The University of Southern Indiana menís basketball team starts the year
with many goals, but the first is to continue to build upon its tradition of
USI has been the definition of the word consistent in the building of its legacy the last 14 years. The Screaming Eagles have posted 14 straight 20-win seasons, won 25 or more games 11 times since 1992-93, won at least 27 games three straight years, appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament 13 of the last 14 years, and advanced to the NCAA II Great Lakes Regional Championship game nine times since 1994. The Eagles won the NCAA Division II National Championship in 1995 and reached the championship game in 1994 and 2004.
The 2006-07 season will mark USIís sixth season under the direction of Head Coach Rick Herdes. Herdes has won more games in his first five seasons at the helm than any coach in the history of the USI menís basketball program and is the second among active Division II coaches in winning percentage. He also is fourth among active coaches in all three NCAA divisions in winning percentage.
Last year, Herdesí squad was 27-7 overall, won the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic, tied for first in the GLVC West Division with a 14-5 league mark, and appeared in the NCAA II Great Lakes Regional, advancing to the regional finals.
The outlook for the Eagles is very bright despite the loss of first team All-American Chris Thompson to graduation. USI returns nine letters-winners, including three starters.
Leading the way is senior guard Melvin Hall (Evansville, Indiana) and senior forward Geoff Van Winkle (Ferdinand, Indiana), who combined for 150 of USIís 233 three-point field goals last season. Hall, who set the USI single-season record with 82 long-range bombs in his first season, is the Eaglesí top returning scorer with 13.2 points per game (ppg) and is a preseason honorable mention All-American by Street & Smith's College Basketball, while Van Winkle, who needs just 22 three-pointers to set the USI career mark, averaged 8.8 ppg.
In addition to Van Winkle in the frontcourt, USI returns senior forward/center Keith Christmas (Gary, Indiana), senior forward Nick Brooks (Robinson, Illinois), senior guard/forward Marty Wise (New Orleans, Louisiana), and sophomore forward Mike Kalicak (St. Charles, Missouri).
Christmas started 31 of USIís 34 games at center last year and averaged 7.4 ppg and was second on the team with 5.6 rebounds per game (rpg). Brooks tied Christmas in the scoring column with 7.4 ppg, while Wise followed Christmas with 5.5 rpg.
Wise also averaged 6.8 ppg and was second with 3.3 assists per game (apg).
USI also has additional depth with the return of freshman forward George Cunningham (Jamal, California) from injury. Cunningham averaged 2.5 ppg and 1.3 rpg in four games last season before suffering a season-ending knee injury.
Sophomore guard Alex Gravelle (Louisville, Kentucky) comes back for 2006-07 to join Hall in the backcourt. Gravelle saw action in 20 games off the bench as a freshman, averaging 1.6 ppg
Returning after redshirt seasons are freshmen guards Brent Owen (Chrisman, Illinois) and Drew Glover (Mt. Erie, Illinois).
The Eagles add six new players to the roster for 2006-07, a quartet of backcourt players and a pair of frontcourt players.
A pair of transfers Ė junior Kenny Page (Indianapolis, Indiana), a honorable mention NJCAA All-American from Kankakee Community College, and junior Kenny Love (South Bend, Indiana), a Division I transfer from the University of Oregon Ė will lead the way at the guard position. Page averaged 12.8 ppg and 5.2 apg last season and helped KCC to a 46-19 record over the last two seasons.
Love played in 20 games for Oregon in 2004-05, averaging 1.1 ppg and dishing out 14 assists. He played for Casper College (Casper, Wyoming) prior to transferring to Oregon, averaging 14 points, four rebounds, and three assists as a freshman.
Also joining the backcourt are junior Saul Woods (Peoria, Illinois) and freshman Chris Smoot (Fayetteville, North Carolina). Woods is a transfer from Illinois Central College, while Smoot makes his collegiate debut after playing for Hargrave Military Academy last year.
A combination of youth and experience best describe the two new players in the frontcourt.
Senior forward/center Rashard Sullivan (Fayetteville, Arkansas) is a transfer from the University of Arkansas and will be a graduate student at USI this year. Sullivan played 84 games during three seasons for the Razorbacks, averaging 2.0 ppg and 3.1 rpg.
Indiana All-Star forward/center Brandon Hopf (Huntingburg, Indiana) will begin his collegiate career with the Eagles this fall. Hopf, who led Forest Park High School to two straight Indiana Class 2A State Championships, was a second team All-State and Southwest Indiana the Player of the Year after averaging 16.9 ppg and 7.9 rpg as a senior.
A title defense is the first order of business when USI tips off the 2006-07 campaign. The Eagles will be making a second straight appearance in the Disney Division II Tip-Off Classic November 10-12 and are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back championships.
Pairings for the Tip-Off Classic were pre-announced this year with USI scheduled to play North Georgia College and State University, Pace University, and the University of Alaska-Fairbanks in the three-day tournament.
The Eagles open the 2006-07 home campaign by hosting regional rival Wayne State University on November 15. The Eagles and Warriors will match-up for a second time on December 20 when they play in the GLIAC/GLVC Challenge at Wayne State. USI also will play Ferris State University December 21 in the challenge.
Along with Wayne State and Ferris State on the non-conference schedule, USI hosts Tiffin University, Judson College, and the University of Illinois-Springfield in November; and Glenville State College and Harris-Stowe State University in December.
USI opens the 2006-07 GLVC schedule at home on December 2 when the Panthers of Kentucky Wesleyan College make their first visit to the Physical Activities Center since January of 2005.
The Eagles' conference schedule also includes home-and-home series against Elite Eight participant, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and NCAA Division II Tournament teams, Drury University and Quincy University. USI plays defending GLVC champion Saint Joseph's College in Rensselaer, Indiana, in December.
Northern Kentucky University also will be appearing at the PAC for the first time since the 2004-05 season on January 20.