Excitement and expectations are high for the University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team as the squad begins another season as a top contender for the GLVC and Midwest Region championships.
The Screaming Eagles completed their 16th straight winning season last year, posting a 15-12 overall mark. Last year’s winning record also was the 22nd positive finish to a campaign in the last 24 years, but the team fell short of advancing to the conference post-season.
The last 24 years have included 17 20-win seasons and 12 25-plus victory campaigns for the Eagles. USI also has appeared in 10 of the 11 GLVC tournaments since 1997-98 and 14 of the last 16 NCAA Division II tournaments since 1992-93.
USI Head Coach Rick Herdes, who has led the Eagles to 27-or-more wins in four of the last five years, will have the job of meshing eight returning players and 11 newcomers in 2008-09. Herdes will have to replace 80 percent of the scoring and 62 percent of the rebounding from last year’s team.
The squad will lean heavily on senior forward Anthony Pimble, the team’s top returning scorer, and senior guard Kenny Love, who was redshirted last year after a knee injury. Pimble dropped in 11.4 points per game during his first season, while Love averaged 7.8 points per contest during his first season with the Eagles in 2006-07.
USI also will look for major contributions from four other returning players – junior forward/center George Cunningham, junior guard Brent Owen, sophomore forward Nick Duncheon, and redshirt-freshman guard Derrick Lee. Duncheon averaged 3.7 points and 1.2 rebounds per game during his first season, while Cunningham posted 3.1 points and 3.5 rebounds per contest.
Also returning after redshirting last year is junior forward Brandon Carr. Carr transferred to USI after averaging 13.1 points and 8.0 rebounds per appearance at the Community College of Baltimore County at Cantonsville in 2006-07.
To solve the depth problem at guard that plagued the Eagles last season, USI and Herdes have added six new players in the back court. Junior Marvin Gray and sophomore Kevin Gant transfer from junior college ranks, while freshmen Jared Gray, Brandon Hogg, and Levi Holscher begin collegiate career as Eagles.
Marvin Gray comes to USI after leading Indian River Community College to
a 22-9 record and a number five ranking in the Florida Junior College
Athletic Association in 2007-08. He led the team with a 14.7 points, 6.1
assists, and 3.1 steals per game, while also grabbing 4.2 rebounds per
The Freeport, Bahamas, native also earned first team All-FJCAA Southern Conference honors for a second year in a row in 2007-08. He also was named All-State and All-Division both seasons, while receiving the 2008 Pioneer Pride Award (team most valuable player) at the end of this year.
Overall in two years at IRCC, Gray averaged 14.5 points, 5.2 assists, 3.1 steals, and 4.1 rebounds per game. He also scored a two-year high 32 points against Broward Community College and dished out 12 assists against Santa Fe Community College this past season.
Gant returns to his Indiana roots after one season at Lake Michigan
College in Benton Harbor, Michigan. He was selected for the Western MCCAA
All-Stars after averaging eight points, 7.9 assists, and three steals per
game. The 7.9 assists per game ranked sixth in the NJCAA, while the
All-Western Division player set the Lake Michigan single-game (17) and
single-season (229) records for assists.
Prior to attending Lake Michigan, Gant played for North Central High School in Indianapolis. He was an alternate for the Hoosier Basketball Top 40 in 2006-07 and tied for 20th in Indiana for assists per game.
Jared Gray finished his prep basketball career at Castle High School (Newburgh, Indiana) by averaging 16.5 points and five assists as a senior He was named Hoosier Basketball Magazine All-State as a junior and senior and earned All-Metro and All-SIAC honors in his final two seasons with the Knights.
Hogg will start his collegiate career after a successful four seasons at Edwardsville High School in Edwardsville, Illinois. A fourth team Illinois Basketball Coaches Association All-State selection, Hogg averaged 14.0 points, 8.1 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game. His 8.1 assists per game led the St. Louis area in that statistical category.
Holscher was named the Vincennes Sun-Commercial Player of the Year and to the Evansville Courier & Press All-Southwestern Indiana team after averaging 18.2 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last year for South Knox High School. He finishes his career as the SKHS all-time leading scorer (1,296 career points) and all-time leader in steals (192).
In the front court, the Eagles will replace honorable mention All-American and first team All-GLVC Norman Plummer.
To ease the transition, USI has three talented transfers from the junior college ranks in junior forwards Brandon Russ, Tyrone Bradshaw, Jeron Lewis, and guard/forward Isaac Stoll.
Russ transfers to USI from St. Catherine College, where he was a first team All-Region and first team All-Tennessee Junior and Community College Athletic Association. The All-State and All-Division honoree averaged 16.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game for the Patriots, who were 22-6 overall. He led the Western Division of the TJCCAA with an 11-5 record. Russ' 16.1 scoring average was 15th in the TJCCAA.
Bradshaw comes to USI from Southwestern Illinois College, where he averaged nine points, three rebounds, and a team-high 2.5 blocks per game. He also posted season-bests of 32 points against Lake Land College and seven rebounds against Highland Community College.
Lewis averaged 9.1 points and 4.8 rebounds per game at Northeastern Junior College (Sterling, Colorado), while shooting 60.4 percent from the field (122-202) in 2007-08. He started his collegiate career at Wabash Valley College (Mt. Carmel, Illinois), averaging 4.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per contest.
Stoll makes the switch from Division I baseball at Southeast Missouri State University to USI basketball. He has strong basketball roots, developed on IHSAA class 3A state championship team at Washington High School. Stoll averaged 11.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game during the championship season.
USI starts the 2008-09 regular season campaign in search of history as it plays in the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic for the third time in four seasons. USI will be trying to win a tournament-record fourth championship in five appearances at the preseason tournament, which runs November 7-9.
USI will play Saint Martin University, Minnesota State University, and Bentley College in the three-day tournament.
Prior to playing in the Disney Classic, the Screaming Eagles will play an exhibition game against the University of Evansville November 1. The Eagles last played the Aces in 2006 and will be completing a three-games-in-five-seasons contract that began in 2004.
The 2008-09 campaign also features 19 USI home contests, beginning November 15 against Urbana University to start a six-game homestand. The 19-game home schedule includes nine GLVC contests.
The second annual Bill Joergens Memorial Tournament is November 28-29. The Thanksgiving classic-style tournament features USI, Bellarmine University, Florida Southern College, and King College.
Sandwiched between the opener with Urbana and the Bill Joergens Memorial Tournament, the Eagles host Harris-Stowe State University on November 18; the University of Saint Francis on November 22; and Missouri Baptist University on November 24. USI finishes the non-conference schedule with Temple Baptist College December 13; Maryville College December 20; Tiffin University December 30; and Lake Erie College on January 26.
GLVC play begins on the road in 2008-09 when USI goes to Lewis University on December 4. The Eagles will ring in the New Year by starting the home-half of the GLVC Schedule against Saint Joseph’s College on January 2.
A highlight of the conference home schedule is the “Battle for the Bridge” game between USI and Kentucky Wesleyan College on January 15. USI has won the last four regular season battles in the rivalry, including last season’s 79-77 victory in Owensboro, Kentucky.
The GLVC West Division will be different this year with the move of
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville to Division I. USI will host Drury
University, which advanced to the NCAA II Great Lakes Regional last year,
for the Eagles’ homecoming game February 7.