SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 09, 2008
Countdown to Tipoff: 6 Days
In six days, the JU men’s basketball team opens its 2008-09 season against Florida State at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena.

It is the second straight year that JU will open its season at home and starts a grueling six-game stretch to open the season against a five teams that played in the postseason a year ago, with four of those playing in the NCAA Tournament.

Today’s preview will turn its focus to the two forward positions.

SMALL FORWARD

Another player that improved as the season progressed last year was Ayron Hardy, who became the fourth Dolphin in the past three season to earn a spot on the A-Sun all-freshman team.

With a wide wingspan combined with his athletic ability, Hardy became a defensive presence for the Dolphins – leading JU in blocks, finishing second in steals and third in rebounds.

His scoring ability developed as well, finishing the year ranked fourth on the team with 7.5 points per game. His biggest shot of the season was the game-winning jumper at the buzzer at Savannah State.

“Ayron improved his strength and his outside shooting touch,” Warren said. “He is the anchor of our defense because he gets the most deflections, steals and blocks.”

Providing Hardy some rest will be fellow sophomore Aric Brooks. Brooks also made strides throughout his first collegiate season, finishing as the leading scorer in the A-Sun Championship game against Belmont.

“Aric has worked extremely hard on all phases of his game – ball handling, shooting and rebounding,” Warren said. “He should be a lot more productive this season and play more minutes this season.”

POWER FORWARD

A two-year starter, Lehmon Colbert returns for his junior year after what he considered a subpar performance last season.

The numbers don’t seem to back up his claim as he averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds and finished second on the team with 81 assists – all of which were improvements on his freshman season that earned him all-freshman team honors.

“If you ask Lehmon, he’s disappointed with the year he had,” Warren said. “Because of that, he was motivated to work harder on his defense, shooting and ball handling.”

Adding depth and versatility to the front court is senior Brian Gilbert. A native of Jacksonville, Gilbert walked on to the team last season and earned a scholarship for his final season. His long-range shooting was called upon throughout the season and will be a major asset for the Dolphins again this season.

“He worked extremely hard in the spring and summer to be a consistent 3-point shooter,” Warren said. “He needs to be a go-to shooter for us off the bench. He’s gotten in better shape and understands that this is his last go-round.”