TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 09, 2010
Men's basketball season preview
After winning 20 games for the first time since 1986, the JU men’s basketball team faces the unenviable task of replacing two of the best players ever to wear the green and gold – Ben Smith and Lehmon Colbert.

The two-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference champions feature a roster that has seven newcomers and five veterans – headlined by senior returning starters Ayron Hardy and Travis Cohn.

Head coach Cliff Warren enter his sixth season at JU with what may be the deepest team during his tenure, with 12 players that he feels comfortable putting in the game at any point.

But, it will be a largely inexperienced team that hits the floor together for the first time in November for the opener at Miami on Nov. 13.

“We’ve got a lot of teaching to do this season,” Warren said. “As coaches, we have to show the new guys how we do things on offense and defense, while making sure we are progressing together as a team.”

JU is picked to finish fourth in the A-Sun by both the league coaches and media, coming in behind the Lipscomb, ETSU and Belmont.

“The A-Sun continues to get tougher each year as there are a lot of good coaches and players in the league,” Warren said. “Our goal continues to be the same – work hard every day and improve.”  

BACKCOURT

Gone is JU’s leader from the past four years and the second all-time leading scorer ever – Ben Smith. Those are some big shoes that won’t be filled immediately.

Returning to the backcourt is senior shooting guard Travis Cohn, who is expected to start for the third straight year.

Cohn averaged 8.5 points per game last season and became a deadly shooter from 3-point land, hitting 35.4 percent from behind the arc.

Backing up Cohn will freshmen Keith McDougald and Chris Davis. A native of Jacksonville, McDougald comes highly touted after a stellar career at Bishop Kenny High School. Davis was a star at Stockbridge High School who has the ability to drive to the basket as well as shooting from long range.

At point guard, Warren has several options – but all of them are young.

Russell Powell looks to stake his claim as Smith’s successor after a solid freshman campaign. He led the Dolphins comeback against UNF at home last season and hit two free throws in the final seconds for a win at Savannah State.

Pushing him for playing time is Aloys Cabell from Atlanta, Ga. Another highly-acclaimed signee, Cabell comes to JU after a stellar career at Mays High School that included a state championship run last season. Another player that will see time in the backcourt is sophomore A.J. Garden, who returns after walking on to the team last year.

“We have a very talented group in the backcourt that is going to get experience quickly,” Warren said. “We know that all of them are going to play and they know they have to contribute for us to be successful.”

FRONT COURT

The Dolphins front court features two starters returning in senior forward and preseason all-Atlantic Sun Conference selection Ayron Hardy with sophomore forward/center Glenn Powell.

Jacksonville will be missing the services of all-star Lehmon Colbert, but feature the deepest group of post players that Warren has to use since coming to JU.

With Hardy, Warren has what will be a 1,000-point scorer in his career as well as one of the toughest defenders in the A-Sun. Powell brings muscle, size and athleticism to the post.

Junior Tevin Galvin and sophomore Chris Rozier return from last year’s squad looking to see more action. Galvin stepped in while Colbert was out with an injury last year and shined, leading the Dolphins to win on the road, as well as seeing a lot of action in the final minutes down the stretch.

Rozier has worked hard in the offseason to raise his game and is expected to see a lot of action this season.

Joining them is a group of newcomers that features talent, experience and athleticism.

Giving JU’s front court some experience is junior college transfers Shamile Jeffers and Delwan Graham. Jeffers was a star at Williston (N.D.) State College, earning second team all-conference honors after averaging almost 14 points and seven rebounds as a sophomore.

Graham comes to JU after starting his collegiate career at LSU before transferring to Chipola Junior College. A four-star recruit coming out of high school, Graham brings an intimidating and physical presence inside.

The Dolphins also welcome a pair of freshmen into the mix inside with Keion Palmer and Admir Sahbegovic.

Palmer, who originally committed to Delaware out of high school, averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and three blocks at South Miami Senior High School. A native of Jacksonville, Sahbegovic starred at Englewood High School, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game.

“We have increased our depth inside this year,” Warren said. “Everyone brings something different to the floor, which gives us the versatility to do some things that we haven’t done in the past.”

SCHEDULE

The Dolphins face a grueling schedule as always, highlighted by road trips to Miami (Fla.), Auburn, Saint Louis and Florida.

Jacksonville will play 13 games at home this year, starting with Savannah State on Nov. 16. The Dolphins will open their 20-game conference schedule at home on Dec. 2 against Stetson.

The non-conference schedule also includes trips to former A-Sun rival Samford, perennial Big South champion Winthrop, as well as home games against Florida Tech and Bethune-Cookman.

“This year’s schedule gives us the opportunity to have our young guys gain experience against some good competition,” Warren said. “We setup our non-conference schedule to get us ready for the most important part of our schedule – conference play.”

OUTLOOK

It’s not often that a two-time defending conference champion is overlooked, but with the loss of two of the top scorers in school history, it will be a new group of Dolphins that will work towards being in contention for a conference championship.

“With our program, our goal is to work hard and get better every day,” Warren said. “That’s been our goal since I arrived and continues to be what we strive to do.”