2007-08 Hampton Basketball Preview
Overall Rank: #128
Conference Rank: #1 MEAC
2006-07: 15-16, 10-8, 3rd (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Over the last two years Coach Kevin Nickelberry has done an amazing job recruiting stellar talent into the Hampton program. Last season was supposed to be a major transition year with the new coach and the loss of four key players, but the Pirates still put together a solid season. Hampton started four freshman most of the year and expect improvement from each of them, but senior Rashad West is what makes the team tick. The 6-1 point guard led the team with 17.8 points and 2.6 assists per game and will have to once again be the steadying force on a young team.
The depth in the backcourt has taken a hit with the transfer of Demario Mattox and the graduation of Junior Pehoua. Mattox averaged 6.0 points and Pehoua added 3.9 per contest. The depth chart for the guards will be full of new players, but they are talented enough to be quality reserves. Forward Kevin Clark, who averaged 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds and earned seven starts, is not returning to the program.
Hampton fans hope this recruiting class can perform as well as last year’s. The backcourt is where some help is needed immediately and guards Chris Tolson and Brandon Tunnell will answer the call. The duo will likely spend the season being groomed to take over the starting point guard duties in 2008-2009. Milade Lola-Charles and redshirt freshman Oluwaseyi Oseni have the size, at 6-11 and 6-10, to develop into a dominating duo up front, but it is junior college transfer Donte Harrison who will make an impact on the Hampton frontline right away. Harrison averaged 11.6 points and 11.3 rebounds at Sullivan County Community College in New York. He is a good defender and his long arms will be an asset in the shot blocking department.
Who to Watch:
The development of Vincent Simpson, Theo Smalling, Matthew Pilgrim and Mike Freeman will be the key to the campaign. The foursome did a great job as freshmen, but they need to continue to improve if Hampton wants to reach the NCAA Tournament. Simpson has to become a more consistent shooter for a shooting guard and Smalling could develop a better game on the offensive end, although he may be relegated to being a specialist off the bench with the talent coming in. Pilgrim and Freeman are harder to find faults with and as long as they continue to develop, the duo will be tough to stop. Pilgrim and Freeman combined for 25.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
With West running the show and the four freshmen now sophomores, nobody should be able to stop the Pirates. Adrian Woodard will provide some experienced depth and that should help the team stay fresher down the stretch. Considering the last two recruiting classes have been among the best the MEAC has ever seen, the future is even brighter than the present. If Hampton can dominate the conference this year, they will own the conference for at least the next few years. The Achilles heel for the Pirates is their poor shooting. The team ranked 234th in the nation in field-goal percentage, 286th in three point field-goal percentage and 249th in free-throw percentage. If it gets worse, the door will be open for teams like Morgan State, Coppin State and North Carolina A&T to capture an NCAA bid.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Rashad West, Senior, Guard, 17.8 points per game
Vincent Simpson, Sophomore, Guard, 5.9 points per game
Matthew Pilgrim, Sophomore, Forward, 11.0 points per game
Theo Smalling, Sophomore, Forward, 2.7 points per game
Mike Freeman, Sophomore, Forward, 14.2 points per game