Men's Basketball Has High ExpectationsNovember 11, 2010
ANDERSON, S.C. – The Anderson Trojans will be looking for experience, leadership and versatility to carry them to a successful debut in their inaugural season in the South Atlantic Conference.
Last season AU got off to the best start in school history since becoming a four-year institution in the mid-90s with the season culminating in a school-record 24 wins, eclipsing the previous record of 18 victories in 2001-02. The Trojans won 10 of their last 11 games en route earning their first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament, with their nine-game win streak in late February equaling the longest in school history.
While filling the void left by the graduation of the team’s second-leading scorer will be difficult, Anderson returns eight players, including three starters and two reserves that saw considerable action on the hardwood last season.
“I’m really excited to coach these guys on the court,” Anderson head coach Jason Taylor said.
With his first recruiting class playing their senior campaign in 2010-11, the fifth-year head coach is anxious to see the development of those players come full circle. Anderson returns more than 71 percent of its potent offense that saw the Trojans rank 12th in the nation in scoring, at 85.2 points per contest last year.
Anderson has garnered the respect its peers, as the Trojans have been picked to finish second in the league this season, with senior guard Brandon Young selected to the league’s first team, while fellow guard Kevis Cornwell was named to the second team.
Guard Brandon Young, the team’s leading scorer, started all 32 games and also handed out a team-high 3.7 assists in 2009-10. The Belmont, N.C., native became Anderson’s all-time leading scorer (1,426) during last season, becoming just the fourth player in the history of Anderson University men's basketball to reach the 1,000-point milestone. He drained the game-winning shot versus Catawba in the final moments of the Southeast Regional opener for both teams and was named to the NABC's All-Southeast Region Second Team after earning first-team all-conference honors and was named to the 2010 Conference Carolinas All-Tournament team.
Young will be joined by fellow senior Kevis Cornwell in the backcourt. The 6-foot-2 guard led the team with 2.1 steals per contests and started 31 contests. Cornwell was named to the 2010 Conference Carolinas All-Tournament Team after the Trojans advanced to the title game and also earned NCAA All-Southeast Regional Tournament accolades.
Taylor Shugart, a 6-foot-7 center, will be counted on to provide a strong post presence inside after pulling down a team-best seven rebounds per game last season. The Rock Hill, S.C. native earned Conference Carolinas Player of the Week honors last season, while scoring nearly eight points a contest. Trey Britton, a versatile player whose athleticism and size allows him to play both inside as well as facing the basket, garnered 9.4 points per game, while seeing action in all 32 contests.
Junior guard Nick Trull averaged nearly 20 minutes of action off the bench and provides a long-range outside scoring threat, shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc and averaging nearly 11 points a game. He’ll be joined by guard Oskars Ernsteins, who averaged more than 23 minutes a contest coming off the bench last season and is expected to again see significant playing time as a senior. The native of Rigas, Latvia, offers the Trojan coaching staff with another option from beyond the arc with his 3-point field goal accuracy.
Taylor expects his seven newcomers to contribute and make an immediate impact on the team. Among five additions to the backcourt, Adrian Addie is a 6-foot-3 point guard who “fits well in our system,” Taylor noted of the Charlotte, N.C., native. Addie averaged nine points and four assists while helping lead coach Eric Davis’ Hopewell High School’s Titans posted a 23-3 record last season.
Denzail Jones is a 5-foot-9 160-pound combo guard from Tuscaloosa, Ala., who graduated from Norcross High School (Ga.) in June, 2009, and transferred to AU from Clark Atlanta. “Jones will play right away and make an impact on both sides of the ball, both offensively and defensively,” added Taylor. “He’s quick and has the ability to defend.” As a senior at Norcross, Jones averaged 16.2 points, 2.5 assists and 3.3 steals per game. Tyrell McDowell, a 6-foot-5 forward/guard, “will see playing time anywhere from a two, three and four spot. Tyrell is long and he’s a good perimeter shooter and a good, smart defender,” Taylor said of McDowell, who averaged 1.7 points and 1.2 boards per contest during his sophomore season at The Citadel.
Also joining the AU backcourt is freshman D.J. McGowan, a guard who is already familiar with the Trojans’ basketball heritage. He is the brother of former Trojan standout Donielle Davis (2001-03), who stands fourth all-time on Anderson’s scoring list. He averaged 14 points, six rebounds and two assists per game for his father, Dondi McGowan, at Greenville High School last season. Geoffrey Hunter is a 5-10 freshman point guard from Southern High School in Durham, N.C., who averaged 15.4 points, 6.3 assists and 2.3 steals per game last season for the Spartans. He was a three-time letterwinner in basketball and also earned a letter in football. "We are fortunate to land a guard of Geoffrey's talent,” said Taylor. “He is a true point guard and is a very powerful, quick player that loves to compete.”
Adding depth to the wing, Kyle Sledge is a 6-foot-6 200 pound forward who averaged nine points and six rebounds per game for Hillgrove (Ga.) High School last season and helped lead the Hawks to a 24-6 record and an appearance in the GHSA Class AAAA State Tournament Elite Eight in 2010. “Kyle is extremely long and athletic,” noted Taylor.
Chris Ross, a native of Moore, S.C. is a 6-8 post player who will see time down low for the Trojans this season after posting three double-figure outings during his senior campaign at Dorman High School in Spartanburg.
“You never coach the same team two years in a row,” Taylor concluded. “So it will be exciting to watch these guys on the court. We need to have a single-minded focus to get better every day. If we have a work ethic and a mission to get better every day to get better every day, then we’ll have a good year.”
To say Anderson’s schedule will be challenging would be an understatement, as the Trojans have seven games versus five opponents that earned a berth in last season’s NCAA Tournament, including a season-opening matchup against three-time defending Southeast Regional champion Augusta State at the SAC/Peach Belt Classic beginning Friday at Tusculum. The contest will be rematch of the last season’s regional semifinals.
Augusta State is the three-time defending regional champion and has advanced to the D-II Elite Eight each of the last three years.
“It is certainly the most challenging schedule since I’ve been here.” added Taylor. “This weekend will be a great test for us and we will find out where we are and how far we have to go in terms of our program.”