The University of Southern Indiana men's basketball team enters a new era as Head Coach Rick Herdes takes the helm of the Screaming Eagles in 2001-02.
While there will be a new face in charge of the program, the same success the Eagles have seen the past nine seasons will continue. Herdes, who has been the associate head coach the past two seasons, has been with the program for nine years and has seen his recruiting classes produce a record of 231-46 (.834). Those nine seasons also include the 1995 NCAA II National Championship team, the 1994 NCAA II Finalist team, four Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships, and nine straight trips to the NCAA II Tournament.
To help get the regime off to a flying start, Herdes has brought in Marc Hostetter and Stan Gouard as assistant coaches. Both were key ingredients as players during the 1995 national championship season.
Herdes will begin building his team on the back of senior forward Marlowe Currie (St. Louis, Missouri). Currie, a second team All-GLVC and All-Region performer from a year ago, led the Eagles with 17.0 ppg and 7.6 rpg, both ranking in the top 10 of the GLVC.
Looking to move back into the starting line-up in 2001-02 are junior forward Diond're Givens (Mt. Vernon, Indiana) and sophomore forward Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois). Givens averaged 8.6 ppg and 3.7 rpg in 30 contests a year ago, while Harris hopes to return from a season-ending knee injury.
Harris averaged 8.7 ppg and 3.9 rpg as a freshman in 1999-2000.
Off the bench, senior forward/center Shirica Shy (Gordon, Georgia), who picked up 5.3 rpg while averaging 2.9 ppg, will be expected to play a larger role as a senior.
New to the frontcourt this season will be senior forward Ronnie Griffin (Louisville, Kentucky), who is transferring to USI from the University of Oklahoma. Griffin, who played in 13 games last season for the Sooners, averaged 4.8 ppg and 3.4 rpg and had a season-high 18 points against Coppin State College.
Newcomer Jake Howe (Evansville, Indiana), a freshman from Evansville's Harrison High School, will join Griffin in the frontcourt. Howe averaged 11.8 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and 2.9 blocks per contest for the Warriors last season.
In the backcourt, the Eagles will have one of its toughest challenges, replacing GLVC Player of the Year Derrick Lyons.
Herdes will rely heavily on senior Wes Attebury (Evansville, Indiana). Attebury jumped into the starting line-up the final 14 contests of last season and averaged 10.9 ppg, 2.3 ppg better than his 8.6 ppg season average.
Attebury will be joined at the shooting guard position by senior guard Matt Carter (Cannelton, Indiana). Carter, who was six-for-six from beyond the three-point arc against the University of Missouri-St. Louis, averaged 6.5 ppg and 1.1 rpg as a junior.
The two seniors will be joined by freshman guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, Indiana) and junior guards David Ragland (Evansville, Indiana), a transfer from Missouri Southern State College, LaMar Hillsman (Atlanta, Georgia), a transfer from John A. Logan, and Antonio Willett (Evansville, Indiana), a transfer from Rend Lake College.
Brunson is coming off an outstanding season at Evansville's Reitz High School where he averaged 25.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 2.4 assists as a senior.
Ragland, the Harrison High School graduate who played for MSSC's final four team in 2000, averaged a two-year high 5.7 ppg, 1.5 assists, and 1.8 rpg in 2000-01.Willett averaged 12.7 and 3.1 rpg as a sophomore for Rend Lake, leading the Warriors in scoring14 times.
The USI men's basketball team will tip off the 2001-02 regular season on November 16-18 in the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic at Disney's Wide World of Sports. USI will play Texas A&M University-Commerce in the first round of the three-day tournament.
The Tip-Off Classic also features Grand Valley State University, in the opposite bracket, and Wingate University, a likely opponent for USI on the second day of the tournament. Both were in the NCAA Division II Tournament last spring.
The last time USI played in the Tip-Off Classic, the Eagles swept three games, including a 134-125 double overtime victory over Northern State University to start 1997-98.
In addition to the classic, the non-conference schedule will feature home contests with Oakland City University on December 15; Abilene Christian University, December 18; Brescia University, December 29; Wilberforce University, January 5; and Olivet Nazarene University, January 31.
The 2001-02 campaign would not be a worthy schedule without the 20 Great Lakes Valley Conference contests. Each year the GLVC schedule is highlighted by the home-and-home series with Kentucky Wesleyan College, the defending national champion on January 3 at the Physical Activities Center and February 23 in Owensboro, Kentucky; and Northern Kentucky University, an NCAA Division II Tournament team on December 8 in Highland Heights, Kentucky, and January 24 at the PAC.
With the departure of Indiana University/Purdue University Ft. Wayne from the GLVC, the Eagles will play a home-and-home schedule with each team in the GLVC, something which has not been done the last two seasons.
The 2001-02 schedule is fan-friendly with a six-game homestand in December and January and a three-game homestand at the end of January.