By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
GSU Men's basketball preview
Placeholder Image
    With the preseason rapidly coming to a close and Monday’s season opener at Florida State lurking, Georgia Southern’s men’s basketball team is opting to keep its focus inward.
    “We just try to get better every single practice and not harp on playing Florida State and how big the game is,” said coach Jeff Price, who’s entering his ninth season at the helm. “Every possession of every practice we have to compete and play hard and improve. We don’t have time to take days off.”
    The team returns two starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s 15-16 (7-11 Southern Conference) team, the first group to finish below .500 in eight years. Injuries and close losses plagued the Eagles last season, and they’re determined to improve this year. Doing so will require blending numerous newcomers with key returners and developing much-needed chemistry. Many of the new Eagles will be asked to contribute immediately, and those players are still working on learning the system.
    “Right now it’s kind of a slow process,” senior point guard Dwayne Foreman said. “At the same time, it’s our job as seniors and captains of this team to make sure the other players know what they are doing and teach them what’s right from wrong out there on the court at all times.”
    Foreman said practices have been competitive but not as much as he’d like them to be.
    “We’ve got some that know what to do, and some that don’t,” he said. “It’s kind of understandable because we’ve got a lot of newcomers, and they don’t know what to expect to play at a Division I, high level like this.”
    Foreman and senior forward Louis Graham, the program’s all-time blocks leader, were both starters last year and will be counted on heavily to help fill gaps left by last year’s leading scorer Donte Gennie, Jimmy Tobias and Diogo Salazar. Foreman and Graham are two of five seniors the Eagles will rely on, particularly in the early going. Keeping Graham out of foul trouble will be important.
    “It’s going to be tremendous how much we lean on them because we are going to have to have them with their experience,” Price said.
    Outside of Graham and Foreman, starting jobs are still up for grabs. Senior forward Matt Fields will be in the mix, along with senior center Ryan Hynes, senior guard Anthony Marshall and freshman guard Willie Powers. The Eagles are also optimistic about junior guard Julian Allen, a junior college all-American last year at Garden City Community College in Kansas, and sophomore guard Antoine Johnson.
    “Those guys are going to have to learn right away, on the job while they are playing,” Price said of the new Eagles. “And that’s just part of the game — getting your new guys ready and getting everybody together.”
    The Eagles don’t have the depth at guard they’ve enjoyed in the past, so they’ll look to be creative with scoring to make up for a lack of shooters. Free-throw shooting, ability to score in transition, creating points on defense and offensive rebounding are focal points being hammered in at practice.
    “I challenge our team everyday that we need to be the best offensive rebounding team in the conference,” Price said. “That’s going to be a big goal – finding a way to get second shots.”
    Hopefully for GSU, a thin outside game will be balanced by solid players in the middle where there are a lot of options. Graham, Fields, junior Kenny Ward and junior college transfer Trumaine Pearson are GSU’s agile inside players, and the Eagles are also equipped with big bodies like Hynes and sophomore Krzysztof Janiszewski, who combined to lose 55 pounds this offseason.
    “It’s probably our deepest team on the front line I’ve had since I’ve been here,” Price said. “You may see a different type of team — not a slow-down team — but a team that maybe finds different ways to score in transition and maybe a little bit more inside.”
    It should be another tough year in the Southern Conference where everyone is chasing heavyweight Davidson, which returns everyone after winning 29 games last year.
    “It’s an open-field right now, and everyone is trying to feel their way out in the Southern Conference,” Graham said. “We are looking forward to it.”
    Price said the league is as good as it’s been in his time at Georgia Southern.
    “Every year I say the league gets better, and this year is no different,” he said. “You have to come ready to play every single game no matter who you play.”
    After opening the season with a five-game road trip, the Eagles host Mercer for their home opener on Monday, Nov. 26. The Bears beat No. 18  Southern Cal 96-81 on Saturday. Along with 20 SoCon games, GSU’s slate includes a date with two-time defending national champion Florida on Saturday, Dec. 15 in Jacksonville, Fla.
    “This season is going to be very exciting,” Foreman said.

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