Credit: Colonial Athletic Association
Scouting report: Georgia State
Game info: 2 p.m. Saturday at Edmundson Pavilion.
TV/Radio: No TV/KKNW 1150 AM
Stats/schedule: Click here.
Coach: Ron Hunter begins his first year with the Panthers. He is 274-219 in 17 seasons at IUPUI.
Prediction: Picked to finish 11th in the 12-team Colonial Athletic Association.
Series: Washington and Georgia State are meeting for the first time.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
— After two exhibition wins, senior forward Brandon McGee leads the Panthers with a 18.5 points per game scoring average and 7.5 rebounding average. The former junior college transfer was an inconsistent performer last season. McGee tallied a career-best 31 points – also a team season high – against Northeastern. He also played fewer than 10 minutes in 10 games and made just 10 starts
— Senior forward Eric Buckner led the team in scoring (9.4 ppg), rebounding (5.6 rpg) and blocked shots (49) last season, which was his first year with the Panthers. He shot a team-best 54.8 percent from the floor and was a key force at the defensive end. He led the team in scoring nine times and was the only player to reach the free throw line more than 100 times.
— Last season sophomore point guard Devonta White came off the bench in the first seven games of the season before starting the next five and leading GSU to a 4-1 record. He suffered a high ankle sprain and missed the next 10 games. The injury ruined his season and many GSU fans believe if he were healthy the Panthers would have finished with a winning record. He played in eight of the final 10 games, but wasn’t the same.
— Georgia State beat Southern Poly, a NAIA school in Georgia, 90-65 in its exhibition opener. Three players scored in double figures and GSU attempted 27 three-pointers. The Panthers notched a 41-point victory in a 90-49 exhibition win over Division III Oglethorpe. They had five players score at least 10 points.
— Hunter is implementing an up-tempo style. Last season, GSU averaged 61.9 points offensively. The Panthers averaged 90 points and 29.5 three-point attempts in two exhibitions.
— GSU returns four starters (Jihad Ali, White Buckner and McGee), six seniors and two juniors. The Panthers also return their top four starters, although none averaged more than 10 points.
— Senior forward Josh Micheaux can be disruptive defensively. At 6 feet 5, he’s tall enough to create problems for smaller guards.
— Hunter led IUPUI to the 2003 NCAA Tournament. He’s a two-time winner of the Summit League Coach of the Year award. He only had three losing seasons at IUPUI and he led the team through the transition from NAIA to D-I.
— GSU compiled a 12-19 record last season and finished ninth in the conference. However, it beat NCAA tournament Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth.
— Washington and Georgia State opened the 2010-11 season against a common opponent? The Huskies beat McNeese State 118-64 on Nov. 13, 2010, while the
Panthers started their year with a 68-62 loss at McNeese State on Nov. 16.
— Hunter is also an humanitarian who earned national notoriety last season when he coached IUPUI against Oakland in his bare feet to help raise awareness for Samaritan’s Feet. The organization collects shoes for underprivileged children around the world.
F – Eric Buckner, 6-8, 203, Sr., 9.4 ppg., 5.6 rpg.
F – Brandon McGee, 6-6, 228, Sr. 7.8, 4.8
F – Josh Micheaux, 6-5, 222, Sr., 6.5, 3.7
G – Jihad Ali, 6-5, 200, Sr., 7.2, 4.8
G – Devonta White, 5-10, 158, 5.2, 2.4 apg.
*Last season’s statistics
— James Vincent, a 6-10 junior center, is the only GSU player taller than 6-8 and he played 11 minutes last season. The Panthers are woefully undersized and they use athleticism to overcome their lack of size. They had a plus 18.5 rebounding margin last season. Still, not sure if GSU will have answer for 7-foot center Aziz N’Diaye. He’s quick enough to run with the Panthers and strong enough to overpower them for rebounds. Controlling White is also a priority and that responsibility falls to junior Abdul Gaddy and freshman Tony Wroten Jr. Last week Seattle Pacific point guard David Downs rarely attempted to drive to the basket. White is aggressive offensively and he’ll challenge the Huskies to stay in front of him and keep him out of the lane.
Here’s a transcript from a recent interview with Hunter.
(What are you expecting from your team in the first game of the season and your first game as GSU coach?) “We’re excited about it. We’re trying to change the culture at Georgia State. I’m excited to be able to play Washington. I think they’re very well coached and a talented basketball team. This is by far one of the best teams on our schedule. The Colonial is a great league with George Mason and some of the teams that are in our conference. But it’s a great test for me and our program to see where we’re at. We got 7-8 seniors on our basketball team that haven’t won. So they’re looking forward to getting a fresh start. And this is kind of a fresh start for our program so we’re excited.”
(What did you learn about your team after the two exhibitions?) “Right now it’s a process for us. We’re trying to change the way they played. They’ve been a halfcourt basketball team the last 7-8 years and we’re trying to get up and down the floor. It’s a whole new culture and a whole new style of playing basketball. Like I said it’s a process and we know we got a ways to go, but the best thing is to be able to play a team like Washington this weekend to see exactly where we are. It’s one of the good basketball teams in this tournament. Again, this is a great test for us and we’re excited where we stand right now.”
(I’d imagine most kids would like a switch to a high-scoring, uptempo offense, until they discover that you really have to be in shape to run for the entire game.) “That’s one of the things since we’ve been here, we’ve put these kids through the grind of really about two months of conditioning. It’s one thing to want to play that way and it’s another to be in condition to play that way. We know that Washington likes to get up and down the floor. So I’m excited to be able to really work on our transition not only offensively, but defensively. They’re very talented and athletic and long. We get to kind of test ourselves against a team we consider one of the best uptempo teams in the country. So we’re excited to play that style with them and just kind of see where we are with everything.”
(Who are some players to keep an eye on?) “We got a good sophomore guard in Devonta White. Brandon McGee is a kid who played in three Division I programs. He was a freshman at Indiana and … he’s a very talented scorer. Jihad Ali is a senior. So we got some kids that have been from different places. These kids are hungry. It’s an older group. It’s the oldest basketball team I’ve ever coached with their (three) fifth-year seniors. These kids are hungry to win. I didn’t recruit a lot of these guys here. So it’s a new coach with a new team. These kids are excited. So we’re just interested to see how it works.”
(What do you know about Washington?) “All I know is they got one of the top coaches in the country. They’ve had a lot of success and what I’ve told our kids is some of the things that they’ve been able to do, we would like to duplicate just a little of what they’ve been able to do. I love their style of play. I love how Lorenzo (Romar) coaches those kids. I love how hard they play. And that’s what we’re trying to get done. I want our kids to be able to see that. As a matter of fact, we even asked if we could play them because I wanted our kids to see that. If you’re going to be the best, you have to play the best. That’s one thing we told our kids from Day 1. We’re going to play the best teams in the country. So I’m excited about the game.”
(So you called Washington and asked to be involved in the tournament?) “Lorenzo and I are on the NABC board together. So we talked. I asked for a favor and said hey man if it can work out, I would love to play you guys first just because of the utmost respect I have for Lorenzo and his program.”
(How do you prepare for three games in three days?) “We treat it like the conference tournament. That’s what I told our kids. This is the conference tournament. You got to win three games to get to the NCAA tournament in the Colonial. That’s what I told these guys. Treat it like a conference tournament. I do this every year and I’ll continue to play three games to begin the season because what we want to do at the end of the season is win three games.”
(Do you think playing so far away from home will affect your team?) “I think it actually helps us especially for a new coach with a new team. We can get away. We can bond a little bit. We can play some good basketball and prepare. These three games will get us ready. Again I’ve never coached these kids before. Practice is one thing, but they get great game experience and you can’t duplicate that.”
(When do you arrive in Seattle?) “We’ll get in about 8 o’clock (Thursday).”
(Then you’re working out at Hec Ed on Friday?) “Exactly and then have some of that great food in Seattle. [Laughs] One of the thing is, these kids have never been to Seattle. I got a lot of kids from the south that have never been to the northwest part of our country so I want them to be able to enjoy it. I want to them enjoy this trip. It’s a business trip, but I want these kids to enjoy it and have fun.”