FLORENCE, SC – Sixth-year head coach John Schweitz has emphasized team-oriented goals, as the Francis Marion University men’s basketball squad gets set to open the 2005-06 campaign Tuesday evening (Nov. 15) at Fayetteville State University.
The match-up will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. in FSU’s Chapel Arena. FMU leads the all-time series 12-6, including a 74-68 win in Florence last season.
Schweitz welcomes back 11 lettermen, including three starters, from last year’s 10-17 team that placed fourth in the Peach Belt Conference’s North Division. Senior guard Michael Jenkins (9.9 points and 4.8 assists per game), senior guard Vony Rivers (7.2 ppg, 4.1 rebounds per game), and junior forward Raymond Dorsey (8.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg) lead the returnees.
Senior swingman George Walker, a key member of the 2003-04 squad that advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16, also returns after missing last season with an injury.
Senior swingman Reinaldo Charles (8.3 ppg) finished last season strong, scoring in double figures in 10 of the final 12 contests. He returns, but will not be eligible to play until the middle of December.
“This squad is very team oriented,” said Schweitz. “They want to succeed as a group, and they have a lot of similarities to the 2003-04 team that advanced to the Sweet 16. We have emphasized rebounding as a team, especially when we have a small lineup on the floor. We must make limit the other team’s second chances.
“We must also take better care of the ball. I firmly believe this is the best team I’ve had at Francis Marion in terms of overall ballhandling and passing. Coupled with the fact that we have some scorers, that should give us many options at the offensive end of the floor.”
Other returnees include senior 6-0 guard Artis Lee (4.3 ppg), senior 6-4 forward Michael Carter (1.4 ppg), senior 6-4 forward Courtney Lilliston (0.9 ppg), junior 6-8 center Kevin Ashford (2.0 ppg, 1.9 rpg), sophomore 5-11 guard Larnelle Peterson (1.1 ppg), and sophomore 6-4 forward Rodrick Burton (1.6 ppg).
Among the squad’s newcomers are junior 6-5 forward Marchello Hamilton (Passaic County Community College) and freshman 6-6 forward Akeene Coakley (Wando High School), both whom may play important roles in Schweitz’s rotation.
FMU has outrebounded 64 of its last 85 opponents, but in the 17 losses last season, the Patriots allowed 9.8 made three-point field goals per game on 41.9 percent shooting.
The Patriots’ 27-game schedule includes 14 home games. The squad’s home opener is this weekend, Nov. 18-19, when FMU hosts the Zaxby’s Patriot Clazzic.
FMU was picked to finished ninth in the preseason PBC coaches’ poll, despite receiving one first-place vote.
The Peach Belt will have a new look in 2005-06 with the departure of Kennesaw State University and the University of North Florida to the Division I ranks and the addition of North Georgia College & State University. North Georgia, which is beginning its transition from the NAIA, will compete as part of the PBC regular-season schedule, but not in the conference tournament. The league has also done away with divisional play and will feature a 20-game conference schedule leading up to the PBC Tournament, which will be hosted by Lander University in March 2006.