MONTGOMERY – After four weeks of practice the Alabama State Hornets men’s basketball team is ready to begin the 2014-15 as they host long-time, cross-town rival Auburn Montgomery.
The Hornets are heading into the new season with 11 returners, including all five starters, back from a team that finished 19-13 last season and tied for second in the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) with a 12-6 record. Having all of those players returning has not gone unnoticed as ASU has been picked to win the SWAC by a preseason vote of the SWAC’s head coaches.
The coaching staff has added seven players. Five of those are signees while the other two sat at last season as redshirts after sustaining season-ending injuries.
“We have all our guys back from last year and so we are excited about that,” Head Coach Lewis Jackson said. “We’ve added some new players as well. On our perimeter we added a local player Steve Rogers who played at Brew Tech and was a great scorer. We added Chidozie Omile who is also a great scorer and is a big guard, about 6’-5”, who could play the two or three.”
“In the middle we added two big guys. We have Robert Ojeah a 6’-9”, 250 guy, that sat out last season and is now back, healthy and ready to go. We have a transfer from Mississippi State Wendell Lewis that graduated from there and has another year to play. So he’s going to play his final year with us at Alabama State.”
“We are going to be different on the inside with Wendell and Big Rob,” Jackson said. “I have always been a coach that wants to play inside out. Luther and Maurice have done a tremendous job for us down in the paint and they will continue to get touches down there for us, but adding 6’-9” and 6’-10” guys around the basket that understands how to score around the basket, and can also pass out of doubles teams, it is going to really give us a really great look and can put additional pressure on teams.”
Other additions to the team are guards Trey Scott and Jamar Pope. Another player who sat out last season with an injury is Darius Sizemore, another big guard that stands 6’-5”.
“We are excited about this group and what can happen,” Lewis said. “We are in here working hard trying to get better each and every day.”
Among the starters returning for ASU are all-everything guard Jamel Waters. He finished the season at the top of the SWAC and one of the leaders in the nation in assists (6.1), while also being among the top five players in the conference in scoring (14.1) and steals (1.8).
Other starters are Luther Page (6.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), Maurice Strong (8.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg), DeMarcus Robinson (11.5 ppg) and Brandon Graham (9.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg).
ASU also has returning a player that was probably the top sixth-player in the SWAC, Bobby Brown. He averaged 9.5 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per outing.
Unlike the past several seasons, ASU will not have the luxury of playing exhibition games before the start of the regular season so Friday’s game with AUM will jump start them into a busy opening weekend of play.
Following Friday’s game which is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. as part of a double-header with the women, the men will jump on the bus early Saturday and travel to Fayetteville, Ark., where they will face the Arkansas Razorbacks Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Courtesy: Alabama State Athletics