With the season approaching, it’s no surprise football has garnered most of the news lately. Georgia Southern Coach Chad Lunsford welcomed most of his team back the first week of June, and the Eagles have been working their way back from initial quarantine, to being able to begin the transition to conditioning.
The news regarding the Eagle basketball team has been a little slow, although recently that news has picked up. Coach Brian Burg has announced his coaching staff, as well as his new support staff, and as of June 26th the Eagles have added eight new signees to the basketball roster.
“It’s an exciting time for Eagle basketball,” Burg said. “As of 3:00 on Friday we have our four returning starters, as well as all eight signees officially on campus here in Statesboro. Right now they are moving in and will begin the quarantine process. When that finishes they will begin to get in the weight room, so it’s very structured.”
The four returning players are Elijah McCadden, David Viti, Zack Bryant, who sat out last year after transferring from UAB and Ralueke McFatten who sat out last year after transferring from Eastern Washington.
The Eagles have only officially released four of the eight signees for the upcoming season. Eric Boone is a 6-3 Junior College transfer from John A. Logan College where he averaged 15.5 points per game. Cam Bryant is a 6-7 incoming freshman who averaged 15 points per game last season at Dutchtown High School. Kaden Archie is a 6-6 transfer from UTEP who was rated as a four-star prospect out of high school where he averaged 18 points and six rebounds per game. He was also ranked as the number three prospect in the state of Texas. Gedi Juozapaitis is a 6-5 transfer from Flagler College where he averaged 16.7 points per game and 7.9 rebounds per contest.
Rounding out the roster are: Kamari Brown, a 6-4 guard from Panola Junior College, Andrei Savrasov a 6-7 redshirt sophomore from Texas Tech, Prince Toyambi a 6-6 redshirt Sophomore from the University of Cincinnati, and Grant Weatherford a 6-2 transfer from IUPUI where he averaged nine points per game.
“The big thing that stands out about our signing group is the length and athleticism,” Burg said. “Guys who have the ability to pass, shoot and defend. These attributes, along with good character are what we need here at Georgia Southern to fit our style. We still have one scholarship remaining, and we are excited about rounding out our class.”
The biggest hurdle facing Burg is the fact that only two returning players have any significant playing time, while 10 others on the roster have never taken the floor as a member of the Eagle basketball team.
“This is almost the same exact thing we faced at Arkansas Little Rock five years ago,” Burg said. “We had five returners and signed 10 players. That was one of the most remarkable seasons in Sun Belt history when we won 30 games, and were fortunate enough to go on to beat Purdue in the NCAA tournament.”
“I got hired in the first part of April so I’m itching to get on the court,” Burg said. “First and foremost is the health and safety of our student athletes. Once they have met the protocols to be able to advance, we will get them on the court and try and build some chemistry.”
At the end of April Burg announced that he had named Shawn Forrest, Chris Shumate and Tim MacAllister as assistant coaches. Forrest is a 22-year coaching veteran, a tenure which includes stops at Sun Belt schools Louisiana, Arkansas State and Troy. Shumate was an assistant at Northern Kentucky where he helped the Norse to two NCAA appearances and one trip to the NIT. MacAllister comes to Statesboro from Texas Tech where he served as the program’s Chief of Staff.
“I am really excited about the staff we have put together,” said Burg. “These guys are proven winners with a non-ego mentality. They embody the blue-collar mentality that we embrace here at Georgia Southern.”
Burg also filled out his support staff by hiring Anthony Johnson, Rusty Grafel and Reed Ridder to his staff. Johnson spent the last season as the director of player development/video coordinator at the College of Charleston. Grafel was most recently a graduate assistant at Texas Tech, after serving as head coach at Colby Community College from 2012-2019. Ridder spent last season as a graduate manager at the University of Georgia, after playing professionally overseas the previous two seasons.
“I feel like we have hit a home run with our staff,” Burg said. “They all have a lot of experience, and the one common theme they all have is how good they are at player relationships.”
Burg has had some time on his hands and says he has spent it getting to know people in the community, as well as visiting many local eateries.
“I think I have probably eaten at every restaurant in Statesboro since I got here in April,” Burg said. “I’ve enjoyed meeting people in the community. Covid-19 has slowed some of my meeting with people down, but I really love the mentality of the Statesboro community. There’s a blue collar mentality, people aren’t afraid of rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, and I feel fortunate to be here.”