Francis Marion University 2002-03 Men’s Basketball
FLORENCE, SC - The Francis Marion University men’s basketball team will open its 2002-03 campaign on Saturday afternoon against NCAA Division I opponent Campbell University.
The contest will tip-off at 2 p.m. in Campbell’s 945-seat Carter Gymnasium, the smallest Division I gym in the nation. Francis Marion owns a 6-15 all-time mark against Division I opponents, and is 0-2 against the Fighting Camels, with both contests occurring in the 1970s when both schools competed under NAIA affiliation.
Campbell returns three starters from last year’s 8-19 squad.
The new-look Patriots of third-year head coach John Schweitz feature only two returnees from last year’s 4-23 squad that placed sixth in the Peach Belt Conference's North Division standings. One of those, however, is 6-6 sophomore swingman Louis McCullough, who led the team in scoring (16.1 ppg), rebounding (7.7 rpg), and blocked shots (34). His scoring average was the second-highest average for a freshman in team history - second only to Allen Floyd's 21.9 ppg average in 1971-72. McCullough is the half brother of NBA superstar Kevin Garnett and cousin of former UNC player and current Boston Celtic Shammond Williams.
“Louis has improved in so many areas since last season,” Schweitz said. “He is capable of so many things on both ends of the floor. His challenge early in the year will be that he will face the thrust of other team’s defensive effort, until they learn that his teammates can also put the ball in the basket. The fact that Louis has honed his passing skills should allow us to take advantage of those situations.”
The other returnee from last year is 6-2 sophomore Andrew Snipe (1.1 ppg), who saw more playing time as the 2001-02 progressed. “Andrew is a coach’s dream,” Schweitz said. “He hustles, gives 110 percent all the time, and adheres to the old adage ‘the harder you work, the more you play.’ He positions well on defense, has a great attitude, and will see more minutes this season.”
Eleven newcomers are on this season's roster, but three of them are familiar with the FMU program. Three transfers, all of whom hail from the Palmetto State, attended FMU last season but did not play. Junior college transfer Randy Williams, a 6-6 forward from Summerville, S.C., was a projected starter last year before suffering a season-ending injury prior to the opening contest. He averaged 12.1 ppg and 9.3 rpg at Spartanburg Methodist College during the 2000-01 season.
Both 6-5 forward Jaquan Bracey and 6-2 guard James McQueen, natives of Bennettsville and products of Marlboro County High School, came to FMU from Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College in Alabama, but had to sit out last season due to transfer rules.
“Jaquan is an undersized frontline player, but he plays much bigger than his 6-5 frame,” Schweitz said. “Both he and Randy (Williams) are adept at catching the ball and scoring in the paint. We will look to both of them for points, to draw fouls, and to get to the free throw line.”
“I like the competitiveness of this squad, and the progress they have made in the preseason,” Schweitz said. “Even though we have a lot of new faces, we have five players who know the program and form a core that gives the squad stability.
“We have speed at all five positions and speed at both ends of the floor, and that is the component needed to win in the Peach Belt Conference. Our increased speed should result in more easy baskets off defensive stops, what we hope will be our staple this year. As a team, we also possess good driving skills off the dribble.
“I also like the versatility of this year’s squad. Several players can play different positions, and that will give us added options.”
Schweitz named his probable starters as 6-1 senior David Hawkins and 6-3 junior Mike Buglione in the backcourt, and McCullough, Williams, and Bracey along the frontline, although he added that with such competitive practices, that list could change any day.
Hawkins is a transfer who played last season at Bethune-Cookman College. “David is a creator with the ball,” Schweitz said. “We are looking to him to direct our offense, and he is one of our two best defenders on the ball.” Buglione transferred from Middle Georgia College, where he averaged 15.0 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in 2000-01, but did not play last season.
Junior guard Jarron Hinton, who averaged 4.8 points and 2.2 rebounds at Mercyhurst College during the 2000-01 season, will also be a key cog in the Patriot backcourt. “Jarron has been a pleasant surprise, and will be a large key to our success this season. He possesses college experience, is a mature player, and is an excellent defender on the ball.”
The Patriots will be without the services of 6-8 junior center Petar Vujovic, a transfer from Spartanburg Methodist College, for several games due to a foot injury. “Petar gives us size and aggressiveness on defense. He also runs the floor well, is a good passer for a post player, and can step out and shoot the three.
“Our four freshmen (6-1 guard Travis McKie, 6-2 guard Michael Jenkins, 6-5 forward Demetrius Boyd, and 6-3 forward Courtney Lilliston) have blended in well. They understand their roles and are pushing the others hard in practice. Jenkins in particular has been impressive, and will see minutes in the Patriot backcourt. He is high-energy, yet still composed.”
The coach added, “If we stay healthy, we will be a solid squad. They have a desire to turn the program around and are anxious to begin that task.”
Seven of the team's defeats last season were by single digits, including two early season one-point losses.
Francis Marion’s 2002-03 schedule includes 11 home contests and a tough 19-game PBC slate. The Patriots’ home opener will be Nov. 30 against PBC foe Georgia College & State University. The 2003 PBC Conference Tournament will be held March 5 and 7-9 in Columbus, Ga.