2007-08 Sam Houston State Basketball Preview
Sam Houston State Bearkats
Overall Rank: #121
Conference Rank: #1 Southland
2006-07: 21-10, 13-3, 2nd West
2006-07 postseason: none
Sam Houston State was one win away from holding the Southland title. However, Coach Bob Marlin’s squad lost the regular season finale to Texas A&M Corpus Christi and compounded the troubles by exiting the conference tournament after just one game. The Southland Conference is up for grabs this year and the Bearkats will be right in the middle of the race, despite the loss of three starters. If they want to end up on top this year, Ashton Mitchell may be the most important piece of the puzzle. The 5-10 point guard only averaged 12.3 minutes per game as backup last year as a freshman, but Mitchell will have to do more than simply be a quick defensive stopper; he has to be a leader on the floor.
Mitchell’s development is necessary due to the absence of Jejuan Plair. Plair averaged 10.9 points and 5.5 assists during his senior campaign, but he is not the only starter lost. Forwards Aaron Wade and C.J. Hadley have spent their last year playing basketball in Huntsville, Texas. Neither were post scorers, but both were effective scorers facing the basket and combined to average 21.1 points per game. Roleplayer Ryan Griffin, a 6-7 forward, has also run out of eligibility.
John Gardiner and Barkley Falkner redshirted last year and will give the Bearkats a couple options under the basket. Gardiner was forced to miss his senior season with a knee injury and will give it another go this year. The 6-7, 215 pound British West Indies product averaged 7.8 points and 5.2 rebounds during the 2005-2006 campaign. That was Gardiner’s first year at Sam Houston State after spending a couple years at the junior college level and it his return that will make the frontcourt better this year than it was last year. Falkner is a decent post scorer who will help out on the glass and battle for a starting position. Another junior college transfer, Arthur Zulu, will provide more depth up front. Zulu is still a raw talent despite two years of college experience, but has the potential to continue to develop into a solid contributor. Ryan Bennett, Josten Crow and DeLuis Ramirez will immediately help out the backcourt. Bennett replaced Plair as the point guard at McLennan Community College in Texas and may now replace him at SHSU. Like Plair, Bennett is a good shooter and could play at the two guard spot if necessary. Crow and Ramirez, both 6-4, will add a much needed scoring punch to the perimeter. As a junior college transfer, Ramirez has the experience to make a bigger impact right away.
Who to Watch:
There is no doubt who the star of this team is this year. Ryan Bright, a 6-6 forward, led the team with 14.8 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.7 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. The versatile Deer Park, Texas native has steadily increased his production from his conference Freshman of the Year campaign and that should continue through his senior season. Bright is a decent shooter from beyond the arc, but does most of his damage inside. With a little better free-throw shooting, Bright would be even more dangerous. There is more forward depth with the return of part-time starters James Barrett and Reggie Rawlins. Like most forwards at SHSU, Barrett and Rawlins can step outside and hit the jumper and mix it up in the paint.
The most important thing for the Bearkats is getting some points out of the backcourt. With Plair doing some scoring it was not a big deal that Shamir McDaniel only averaged 5.8 points per game. McDaniel started every game next to Plair during the 2006-2007 campaign and the defensive stopper may be asked to do a little more scoring for his senior season. McDaniel’s defense is too valuable to put on the bench, so it becomes imperative that the new point guard, either Mitchell or Bennett, puts some points on the board. Jeremy Thomas has been an important guard off the bench and some of that scoring, especially from long range, will come from him.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ashton Mitchell, Sophomore, Guard, 3.0 points per game
Shamir McDaniel, Senior, Guard, 5.8 points per game
Ryan Bright, Senior, Forward, 14.8 points per game
James Barrett, Senior, Forward, 7.7 points per game
John Gardiner, Senior, Forward, DNP last season