Blue Ribbon Wofford Preview

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Blue Ribbon Wofford Preview

Postby BestOfBreed on Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:50 am

Thanks to graveline from for hooking me up with this.
Wofford will be vastly different this year, morphing from an inside-oriented team into a perimeter squad. And despite losing one of the league's best post duos, the Terriers might just be a better team.
Wofford's 2005-06 season was mildly disappointing. The non-conference schedule included close losses to Clemson, Notre Dame and Purdue, as well as two narrow defeats against East Carolina, and then, rather than finding a comfort zone in the conference, the Terriers stumbled to an 0-4 league start.

Things improved somewhat as the season progressed, with go-to post players Howard Wilkerson (13.9 ppg, 7.0 rpg, .570 FG) and Tyler Berg (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, .520 FG) among the main weapons. But a first-round league tournament loss (by one point to Appalachian State) really stung. For the season, the Terriers out-shot and outscored opponents; that just didn't translate into enough victories as the team won back-to-back games only once all season.

And there's the fact the Terriers were badly out-rebounded (nearly five per game) and now lose their top two rebounders. But that's where coach Mike Young thinks his team will surprise people.

"We lost two 1,000-point scorers," he said. "We're not going to replace those guys and their skills, their hands, their experience. Those guys did a lot for me and our school and our program.

"But now we've got to adjust and adopt a different style. And I'm fired up about that. We'll go up and down, shooting the ball, and get after it a little bit more on defense because we'll be a lot quicker."

The new look starts with some familiar faces, Eric Marshall (12.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg in only eight games); Shane Nichols (13.8 ppg, 1.8 rpg); and point-guard Drew Gibson (6.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 118 assists). It's an experienced, explosive, versatile three-guard nucleus.
Marshall, a 6-4 senior, will be one of the team leaders. Last year he was a starter before going down with a knee injury but is expected to be back at full strength by the season opener. It may take a little time to shake off the rust, though.

"He can score, he's a great shooter, he can put the ball on the floor, and he's a very good leader," Young said. "He's an all-league kind of player. I thought he was ready for that kind of season before he got injured."

Nichols, a 6-0 junior, is a deadly perimeter shooter with a quick trigger, so he's hard to defend. Last season he connected on nearly 41 percent of his three-pointers, making 93 of them, to break Ian Chadwick's school record.

"The best shooter I've had in 22 years of coaching," Young said. "He's a great shooter, and he works incredibly hard."

Gibson is the point guard. A 6-2 junior, he didn't shoot well (.350 FG) but averaged 4.2 assists and 2.0 steals, and handled the ball fairly efficiently (1.53 assist-to-turnover ratio). "He's worked hard to become a better shooter, and he really knows how to play. I wouldn't take anybody else's [point guard] for him."

Matt Estep (4.4 ppg, 0.9 rpg), a 6-3 junior, can also light it up from three-point range and may be a dangerous part of the offense. Last season he shot .400 (28-of-70) from behind the arc.

The inside game could be led by Tyler Whatley (1.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg), a 6-9, 220-pound sophomore who gained about 10 pounds in the off-season and has some savvy moves around the paint.

"He made great strides," Young said.

Matt O'Connor (3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg), a 6-8, 215-pound senior, will also provide some inside strength, along with 6-8, 220-pound sophomore Ralph Hegamin (2.2 ppg, 1.3 rpg).

Because of the lack of inside experience, a couple of newcomers will probably see regular action. One of them could be 6-10, 240-pound freshman Emilio Lebolo from Athens (Ga.) Academy, who averaged 11.0 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.0 blocks last season.

Two-guard Corey Godzinski out of East Ridge High in Orlando, Fla., at 6-8, 185, could create some match-up problems, and 6-1 Junior Salters brings outside shooting ability (.430 3PT as a senior) and is a winner; he led Broome High in South Carolina to a state title as a junior.

"A great scorer and shooter, and he won a lot of games," Young said.

Norm Nixon, a 6-0 freshman, could spell Gibson at the point.

"He's a guy we're really excited about," Young said.

A Californian who played at South Kent (Conn.) Prep last year, he is the son of former NBA star Norm Nixon.

Another newcomer who could have an impact is 6-5, 220-pound Tim Johnson from Evangelical Christian Academy in Memphis. He averaged 19.8 points, 10.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.4 blocks for the state's Division II runner-up.

Andrew Bellebaum, a 6-7 forward from Bishop England in Charleston, S.C., is a two-time all-stater who averaged 15.0 points and 8.0 rebounds.


On paper, there's not much of an inside game. Whether Young can find some people to match up with the league's top big men is a question. He hopes the big problem during the conference schedule is how other SoCon teams can match up with his new run-and-gun, pressure-D style.

"We'll be smaller, but we've got as good a set of perimeter players as I've had in my 18 years at Wofford," he said. "We'll be a lot faster."

One thing the team could use is a little luck with injuries. There's been a top player lost each of the last four years.

"We'd like to have a year where we don't get hurt," Young said. "I'd like to get to the point depth-wise where we can absorb the loss of somebody and keep winning. Maybe that's my shortcoming as a coach here that we haven't done that yet. But I'm really excited about this team and about what we have the opportunity to achieve."
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Postby GoldandBlack on Mon Oct 30, 2006 12:03 pm

AMEN on the injuries the past four years!

It would be great to see an entire season with a full complement.

Maybe this is the year.
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Postby ShortHairedDog on Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:17 pm

"Pressure D"...does that mean we will see some full court pressure this year? I think we will definitely have the athletes.

I hope this new freshman big can make a difference early. If not, our peremeter shooters will have to make everything they throw up there(with Marshall, Estep, and Nichols that could be possible).

Has anybody seen Marshall play at all? I hope he has fully recovered. I know Justin Stephens was never the same after his injury.
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