New-Look Trojans Open Season At Bearcat Classic

ANDERSON, S.C. -- After struggling through a difficult 2002-03 season, Anderson College head men’s basketball coach Doug Novak believes he has refocused his program during the off-season. “There’s a picture in our minds of where we want to be,” said Novak, who is entering his fifth season at AC. “We’re not there. We’re not even close. But we’re going in the right direction.” The Trojans open the 2003-04 season this week at the Bearcat Classic at Lander University in Greenwood. AC will play Georgia College Saturday at 6 p.m. and then face host Lander Sunday at 4 p.m. After losing nearly half of last year’s roster to graduation, Novak brought eight new players into the program. Six of the newcomers have played point guard in either high school or college. “That’s by design because I didn’t want to get caught without adequate ball handlers again,” Novak said. “They’re real flexible players. None of them are pure point guards, but they’ve all played some point and they all understand how to play the game and how the other positions work.” The lone returning starter is Joel C. Zimmerman (Sr., 6-3, Knoxville, Tenn.), who was third on the team in scoring last season with 9.4 points per game. Zimmerman scored in double figures in 13 games last season with a high of 22 points against Longwood on Jan. 18. Other returnees include Selynto Anderson (Sr., 6-2, McCormick, S.C.), Khori Brewton (Sr., 5-10, Woodruff, S.C.), Alfred Boykin (So., 6-1, Fayetteville, Ga.), Nick Harris (Sr., 6-3, Ninety Six, S.C.), and Osvaldo Haynes (Jr., 6-7, Greenwood, S.C.) “The returning players had great springs,” Novak said. “I made it tough on them and they kept showing up. They kept coming back. That says something. There’s some good leadership there, some good character, and some toughness.” Novak is hoping the newcomers can add some firepower to the AC offense that depended heavily on the 3-point shot last season. The Trojans shot just 42 percent from the field, but they shot almost 37 percent from behind the arc and made 76 more treys than the opposition. “There will be more touches inside this year, but we have plenty of shooters,” Novak said. “We relied on the three more last year because that what those players could do. We have better finishers in this group around the basket and on the fast break.” Novak is undecided about his team’s offensive tempo. In the last two seasons, the Trojans have relied heavily on a motion offense that requires patience to execute. “Whatever tempo we chose, it will be extreme,” he said. “There will be nothing in between. It won’t be kind of fast – it will be really fast. It won’t be kind of slow – it will be really slow. We haven’t nailed it down yet. We will run on every turnover. I know how I like to play, but I also know it not always wise to press Pfeiffer or pick up Queens point guard full court.” Four of the top newcomers are J.R. Howell (Fr., 6-1, Clemson, S.C.), Chris Poore (Fr., 6-4, Greeneville, Tenn.), Travis Tate (Fr., 6-3, Jamesville, Tenn.), and Kennedy Bass (Jr., 6-5, Tortolia, Virgin Islands). “J.R. is a heady player who may be one of the best shooters we’ve got,” Novak said. “Chris is a strong, versatile player. Travis is an extremely strong guard who may be the best passer on the team. Kennedy is one of the best athletes we’ve had here. I coached him when he was 16. He can get to the rim. He played point guard in junior college, but he’ll be playing inside for us.” During preseason workouts, Novak was impressed with his team’s discipline and work ethic. “They will do anything,” he said. “There’s virtually no ego. It’s a team ego. If I was to tell them we will go 30 seconds without a shot, there’s no convincing. They see the big picture better than any other team I’ve been around. Our new guys have been coached well. “This is a great group to build with. They probably will win a championship before it’s all said and done. They’re that good, and they’re that strong mentally. We’ve always been a little of the underdog. That’s what we should be.” Defensively, Novak expects to change defenses more than he did last season. “We want to be as disruptive as possible,” he said. “We will try not to let anybody get the same look. We’ll play more like we did two years ago. Last year, we had to pack in a zone to compete. We want to be a pain on the defensive end. We want to be irritating.” The Carolinas-Virginia Athletic Conference sent three teams to the NCAA Division II Tournament last season. Novak expects the quality of the league to be just as high this year. “Last year, the league was the best it has been since I’ve been here,” he said. “For us to be at the top of the CVAC, we have to be competitive nationally. Our goal is to be the best executing team in the conference. If we’re not the best executing team in the conference, we’ll finish last. If we are the best, we could give some of the top teams a scare.”
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