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Youthful Trojans Travel To Aiken For Opener

ANDERSON, S.C. -- New players. New attitudes. First-year head coach Jason Taylor is determined to used an influx of new players to rebuild the Anderson University men’s basketball program. “I’ve been surprised how quickly guys have been able to catch on to things,” said Taylor, who spent three years as an assistant before he was named head coach last May. “We don’t have one player who is not coachable. I believe every player on our team has bought in and has tried to do the best they can with everything we’re trying to teach and do. As a coach, you don’t always have that. “New or not, kids have attitudes or they don’t have attitudes. We’re just fortunate we don’t have any kids who think they are bigger than the program. Every kid we’ve got is excited to be a part of something bigger than themselves. They all buy into that concept. We don’t have any selfish guys.” The Trojans open the 2006-07 season Friday in the USC Aiken Classic. Anderson will play Lenior-Rhyne Friday at 5:30 p.m. and host USC Aiken Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Taylor’s first team at Anderson will be built around the four returnees – seniors J.R. Howell and John LeSueur and juniors Nathan Russell and Kris Fudzinskas. Howell was third on the team in scoring last season at 10.7 points per game and made 67 of 159 attempts from behind the arc. LeSueur averaged 9.0 points per game and was second on the team in rebounding. Fudzinskas averaged 6.7 points in 19.2 minutes per game. “John and J.R. have played a lot of minutes in the league, and they have proven they can compete,” Taylor said. “Kris has a chance to be one of the best post players in our league if he keeps working. He had a great fall.” This year’s Anderson team will be one of the biggest in recent memory. Five of the 11 newcomers are 6-foot-5 or taller. “We have more versatility as a whole,” Taylor said. “Since I’ve been here we’ve had a policy that we don’t like to recruit guys who can do just one thing. We always like guys who can be versatile. The biggest emphasis this year was finding a couple bigs and some guys who can put the ball in the basket. I think we did that.” Levi Ashworth, a freshman from Kingsport, Tenn., is the biggest of the newcomers at 6-10, 230. Joining Fudzinskas and Ashworth inside are Josh Beale (6-8, 190) and Stoney Hill (6-5, 175). “Josh, Levi, and Stoney have improved so much from the first week,” Taylor said. “They have showed a lot of poise in the post. They have learned to catch in the post and play the game with their back to the basket.” Taylor is still sorting out the perimeter, but he’s got plenty to choose from and he believes the Trojans, who shot .452 from the field last season, will be a better shooting team this season. “I’m not sure who we have as far as point guards, two guards, and three guards, but we’ve got several guys who can shoot it,” he said. “John and J.R. can shoot it. Rande Sibley has the potential to be as good a shooter as the program has ever seen. B.J. Ware is a very good shooter. Jonathan Mattox, I call him the Big Fundamental, does everything you ask him to do and he does it correctly. He’s very solid and one of the best finishers on the team. L.A. Sartor is as strong as you could hope for with a freshman guard and shows potential to be a solid point guard. Josh Stanley is extremely versatile and can play all five positions, and Robert Cain can play three through five for us.” On the offensive end, the Trojans will try to take advantage of their size and mid-range shooting with a triangle offense. Defensively, Taylor wants the Trojans to be a hard-nosed man-to-man team. “I think our rebounding will be better because of our size,” Taylor said. “We want to run off the other team’s misses. I think we’ve got some guards who can catch and go with it and make some good decisions. We’ve got five or six guys who can possibly get hot on any given night. That’s exciting.” Taylor is expecting a lot of the same from the Carolinas-Virginia Athletics Conference, which has sent a team to the Elite Eight six straight years. “The CVAC is one of the best leagues in the country,” he said. “The best teams in this league have 6-0 to 6-5 athletes. We’ve got some other good things to combat that. We’ve got nice size. A lot of the teams in our league don’t have big posts. We’ve got some big posts who can play. We’ve got some guys who can stretch the defense, and we’ve got a couple of guys with nice mid-range games.” The schedule begins with five games away from the Abney Center followed by nine of the next 11 at home. “With a young team I worry about starting on the road,” Taylor said. “We’ve got to figure out how to win a couple of games early. Our guys have got to figure out how to win some games. If we want to build something, we’ve got to figure out how to put our guys in position to win and gain some confidence and go from there. I like the direction we’re going in. I could not ask for a better first team to coach.”
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