Dolphins building foundation for the future

Jan. 18, 2006

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The last time the JU men's basketball program went through a 12-game losing streak was in 1983.

That team featured a young freshman named Otis Smith and three seasons later, Smith and his teammates saw their three years of hard work pay off as they led the Dolphins to the Sun Belt Conference championship and a No. 8 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Now, 20 years later, the Dolphins are in the midst of a 12-game losing streak, but the future of the program is being laid this season with a solid foundation in head coach Cliff Warren's first season.

The Dolphins (1-14, 1-7 A-Sun) look to snap their losing skid at home against Gardner-Webb on Thursday night at 7 p.m. Jacksonville then faces Campbell at home on Saturday at 3 p.m.

"I'm really pleased with our players because they have done everything that I have asked of them," Warren said. "We are getting better each game and we're very close to being a good basketball team."

Freshmen Marcus Allen and Phillip Okonma have played well this season and are key pieces to the future of the Dolphins. Allen is third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.7 points and leads the team in rebounding, averaging 6.5 boards per game.

Okonma has come on strong of late, adding a spark off the bench. On the season Okonma is averaging 3.9 points per game, but his defense has stepped up as he is third on the team in blocks with 11.

Warren's recruiting efforts have yielded a bumper crop of talent, with the signing of Tyrone Curnell and Szymon Lukasiak.

But it's the leadership of the seniors that is feeding these young players. Antonio Cool, Aubrey Conerly, Matt Kampfe, Mario Brown and Jesse Kimbrough have served as role models for the younger players in how to juggle the life of college student and star athlete.

JU vs. Gardner-Webb

When: Thursday, Jan. 19 (7 p.m.)

Where: Swisher Gymnasium

Records: JU (1-14, 1-7 A-Sun), GWU (6-9, 3-5 A-Sun)

Series: Tied at three

Radio: Live on ESPN 1460. Pregame show airs at 6:45 p.m.

TV: None

Web: Live audio on at 6:45 p.m.

Storylines: Jacksonville looks to snap its 12-game losing streak. The Dolphins are facing Gardner-Webb for the first time since the Bulldogs ended JU's season last year.

JU Noteables: The Dolphins 12-game losing streak is tied for the longest in school history. In the first 15 games of the season, the Dolphins have fallen behind by seven or more in the first 10 minutes in 13. Mario Brown scored a career-high 17 points and pulled down five rebounds against KSU. It is the sixth time this season he has scored in double figures and the third time in the last four games. Antonio Cool scored in double figures for the 10th straight game with 12 points against Kennesaw State. The Dolphins out scored the Owls in the paint, 34-24. It is the first time this season that JU has out scored its opponent in two straight games.

GWU Noteables: Gardner-Webb hits the road again for a three-game road swing and the Runnin' Bulldogs might just be looking forward to a vacation away from Boiling Springs. GWU dropped all four of its recent home games, and actually has a better road mark (4-5) than home mark (2-4) through 15 games. Gardner-Webb has never won a game at Jacksonville, dating back to the 2002-2003 season. GWU beat JU twice in three tries last season, including a win in the semifinals of the 2005 A-Sun Tournament (Nashville, Tenn.). NBA star Artis Gilmore played at both schools, and has his jersey retired at both GWU and Jacksonville.