that could mean the Blazers will take a small step back this season.
Projected Post-season Tournament: CBI/CIT
Projected Starting Five:
Aaron Johnson, Senior, Guard, 9.6 ppg
Jamarr Sanders, Senior, Guard, 10.4 ppg
Preston Purifoy, Freshman, Guard, DNP last season
Ovie Soko, Sophomore, Forward, 1.5 ppg
Cameron Moore, Junior, Forward, 3.1 ppg
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