Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks
Overall Rank: #84
Conference Rank: #1 Southland
2007-08: 26-6, 13-3, 1st West
2007-08 postseason: NIT
Stephen F. Austin did not get the accolades they deserved last year. This is a team that went 26-6 and beat the likes of Oklahoma and San Diego. An upset in the Southland Conference Tournament kept the Lumberjacks on the outside of the national radar, but that should fuel the fire for the 2008-2009 campaign. With six of the top seven scorers returning, SFA and Coach Danny Kasper should dominate the conference once again. Now they just have to keep that success going in March.
Gerald Fonzie is the only departing Lumberjack who played a significant role on last year’s squad. Fonzie was one of the team’s sharpshooters and knocked down over two three-pointers per game and finding another shooter to replace that production would be very beneficial. Austin Falke, Kyle Jacobs, Dean Pele, Jason Rogers and Scott Weaver have also graduated or transferred. Weaver and Jacobs, both forwards, were the only two to even average over five minutes per game.
Despite returning six quality players, SFA needs the newcomers to provide some depth. A trio of junior college transfers supply more than enough. Unlike any other forward on the roster, Aaron Smith has the outside shooting touch that can stretch out the opposing defense. At 6-8 and 220 pounds, the former Idaho Vandal also has the size to mix it up inside. The other two junior college transfers, Girod Adams and Walt Harris, will do more than just provide depth on the perimeter. Adams is a pure point guard who should play a huge role this year either off the bench or in a starting role. Harris has enough talent to take over for Fonzie without any drop off in production. He is a solid defender, a decent scorer and, at 6-5, has a ton of size for a shooting guard in the Southland Conference. Redshirt freshman forward Jereal Scott and incoming freshmen Jarrod McDaniel and Zach Williams will also join the team this year. McDaniel has a shot to earn some minutes as a backup point guard and Williams, a 6-4 forward, is one of the mostly highly recruited players to come to SFA in quite some time.
Who to Watch:
The scorer on the perimeter is Josh Alexander. The 6-4 wing led the team with 16.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last year and is an extremely prolific shooter. Alexander hit an amazing three three-pointers per game. Most of his shots will come from beyond the arc, but his ability to get to the basket makes him a dynamic scorer. Eric Bell will get the scoring options the ball. The senior point guard averaged 5.7 assists per game and just 2.3 turnovers. That is not a bad ratio and it should get better. Eddie Williams, yet another senior, was the sixth man last year and will likely play that role once again.
What Alexander does for the backcourt, Matt Kingsley does to the frontcourt. The 6-9 forward was just a touch behind Alexander in the scoring and rebounding categories. With Kingsley and Alexander leading the way, the Lumberjacks have a couple superb scorers. Finding a consistent third scoring threat is the new goal. Power forward Nick Shaw is one of the options after averaging 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds last year. Benson Akpan can do some scoring, but his ability to play defense and block shots off the bench will be a big asset yet again. Akpan, Alexander, Kingsley and Shaw are all seniors and this is the year for Stephen F. Austin to not just have a great regular season, but to continue their success into the postseason.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Eric Bell, Junior, Guard, 5.8 points per game
Walt Harris, Junior, Guard, DNP last season
Josh Alexander, Senior, Guard, 16.1 points per game
Nick Shaw, Senior, Forward, 6.2 points per game
Matt Kingsley, Senior, Forward, 15.7 points per game