Most NCAA Division II men's basketball programs only dream about putting together a streak of 10 straight 20-win seasons. In 2002-03, the University of Southern Indiana will be after its 11th in a row.
The Screaming Eagles, considered a break-out team by Street & Smith's College Basketball, have won at least 20 games each season since 1992-93 and averaged 25 victories a year since 1993-94. USI, with a record of 253-54 (.824) over 10 seasons, also has produced nine NCAA II Tournament appearances, the 1995 NCAA II National Championship team, the 1994 NCAA II Finalist team, four Great Lakes Valley Conference Championships, and five GLVC Tournament appearances.
Returning for his second season is USI Head Coach Rick Herdes. Herdes tied the USI record for a first-year coach, leading the Eagles to a 22-8 overall.
Herdes and the Eagles started slow with a 5-4 record in the first nine games, but overcame adversity to win 17 of the last 21 games. USI, 14-6 in the conference last year, also stayed in the hunt for a fifth-straight GLVC top two finish until the final week of the season.
Despite the graduation of four players, including two starters, Herdes has the shelves stocked for another shot at the GLVC crown and a run in the NCAA II Tournament.
Herdes returns nine players, five of whom saw significant action in 2002-03.
USI will lean heavily upon three returning starters, led by the GLVC Freshman of the Year and sophomore guard Cris Brunson (Evansville, Indiana).
Brunson, honorable mention All-GLVC, was second on the team and 17th in the GLVC with 13.4 points per game and ranked first in the GLVC in free throw percentage. He also was fourth in the league for three-point field goal percentage.
With Brunson on the outside, junior forward Billy Harris (Carbondale, Illinois) is underneath. Harris was right behind Brunson as a sophomore with 12.2 points per contest and ranked ninth in the GLVC with 6.6 rebounds per game.
Harris made an impact late in the season, averaging 16.3 points in the final six games of 2001-02.
Getting the ball to Brunson and Harris is returning point guard David Ragland (Evansville, Indiana), who averaged 3.6 assists per game. The senior, who averaged 8.2 points in his first season with the Eagles, ranked among the GLVC leaders for assists and assist/turnover ratio.
Off the bench, the Eagles have a pair of solid returnees who also saw action as starters last season.
Senior forward Diond're Givens (Mt. Vernon, Indiana), who has started 29 of 91 games in three seasons with the Eagles, came off the bench to average 8.1 points and grabbed 4.0 rebounds per contest.
Backing up Ragland at the point is junior Mike Arnold (Indianapolis, Indiana). Arnold was third on the team with 2.7 assists per game and averaged 15.9 minutes of action as a sophomore.
Junior forward Travis Farmer (Wadesville, Indiana) returns to join Harris and Givens in the frontcourt. Farmer played in 24 games, averaged 1.5 points, and grabbed 1.4 rebounds per outing.
To supplement the returning players, Herdes recruited some diamonds to fill the holes. USI welcomes a senior, four juniors, three sophomores, and two freshmen.
Joining the Eagles' ranks for his senior campaign is guard/forward Alan Goff (Terre Haute, Indiana). Goff returns to Indiana from Lehigh University in Virginia where he averaged 7.2 points and 2.9 rebounds in two seasons.
He began his college career at Vincennes University, averaging 14.0 points and 4.5 assists per game.
USI's leading recruit is sophomore forward Dennis Coutee (Jeffersonville, Indiana), an honorable mention Street & Smith's College Basketball Preseason All-American. Coutee, who had originally signed with the University of Louisville, averaged 19.8 point, 6.0 rebounds, and 2.4 assists in 37 games last year for Riverside Community College. The All-Orange Empire Conference performer ranked third in the conference in scoring, while his 33 points in a single game ranked fourth.
To bolster the USI defense and rebounding efforts the Eagles have increased their size around the bucket, averaging 6' 8" among the newcomers.
Center Ronald Roundtree (Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania), a 6' 8" junior, joins Coutee in the cross country journey to Indiana from
California. Roundtree was honorable mention All-Orange Empire Conference as a
sophomore at Riverside, averaging 15.2 points and 6.6 regbound a contest.
Herdes had only to cross the Wabash to pick up junior forward/center Sam Beyer (Roanoke, Illinois) from Illinois Valley College. Beyer, a 6' 9" two-year player at IVC, averaged 7.0 rebounds and 7.9 points per contest last season.
The Eagles traveled to Florida to recruit 6' 8" junior center/forward Reque Newsome (St. Petersburg, Florida) and 6' 6" junior forward Clarence Chillers (Glendale Heights, Illinois). Newsome averaged 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds over two seasons for Central Florida Community College. Chillers helped lead Pensacola Junior College to a 21-9 record in 2000-01, averaging 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per outing.
Beginning his first year on the varsity is sophomore forward Antonio Andonov (Macedonia), who transferred to USI from Lincoln Land Community College. He played one season for Springfield College, before the program was cancelled, and for Williamsville High School in Williamsville, Illinois.
Out front the Eagles added a good mix of experience and youth.
Transferring to the program is junior guard Kendrick Carr (Bloomington, Illinois) and sophomore guard Ayton Branch (Bloomfield, New Jersey). Karr comes to USI from Illinois Valley College where he played for two seasons. Branch played last season for Sage Junior College of Albany (New York), averaging 13.0 points and 7.0 assists per outing.
Entering their collegiate careers with the Eagles are freshman guards Ronnie McClendon (Mitchell, Indiana), Lincoln
Hays (Henderson, Kentucky), and Jed Davis (Grayville, Illinois).
The 2002-03 Eagles face a tough schedule that begins November 23.
The regular season starts with a pair of non-conference home games with the Eagles hosting Wilberforce University on November 23 and Henderson State University on November 26. Henderson State, a Division II institution in the Gulf South Conference, was an NCAA Division II regional semifinalist with a 21-7 record last spring.
In addition to Henderson State and Wilberforce, the non-conference schedule includes a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, for the High Desert Classic (teams to be determined) on December 14-15; and home games with Oakland City University on December 18, Lock Haven University on December 29, and the University of Illinois-Springfield on February 8.
The Eagles face one of the toughest Great Lakes Valley Conference schedules ever as the team plays four of the first six league games and four of the last six conference contests on the road. USI embarks on its quest for a GLVC title on November 30 at the Sportscenter in Owensboro, Kentucky, against Kentucky Wesleyan College.
The first GLVC home game is December 5 against the University of Indianapolis. USI hosts KWC, the Division II Tournament runner-up, on February 8 and Lewis University, the NCAA Division II Great Lakes Regional runner-up, on February 22. The GLVC Tournament is March 5-8 at Roberts Stadium.