Spring Hill College men's basketball head coach Robert Thompson is noticeably excited to begin the 2012-2013 season. "We return five key players from last season and all of them were major contributors last year," he says. "This year, we have one of the most experienced teams we've had in a while and this group has made significant improvements over the off-season."
The five returning veterans for the Badgers are led by senior guard Ricky Sears of Decatur, Ala. "Ricky is the type of person that people just naturally gravitate toward," says Thompson. "He has truly accepted the challenge of being our team leader this year."
Thompson also sees renewed confidence in transfer junior guard Todd Martin from Mobile's St. Paul's Episcopal School. "Todd had to make the transition from the system at the University of South Alabama to our system last year and he has finally become comfortable in it," Thompson says. "Now that he has settled in this will be a big year for him." Sophomore forward Frederick Gatson of Riverdale, Ga., has returned for the new season in great physical shape according to Thompson. "Nigel is rebounding strong and becoming a serious presence under the basket," he says.
Junior forward Alex Looney from Murphy High School in Mobile returns after off-season shoulder surgery. "Alex does the little things right that make a team better," Thompson says. "The fans might not be impressed with his statistics, but he does the things that make a coach happy." The final veteran returner is senior forward Brett Williams of Oviedo, Fla., who Thompson sees as an important piece to this year's puzzle. "Brett understands that he needs to do whatever we need him to do and he is committed to this role and doing it well," Thompson says.
Joining the five veteran players will be redshirt freshman point guard Ben Redman of Spanish Fort, Ala., who is a talented and intelligent young player.
The Badger newcomers are highlighted by junior forward Andre Gowins of Gautier, Miss. "Andre makes a physical difference for our team this year," says Thompson. Not only is he a strong player, but he runs the floor well. We're fortunate to have him because our style of inside-out basketball fits his style and he should be a consistent double-digit scorer for us." Joining Gowins is junior guard Robert Gipson of W.P. Davidson High School in Mobile. "Robert has a high basketball I.Q." says Thompson. "He can also hit his shot from outside and we'll need that 3-point threat to open the inside."
Junior guard Ty McCants of Pensacola, Fla., has impressed Thompson with his on-court demeanor and his quickness. Thompson is also struck by sophomore guard Robert Drummond's strong physical game. Drummond is a transfer from Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.
Adding to size and strength of the Badgers' inside game is 6'10" freshman center Dejan Stefanovic from Paracin, Serbia. "Dejan is a very good player with a strong knowledge of the game," says Thompson. "He is a consistent player and has a huge future with our program." Freshman Sam Hutcheson of Hoover, Ala., is also a big inside player who joins the Spring Hill squad with a bright future. "Sam is a very smart player," says Thompson. "He is a lot like Alex Looney in that he does the intangibles of the game right. You might not notice his contributions from the stands, but on the bench we see what a difference he can make."
Freshmen Quinton Campbell of Wilmer, Ala., and Joseph Ferro of Ocala, Fla., will be important to the future of SHC basketball. "Campbell is an athletic and versatile player who is very smart with the ball," says Thompson. "Ferro is just a relentless player who will impress fans with his hustle." Sophomore Desmond Phillips of Decatur, Ala., has also earned a space on the roster this season and will add depth to the team.
When speaking about 2012-2013 season, Thompson says that the Southern States Athletic Conference will be a tougher test than ever this year. "The SSAC is a scary league," he says. "Everybody has gotten better and the question will be which team has improved the most. I think our advantage is our experience. We have a very smart team with great team chemistry. It's our job as a coaching staff to put the ingredients together in the right way and give the players the chance to win."
"This year we are telling our team to focus on the ABCs - academics, basketball and character," Thompson says. "If we can take care of those three things, this season will be a successful one."
Spring Hill College will open the season at home versus non-conference foe Fisk University (0-1) on Friday beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Arthur R. Outlaw Recreation Center.