TUESDAY, DECEMBER 04, 2001
It Takes ONE...to Capture The SUN
After finishing 18-10 a year ago and surprising many by finishing in a tie for third in the Atlantic Sun, the Dolphins will be a different but more talented team in 2001-02. Last year's squad was dominated by the senior play of guards Shawn Platts and Brandon Williams, and 6-foot-11 center Kris Hunter. The strong leadership and work ethic of Platts and Williams, in addition to great team chemistry, made for a more competitive JU team, which excelled in close games. Hunter's ability to block shots (114) also allowed the Dolphins to extend themselves defensively, thus creating one of the best defensive teams in school history.
"In order for us to reach our potential this season and challenge for the Atlantic Sun Championship, we are going to have to develop team chemistry," says head coach Hugh Durham, who was tabbed A-Sun Coach of the Year by College Hoops Insider last year after leading the Dolphins to a 10-win turnaround. "We are not going to challenge for the title on an individual basis. For us to win, we have to come together as a unit."
The Dolphins will be more athletic this season and will possess more scoring threats on the floor, but they will not have two senior guards to rely on for stability in the backcourt. Look for JU to apply more full court pressure and get out in transition, something that was not as necessary with Hunter in the middle.
"This team has an entirely different personality than last year's," says Durham. "We are a much more emotional team this year. The challenge will be to bridal the emotion toward the play on the court and direct it toward team goals."
Once again, defense will dictate JU's ability to get out and run and create good offensive opportunities. There was no secret to the Dolphins' success last season. JU set a school record by limiting opponents to just 41 percent shooting from the floor and ranked 30th nationally, allowing just 63.7 points per game. The direct result was the Dolphins' first winning season in six years.
"If we can get consistent defensive effort, and have the attitude of wanting to get better everyday, this team can be very competitive," says Durham, whose 573 wins rank 13th in Division I among active coaches. "The players have to take pride in getting better everyday and strive to play at a consistent level."
Senior Toby Frazier, who started the first 16 games of the season last year at the point, will once again provide stable play off the bench and continue to harass opponents with his quick hands. Despite playing just 17.0 minutes per game, he tied for the team lead last season with 40 steals, including eight in a game against Coastal Carolina.
Freshman David Lee, a 6-foot-3 guard from Columbus, Ga., will have an opportunity to earn playing time immediately. He averaged 24.6 points per game as a senior en route to Columbus Player-of-the-Year honors, while senior Johnny Jones will move out to the perimeter some after playing primarily in the post the last two seasons. Junior Chip White also returns as one of the best spot-up shooters on the team.
Joining Brown in the high post is Warner, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound junior who sat out last year after transferring from Eastern Michigan. Warner is a complete player who earned honorable mention All-Mid-American Conference honors as a sophomore after leading Eastern Michigan with 14.6 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. Warner can step out and hit the mid-to-long range jumper as evident by his team-best 54 percent field goal percentage as a sophomore.
Also returning in the post is senior Ali Kaba, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound rebounding machine who had an immediate impact for the Dolphins last season before missing the final four games with a broken hand. Kaba was one of the top offensive rebounders in the conference, and finished the season second on the team with 6.2 boards per game.
Junior college transfer Ryan Lewis will provide size and rebounding around the basket. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound junior averaged 6.0 points, 6.0 boards and 2.3 blocks per game for Chipola Junior College after transferring from the University of Georgia, where he played in 16 games as a redshirt freshman in 1999-2000. He has good offensive moves around the basket, while his long arms and athleticism allow him to block shots and rebound.
Joining Lewis will be Kaba, who has shown the strength to hold his own in the middle. He thrives on the challenge of playing defense and rebounding, and provides the physical presence needed at the center spot. Junior Jeff Howard also returns after playing sparingly in 17 games last season behind Hunter. He has a nice shooting touch away from the goal, and at 6-foot-9, 240 pounds, can bang inside. Freshman O.J Gilmore, son of former JU and NBA great Artis Gilmore, will most likely redshirt this season as he adjusts to the collegiate game. Gilmore has outstanding size and strength, and good hands for a big man. His 6-foot-10, 265-pound frame gives the Dolphins five players who are 6-foot-7 or taller.
2001-02 MEN'S BASKETBALL