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Football can wait: GS hoops brings just as much excitement
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On Monday night, the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team rallied for a 74-70 victory over UL Lafayette. With the win, the Eagles held their spot in the current three-way tie atop the Sun Belt standings and figure to remain a force when the conference tournament rolls around next month.
    There was just one problem with Monday’s win - only 1,373 were there to see it.
    It’s time for students, local residents and alumni to get behind every team that suits up in blue and white.
    Georgia Southern has long prided itself as a football power and has usually kept most of its athletic focus on the gridiron, regardless of the success of other teams. So it’s understandable that some Eagle fans are still a bit bummed out about this fall’s 5-7 mark and lack of a bowl game.
    But if they bother to look around for a minute, they’d see that Georgia Southern is primed for one of its best all-around runs in the sports realm in recent memory.
    While the men’s basketball team is set up to contend for a top seed and a bye in the Sun Belt tournament, there are reasons to think that the best is yet to come. This year’s squad returned all of its starters from last season’s overachieving youthful team and stands to bring all five back once again in 2017-18. Next year’s team (which will presumably be made up of experienced juniors and seniors) figured to be a bright spot, but the team seems to be arriving at a nationally competitive level ahead of schedule.
    And things are going similarly well as of late for the Eagles’ women’s squad. Kip Drown took over last season and made modest improvements with a very young team. This time around, the Eagles’ seniors are playing at a high level while the recruits of the last couple of seasons have started to kick things into gear. Georgia Southern has won six of its last eight games, is in the running for a solid conference tournament seed, and has already matched the combined conference win total of its first two seasons in the Sun Belt.
    Those two teams are reason enough to get excited about Georgia Southern, but there’s more.
    Last spring, the Georgia Southern baseball team hit its stride in the final weeks of the season and made a run all the way to the Sun Belt championship game. With the 2017 season set to begin next week, the Eagles return most of their position players from last season, along with its entire weekend starting rotation and a back half of the bullpen that was an overwhelming force during the 2016 postseason.
    On the softball diamond, Georgia Southern has spent two seasons adjusting to Sun Belt life as the conference ranks among the best in the nation. Steady improvement was made last season and the Eagles hope to continue the trend with a wealth of talent returning this season with another year of experience in their back pocket.
    If individual(ish) sports are more your speed, Georgia Southern is still the answer.
    The women’s golf team - now in its second season of play - took a huge step forward during the fall season. The men’s squad has won two of its last three conference tournaments and Jake Storey won an individual tournament held at the Georgia Southern University Course earlier this week.
    So, to all of the Eagle fans out there still licking their wounds from football season, feel free to reach out and take this lifeline. Finding joy and pride in rooting for Georgia Southern doesn’t have to wait until September.
    Amongst social media and local circles, the last few weeks have been dominated by talk of the coaching changes that have been made to the football team and of the recruits who signed on for the 2017 season. And that’s all well and good.
    Football will always be a 12-month saga in Statesboro, but there is enough money, time and passion amongst the ranks of Eagle fans to make sure that other sports primed for big seasons are also supported.
    So brush up on your knowledge of lane violations. Reacquaint yourselves with the infield fly rule and get a firm hold on the ground rules at Forest Heights for the upcoming Schenkel Invitational.
    I promise that football will be back - and will still need your love - in a few months. Until then, why not shift some of your school spirit to other teams who are just as deserving of your support?