2008-09 Southern Miss Basketball Preview: #68
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Overall Rank: #68
Conference Rank: #3 C-USA
2007-08: 19-14, 9-7, 4th
2007-08 postseason: none
It is not easy for anybody to lose to McNeese State and Savannah State, but that is exactly what Southern Miss did during the 2007-2008 campaign. The good news is the top eight scorers are returning, including Jeremy Wise. Wise averaged 18.7 points, 4.2 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.2 steals last year and any success that will come the Golden Eagles way will come from Wise. Where there is good news, there is also plenty of bad news. The team has no interior scoring threat and that leaves the offense very one-dimensional and predictable.
Making matters worse for the frontcourt, Demar Dotson and Gjio Bain are gone. Neither were the scoring threat that Southern Miss needed, but both were solid rebounders and Bain averaged 1.7 blocks per contest and was a menace under the basket on the defensive end of the court.
Andre Jackson, Corey Smith and Gustavo Lino will help fill the void in the frontcourt. Jackson, at 6-8 and 240 pounds, is a wide-bodied player who can eat up space in the paint. For now he will grab rebounds and play some solid defense in the paint, but his offensive game will come around. In high school Jackson played the five, but he has worked on facing the basket knowing that he will see a majority of his minutes at the four spot at Southern Miss. Smith is the guy who could provide the team with a consistent scorer under the basket right away. Yet, it is Lino who is the most intriguing prospect. The 7-0 redshirt freshman will still have to spend some time learning how to play in C-USA, but at least he can provide some much needed depth in 2008-2009 and look to contribute more in the future. There is a need for a body or two to come off the bench on the perimeter as well and Jerome Clyburn, Lavance Pennington and Rodney McCauley should fit in nicely. Clyburn is a pure point guard who will find his teammates and play solid defense. His offensive game is not bad by any means, but it will likely take some time before Clyburn is ready to emerge as a consistent scoring threat. Pennington is the pure scorer of the bunch and McCauley will do a little bit of everything.
Who to Watch:
One quick look at the Golden Eagles roster and it will not be tough to see why the incoming guards will not play much this year and why the team is in dire need of a big man who can score. After Wise, guards R.L. Horton, Courtney Beasley, Sai’Quon Stone and Craig Craft were the team’s next top scorers. Having all of them back is certainly nice, but it will not solve any of the problems that plagued Southern Miss last year. Horton is a decent shooter and ballhandler and ranked second on the team with 11.9 points per game last year as a freshman. Beasley will slash to the basket and Craft is the shooter off of the bench. Stone, at 6-6, spent some time at the power forward spot and could do so again this year. That situation is not ideal, but Stone is at least a good rebounder and a decent defender. And leaving Wise, Horton, Beasley or Stone on the bench in favor of an inexperienced forward does not sound too appealing either.
Andre Stephens and Brandon Cooks are the two returning frontcourt players who have any significant experience. Stephens, a 6-8 junior, is a solid athlete and rebounder. His 6.3 points per game last year does show promise that he can emerge as a consistent scoring threat and a leader in the paint. Cooks saw limited action as a freshman, but he will have to be ready to see more minutes. With so many quality players returning, Coach Larry Eustachy’s squad should be better and that will put them into the NIT, but better things could be waiting for the Golden Eagles if the youngsters in the frontcourt can surprise and the team can stop playing four guards much of the time.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
R.L. Horton, Sophomore, Guard, 11.9 points per game
Jeremy Wise, Junior, Guard, 18.7 points per game
Courtney Beasley, Senior, Guard, 10.5 points per game
Sai’Quon Stone, Junior, Guard, 8.5 points per game
Andre Stephens, Junior, Forward, 6.3 points per game