Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Overall Rank: #79
Conference Rank: #4 C-USA
2006-07: 20-11, 9-7, 4th (t)
2006-07 postseason: none
Once Southern Miss and Coach Larry Eustachy can find some offensive productivity out of the frontcourt, the Golden Eagles will be a contender in Conference USA…well, at least for second place in the conference. There are some options up front. Andre Stephens showed promise during his freshman campaign and the 6-8 forward has plenty of upside. Demar Dotson and Gjio Bain are the true post players. Dotson is more of an offensive threat, but 7-footer Bain is a quality shot blocker and rebounder. If Stephens can pick up his offensive game, it will at least stop the opposing defense from keying in on the talented perimeter.
Not long ago point guard DeWayne Green was the lone departure from last year’s active roster. The 5-11 would-be senior started 21 games during his only season in Hattiesburg and averaged 2.7 points, 3.1 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.4 steals. With a team that has so many prolific scoring guards, Green may have seen his minutes diminish for his senior campaign. However, having a quality backup point guard who can play solid defense would have been very helpful to the team. More recently, Jarvis Hill and Maros Zuffa have transferred. Hill was one of the better perimeter shooters on the team last year and averaged 7.8 points per game and earned nine starts. Zuffa saw limited action and is heading elsewhere to find more playing time.
Finding another big body or two to bang down low would be beneficial and Brandon Cooks and Gustavo Lino are hoping to fill that role. Cooks is a good offensive option and can score in a variety of ways. Lino, a seven-footer, should be a decent defensive presence. Kevin Branch will do a little bit of everything for Southern Miss. The 6-4 wing is a great athlete who can score, get on the glass and play some defense. R.L. Horton, Mississippi’s Mr. Basketball, will at least take over the job from the departed Green. The 6-0 point guard is a good playmaker, but will do more than his fair share of scoring as well and averaged 27.7 points last year at Lanier High School. Walk-on Josh Barnes redshirted last season and will provide some emergency depth to the perimeter.
Who to Watch:
He was only a freshman, but Jeremy Wise wasted no time cementing himself as the team leader. Wise averaged 17.5 points, 3.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds as a freshman. The expectations for him, and thus the team, are increasing greatly during his sophomore campaign. Wise will likely run the point this year with the help of Horton, but if Horton can handle it, Wise will be moved off the ball to help increase his scoring output. Yet there are other scoring threats on the perimeter. Sai’Quon Stone, another sophomore, was second on the team in scoring with 10.3 points per game. He also led the team in rebounding with 5.4 per contest. It is nice to have a decent rebounder on the wing, but that says more about the inconsistency of the frontcourt than anything else. Courtney Beasley is expected to be the starter on the other wing. As a junior, Beasley is the elder statesman of the group, but like Stone he is more of a slasher than a shooter. Outside of Wise, most of the shooting will come off the bench in the form of Craig Craft.
Despite losing a grand total of zero players to graduation, this is still a young team. The Coach Eustachy rebuilding process is still going and better things are coming. Thirteen of the 17 players on the roster are underclassmen and considering how young the team was last year, getting fourth place in the conference was an amazing feat. Yet, in a much improved C-USA, reaching higher than fourth place this year will be difficult, but at least fourth place is good enough for a trip to the NIT.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Jeremy Wise, Sophomore, Guard, 17.5 points per game
Courtney Beasley, Junior, Guard, 9.7 points per game
Sai’Quon Stone, Sophomore, Guard, 10.3 points per game
Andre Stephens, Sophomore, Forward, 4.5 points per game
Gjio Bain, Senior, Center, 3.6 points per game