Countdown to Tipoff - Three Days

Nov. 13, 2005

Part three of the five-part series previewing the upcoming JU season. Today is a look at the JU front court. -

Jacksonville's front court features some experienced players to go along with a bumper crop of talent from Warren's first recruiting class.

Part three of's five part series previewing the upcoming men's basketball season. Here's the schedule of the five-part series:

Monday - Season Outlook

Tuesday - Back court

Wednesday - Front court

Thursday - Schedule and the A-Sun

Friday - JU vs. FSU preview

The front court will be led by small forward Antonio Cool, the top returning scorer from last year's team. Cool, a 6-4 senior, averaged 11.3 points per game and hit almost 48 percent of his shots from the floor. Another of the top 3-point threats in the conference, Cool led the team in 3-point field goal percentage hitting 40.5 percent from behind the arc.

"Antonio is the most focused player on the team," Warren said. "He sets an example of what I want everyone to be. He's married with a child and he realizes he's got a great opportunity to get an education and provide for his family. He's getting all that he can out of basketball and if he improves, he might be able to earn a living playing basketball."

The starting spot at power forward belongs to Mario Brown entering preseason practice. Brown, a 6-7 senior, was one of the top defensive players in the conference a year ago, racking up 53 blocked shots. Warren has worked with him in the preseason on becoming more of a force on the offensive end, where Brown averaged just 4.4 points, while hitting 60 percent of his shots from the floor.

In the middle will be Ljubisa Vrcelj, a 6-foot-11 junior, who has been a solid defensive force for the Dolphins over the past two years. With his big frame, Vrcelj alters shots with great regularity. The area Warren has worked with Vrcelj the most is on the offensive end, getting him to finish when he gets the ball in the low post.

"I hope we will surprise people this year with the improvement this group has made," Warren said. "What they lack in talent, they make up for in effort, and they give everything they have every time they step onto the floor. Being veterans, they have a lot of confidence in themselves, which is spreading throughout the team."

There is depth in the front court for the Dolphins and it is a group of talented youngsters. Marcus Allen and Phillip Okonma will be the first two players off the bench for JU in the front court.

Allen, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Hollywood, Fla., will see a lot of playing time behind Brown in the power forward spot. Okonma, a native of Los Angeles, Calif., and standing tall with his 6-foot-8 frame, will see time at both power forward and center.

"We have some very talented freshmen who are going to vie for playing time immediately," Warren said. "They are going to push the veterans for their spot in the starting lineup and that competition should make us better."

Backing up Cool will be Bryan Hipsher, a 6-foot-4 junior from Akron, Ohio. Hipsher missed last season with an injury after sitting out the year before after transferring from Akron.