The 2010-11 Men's Basketball season is a new chapter for the Spring Hill College Badgers and Head Coach Robert Thompson. SHC has moved into the newly expanded Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) and this year's roster features 11 new names.
"We're definitely excited about the move to the new conference," says Thompson. "It's a new level of competition with teams that will challenge us every night."
Thompson is also happy with the intensity level that his squad has shown in the preseason. "Our guys have come in with a professional attitude this year," he says. They have worked hard and have shown a lot of excitement. With so many new players, we have to wait and see how they will respond to adversity and to travel, but we have the ingredients to be a really good team."
The list of Thompson's ingredients begins with 6'8" senior center Nick Brown of Rota, Spain, who begins his fourth year in the middle of the Badger offense. "Nick has worked hard and transformed his body over the summer," says Thompson. "He arrived in the best shape of his career and that shows his level of dedication to helping his team."
Backing up Brown is fellow senior Sylvester Twiggs from Bay St. Louis, Miss. Sly's physical style of play has cost him several injuries in his career, but not dampened his intensity level. Freshman Blake Taylor of Jackson, Ala., will also see significant minutes in reserve this season.
The biggest question facing Thompson going into the new season is who will replace two-time honorable mention NAIA All-America selection Marcus Coleman at shooting guard? "That's the million-dollar question," Thompson says. "We have a few players who are fighting to carry the torch and right now it looks like junior Kyle Watkins from Montgomery, Ala., is stepping into that slot. He still needs to learn more about what we do and how we do it, but he's catching on quickly." Another strong candidate for the position is freshman Brandon Blake of Oxford, Miss., who particularly impressed his coach at the annual Purple-White preseason scrimmage.
At point guard, junior Tyler Schwab will return to distributing the ball on offense after a solid sophomore season. "Tyler has a big heart," says Thompson. "With him at the point guard position, we can either run the ball up and down or we can fall into a half court offense and let him make decisions." Thompson has confidence in his depth at the point guard spot as junior transfer Stephen Burches of Hammond, La., and Southeastern Louisiana University is challenging Schwab everyday in practice.
Junior guard Steve Edwards of Newton, Miss., has made his presence felt at practices as has freshmen Jonathan Barlow Ocean Springs, Miss., and Charles Gordon from Birmingham, Ala., and each of them will earn their stripes this year.
While confident in his players, Thompson is still cautious when speaking about the Spring Hill forward positions. "Right now, we're ‘playing the piano' with our forwards. We have a lot of keys and they each sound good, but we have to play them in the right combinations." Senior Greg Gardner from Long Beach, Miss., and redshirt freshman Alex Looney from Mobile's Murphy High School appear to have laid claim to the positions. "Greg is a proven player and we need to get him more playing time. Alex puts in a lot of effort and brings energy, but he needs to gain experience."
Junior Rico Dread of Jackson, Ala., will also fight for a starting role. "Rico has so much energy and he brings so much athleticism that it's hard not to have him on the court," says Thompson.
"We have so many new players to work into our system this year that it might take us awhile to work out the chemistry," Thompson says. "But the guys have worked very hard and have shown a great attitude so far. Once we smooth out some rough edges, this team has the potential to become very good."
Spring Hill College will open the 2010-11 season at home on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. versus Voorhees College (1-0) in the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.