Countdown to Tipoff: 9 Days
Ben Smith
Ben Smith
The JU men’s basketball season is just nine days away from starting when the Dolphins host Florida State on Nov. 15 at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

Today’s feature will be on the backcourt, which includes the return of preseason all-conference selection Ben Smith.

Entering last season, Ben Smith was looking to establish himself as a leader for the Dolphins after a stellar finish to his freshman season.

There was no sophomore jinx for Smith as he went on to lead JU in scoring, assists, 3-point shooting and steals to earn first team all-conference recognition. His hard-nosed play sent him to the free throw line 224 times, hitting 190 – the third highest single-season totalin program history.

On top of that, he turned in clutch performances throughout the season. He hit the game-winning shot at Mercer, a key 3-pointer late in regulation that led to a triple overtime win over Stetson, a big 3-pointer for JU’s first basket in overtime against UNF and a team-high 27 points in the A-Sun semifinals against Gardner-Webb.

“Ben is one of our leaders, on and off the court,” Warren said. “He had a very good season and won some games single handedly. We’ll be looking for him to be a leader again this year with his words and actions.”

Backing up Smith at the point guard spot will be freshman Chris Edwards from Albany, Ga. Edwards enjoyed a stellar career at Westover High School and will see time at both guard positions.

“Chris is a combo guard who can play both the point and shooting guard positions,” Warren said. “He is very quick, long and athletic. He is a good mid-range shooter and is aggressive, which has really impressed me.”

After graduating from JU this past spring, it looked as though Evan Jefferson was not going to take advantage of his final year of eligibility.

As a walk-on, he was expecting to pursue his career and the job market. Instead of diving into the real world, he dedicated himself to working out and returning for his senior season.

One of just two players left from Warren’s inaugural squad, Jefferson’s hard work and effort was rewarded with a scholarship for his final season.

“Evan had another year of eligibility and told me that he was only coming back with the premise to win a championship,” Warren said. “He has dedicated himself towards improving his game and doing whatever it takes to achieve that goal.”

A starter from the middle of December last year, Jefferson provided an outside shooting threat that teams had to respect. He enters his final season with 96 3-pointers, just three shy of cracking JU’s career top 10 list.

“He is one of our most experienced players and knows what we’re doing on offense and defense,” Warren said. “He worked extremely hard this summer on becoming a consistent 3-point shooter.”

Pushing Jefferson for a spot in the starting lineup will be sophomore Travis Cohn and freshman Tevin Galvin. Cohn improved throughout his freshman campaign, putting together a highlight reel that included a dazzling fastbreak dunk to seal the overtime win over Mercer and a 3-pointer in transition that setup the comeback win at Savannah State.

A long and athletic player, Cohn has the potential to score from long range or drive to the basket.

“Travis improved his strength and confidence this summer,” Warren said. “He’s improved his shooting touch and should see more playing time this season, at either the guard position.”

Galvin joins the Dolphins after lighting up scoreboards for Flagler Palm Coast High School. The long-range bomber hit more than 40 percent of his shots from behind the arc as a senior and has averaged in double digits the last two seasons.

“Tevin is a big, strong guard who can play a number of positions,” Warren said. “He’s got a great feel for the game and has a high basketball IQ. Even though he is just a freshman, he has the game of a veteran already.”

DOLPHINS RECEIVE VOTES IN MID-MAJOR TOP 25: The Dolphins are on the radar of the Mid-Major top 25 votes as JU received votes in the preseason poll. Two of JU’s opponents this season are in the Mid-Major top 25 – Belmont (No. 18) and American (No. 23). JU has never been ranked in the Mid-Major top 25 since its creation in 2003.

SEASON TICKETS ON SALE: The JU season ticket drive is still underway, with packages starting at $150. For more information, contact Nikki Swanson at (904) 256-7444.