#60 Southern Miss: 2010-11 Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #60
Conference Rank: #3 Conference USA
2009-10: 20-14, 8-8
2009-10 postseason: CIT
Coach: Larry Eustachy (83-81 at Southern Miss, 336-221 overall)
After five years of trying, Coach Larry Eustachy finally led Southern Miss to the postseason in 2010. A trip to the CIT is not the ultimate goal for the Golden Eagles, but with all five starters back and a bevy of newcomers to increase the team depth and keep the returnees on their toes, this is a group that should take the next step and at least move up to the NIT…with an eye on the NCAA Tournament in 2011 and certainly in 2012.
Key Losses: G Buchi Awaji
This is a team that went eight deep last year and they only lose one of those players. Thus, there should be some tough battles for playing time early in the season among the newcomers. The backcourt brings in seven new faces, led by incoming freshmen Trency Jackson and Devonte Newbill and junior college transfers LaShay Page and Kayland Partee. Those are the four likely candidates to see playing time this year, but Hayden Eustachy, Cedric Jenkins and Kody Williams will be given a chance too. Ahyaro Phillips is the lone incoming big man. The 6-8 transfer from Lamar State Junior College in Texas has the size and skills to play some minutes in the frontcourt this season.
Southern Miss fans know what they are going to get out of this backcourt. During the 2007-2008 campaign Angelo Johnson earned Pac-10 All-Freshman accolades. After sitting out a year, Johnson moved to Conference USA and picked up where he left off. Johnson is a dangerous scorer who can attack the basket or knock down the long ball; and hitting the three-pointer is what this team lacks. Johnson was the most prolific outside shooter on the team, but he should be worrying more about attacking the basket and finding his teammates. R.L. Horton is a fine scorer, but he is not a pure shooter by any means. The other starter in the backcourt, Sai’Quon Stone, is not a scorer at all, but he is a superb defender and a solid rebounder so leaving him out of the lineup is not an option.
The frontcourt has its superstar in Gary Flowers. During his first year at Southern Miss after spending a couple years at the junior college level, Flowers led the team with 15.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.8 blocks. He is a dominating force in the paint, but also has the ability to step outside and hit the long ball relatively consistently. Torye Pelham, another junior college transfer, started a dozen games beside Flowers last year. He is not much of a scorer, but he will do the dirty work under the basket. Josimar Ayarza has more size than Pelham and will likely spend most of his time backing up Flowers. Ayarza is actually not much of a drop off compared to Flowers on the offensive end or on the glass and having an experienced player like him on the bench will do wonders for this team.
Who to Watch:
Maurice Bolden may be the most intriguing player on the team. The 6-10, 200 pound guard obviously has the size to play at the four spot and that could be where he spends most of his time due to the influx of talent on the perimeter. Bolden ranked fourth on the team in scoring and second in rebounding and blocked shots despite only being a part-time starter. He is a match-up nightmare whether he starts or not and if he can continue to improve as an upperclassman, Bolden will have a great season.
This group has more than enough weapons to be in the NCAA Tournament picture. If the conference as a whole can improve, Southern Miss will have a better RPI and that could lead to two or three teams getting into the tournament. Of course, the Golden Eagles have to take care of business, but this is a team that could make the jump from the CIT to the NCAA.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Angelo Johnson, Junior, Guard, 10.1 ppg
R.L. Horton, Senior, Guard, 9.2 ppg
Sai’Quon Stone, Senior, Guard, 5.3 ppg
Maurice Bolden, Junior, Guard, 8.6 ppg
Gary Flowers, Senior, Forward, 15.0 ppg
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