By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
GSU men look for marquee win over Florida
Southern's Powers a former Gator ball boy
BKC GSU 120107 041
Louis Graham (left) and Georgia Southern will look to make a statement today when they face Florida at 3 p.m. in Jacksonville, Fla. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file
    Willie Powers has never rooted against the University of Florida. Until today that is.
    The precocious Georgia Southern freshman — once a ball boy for his hometown Gators — has shifted his allegiance for today’s 3 p.m. contest in Jacksonville, Fla., where the Eagles will take on the two-time defending national champions. The game will be televised on SportSouth and FSN Florida.
    “I’ve been cheering for them all my life,” said Powers, a fifth grader when he aided the Gators, who lost to Michigan State in the title game that year. “It’s exciting going up against my hometown school. All my family is coming down, and they are Gators too. Now we’ve all sort of turned against them. I’m still a football fan but not a basketball fan (today).”
    The Eagles (7-1) carry a seven-game winning streak — their longest before the New Year since 1950 — into the highly anticipated matchup. Georgia Southern’s only loss was a season-opening defeat by Florida State, the only team that’s topped the 9-1 Gators this season. GSU is the highest ranked Southern Conference team, sitting at No. 18 in this week’s mid-major poll.
    “We are feeling pretty confident, but we’ve got to stay humble at the same time so we can go out there and do our job,” senior guard Dwayne Foreman said.
    Eagle coach Jeff Price said it’s imperative the Eagles approach this afternoon’s game with poise and not show any signs of nervousness to be up against the reigning champs.
    “I don’t think our team will (be intimidated),” he said. “We’ve already played some good teams. A lot of these guys have already played Duke and Illinois and people like that, so I don’t think that’s going to be the case at all.”
    The Gators lost their entire starting lineup from a year ago and are currently unranked but are receiving votes in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls. Florida doesn’t have any seniors on its young roster, and just one starter, guard Walter Hodge, is a junior.
    “We’re feeling pretty good that the majority of those boys are gone, but they still have a good team with good chemistry and coach Billy Donovan,” Foreman said. “We’ve just got to prepare, do what we do best and worry about them later.”
    Five Gators average at least 9.8 points a game and only three players own shooting percentages of less than 50 percent from the field. Freshman guard Nick Calathes leads the way with team highs in points (15.6 per game), assists (60) and steals (15). He’s averaged 22 points in his last two outings.
    “They really shoot it well,” Price said. “They are just very smart, and all of their players are very skilled. They can all pass it, shoot it and make good decisions. They are just a very cerebral, skilled team that’s highly talented.”
    The Eagles are hoping playing on a neutral floor will be to their advantage, although with the game being roughly 70 miles away from Gainesville, they expect plenty of Gator faithful.
    “It’s certainly nice to get them on a different court, whether or not that’ll make a difference, we’ll find out,” Price said. “But I think our guys are a lot more comfortable than having to walk into Gainesville and play.”

    Alex Pellegrino can be reached at (912) 489-9413.