New Look Patriots open 2009-10 season in Sunshine State
FLORENCE, S.C. – The Francis Marion University men’s basketball team, featuring an influx of 15 new faces, will open its 2009-10 season on Sunday at Florida Tech’s Tip-Off Classic in Melbourne, Fla.
The Patriots will play the University of Puerto-Rico-Mayaguez on Sunday at 2 p.m. and then the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras on Monday at 5 p.m. FMU opened with the same two squads last year and came away with wins by 17 and 20 points respectively.
FMU will play its home opener on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. against Carver Bible College in the RIOT at the Rim event sponsored by Chick-fil-a and Sodexho.
Fourth-year Patriot head coach Gary Edwards welcomes back four lettermen from last year’s 16-12 squad that tied for fifth in the Peach Belt Conference, and posted the program’s second-best record this decade. Those returnees coupled with the newcomers, a few of whom will be redshirted, comprise the 2009-10 FMU roster.
Leading the returnees is 6-2 senior guard Kendrick Robinson and junior forwards (6-4) Simel Boyd and (6-7) David Turner. Robinson averaged 8.5 points per game last season before having his season ended early with a knee injury. Boyd, the 2008 PBC Freshman of the Year, averaged 6.7 ppg and 3.3 rpg last year, while Turner averaged 6.4 ppg and 4.3 rpg.
Among the newcomers are three NCAA Division I transfers, two Division II transfers, five junior college transfers, and five high school products.
“We are a work-in-progress,” said Edwards. “I am very comfortable with the roster, the team’s attitude, and I very much like our potential. We now must go out and realize that potential.
“When you have that many new faces it takes time to mesh together and adjust. That is what we are doing now. We have more depth along the frontline, more size inside, and more power around the basket. Seven players are 6-6 or taller. This will be one of our strengths. Our team rebounding should also be solid.
“In the backcourt we are searching for our point guard. We are asking players to play point that have never quarterbacked a team, but they are working hard. This also leads to a pair of areas we must excel at, or at least improve on, to be successful – limiting our turnovers and getting good perimeter shooting.”
Edwards mentioned 6-1 senior Herman Mains, a transfer from Division II University of West Alabama, 6-4 junior Edward Gullatte (Denmark Technical College), 5-11 junior Bryant Julious (USC Salkehatchie and a Hemingway native), and Robinson as being among those who will see minutes in the backcourt. Freshmen guards Philip Jenkins (Goose Creek High School) and Evrik Gary (Camden High School) are both good shooters who can put the ball in the basket and have been pushing the upperclassmen during the preseason.
In the team’s exhibition loss at Clemson, Edwards was impressed by the performance of senior swingman Kaylan Anderson, a transfer from Division I University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who tallied 20 points on 6-of-7 shooting. “He has experience and possesses a good inside-outside game,” Edwards commented.
“Robert Faulkner is a very talented player, who is fighting to get back in playing shape after sitting out several seasons. We need a lot of the offense to flow through him.” Faulkner, a 6-8 225-pound forward, last played at Iowa State University in 2005.
A pair of 6-9 frontline players give Edwards bulk and rebounding in the paint: junior Mindaugas Petreikis (John Wood Community College) and Andrew Smith (University of Texas-Pan American). Andy Peterson, a 6-6 swing player from Manatee Community College in Florida, and 6-6 junior forward Liki Turner (Division II Shepherd College) provide Edwards with more options in the front court.
Edwards also said that he is looking for a breakout season from Boyd, as well as solid contributions from Turner.
Edwards is beginning his 26th season as a college head coach with 426 career coaching wins. His win total at FMU has increased each year from nine to 12 to last season’s 16.
The team’s 27-game slate includes 13 home contests and the always tough Peach Belt Conference schedule. With the addition of Flagler College and the University of Montevallo to the Peach Belt, the conference will be divided into divisions, with Francis Marion playing in the seven-team East Division. FMU will play every team in its division home and away, while meeting the six teams in the West Division only once.
The 2010 PBC Tournament has also been altered. First-round games will be played at on-campus sites with the semifinals and championship game to be played in Aiken, S.C.