2008-09 Murray State Basketball Preview: #107
Murray State Racers
Overall Rank: #107
Conference Rank: #1 Ohio Valley
2007-08: 18-13, 13-7, 2nd
2007-08 postseason: none
Murray State has been on the outside of the Ohio Valley Conference elite over the last couple seasons, but it is time for Coach Billy Kennedy to take the Racers back to the NCAA Tournament. A couple key players are gone, but this is a talented team that continues to recruit quite well. Experience, or lack there of, has been an issue over the last couple of years since Coach Kennedy took over, but now the team finally has as many upperclassmen as underclassmen and that will keep Murray State in the race for a conference title.
However, losing Bruce Carter will make it a little more difficult. Carter, a 6-4 guard, led the team in points and rebounds during his senior campaign. Carter got to the basket with ease and was a decent enough outside shooter to keep the opposing defense honest. Ray George averaged 7.8 points per contest and was a big spark off the bench. Like Carter, George is not a superb shooter, but he was effective getting to the rim. Forward Tarod Sanders is not returning after averaging 8.2 minutes per game in 2007-2008.
The Racers are pretty well equipped to run an experienced seven man rotation without any of the newcomers. This group will probably extend that number up to nine or ten. Power forward Ivan Aska is expected to make the biggest impact. At 6-7, 230 pounds, Aska has the size to battle in the paint in the OVC. Yet, his toughness and athleticism give him the potential to be more than just a big man in the conference. His scoring will not blow anybody away, at least not yet, but he should play an important role right away at Murray State as a rebounder. Jeffery McClain, a sophomore transfer from Three Rivers Community College in Polar Bluff, Missouri, will also provide some much needed help in the rebounding department. The 6-6 forward is a good athlete and a solid all-around player. At 6-3, guard Donte Pool has good size for a player who can handle the ball so well. Yet, it will be his scoring ability, which will help replace Carter and George’s production, that will earn him minutes as freshman. Fellow guard Matt Fraliex will be the best long range shooter on the team from day one. That might not be enough to earn him a ton of minutes right away, but he can at least be the marksman off the bench.
Who to Watch:
Even without the team’s leading scorer and their sixth man, the backcourt will be in good hands. Tyler Holloway shot over 46 percent from beyond the arc last year and will do plenty of scoring inside the arc as well. Without Carter, Holloway’s scoring prowess should be even better than his 10.6 points per game of a year ago. Having an experienced senior like Kevin Thomas to get him the ball makes his job even easier. Kevin Thomas is not much of a scorer, although he does have his moments, but it is his 4.5 assists per game and solid defense that make him so valuable to the Racers. Listed as a 6-4 forward, Danero Thomas has the skills to play on the wing and the strength to mix it up under the basket. His versatility makes him tough to guard and he is expected to take over a big chunk of the departed scoring after averaging 12.3 points per game as a sophomore.
Under the basket the Racers have an emerging star in Tony Easley. The 6-9, 200 pound junior averaged 9.3 points and 5.2 rebounds in 2007-2008 and is due for a big campaign. Without Carter, who led the team in rebounds, it is up to Easley to shoulder more of the load and hit the glass a little harder. Easley is also a decent shot blocking threat and can at least make the opposition think twice before heading into the paint. Yet, it is 6-6 junior Marvin Williams who could become a better shot blocker if he can find more playing time. With the wide-bodied George Fotso, and Danero Thomas, who will certainly spend plenty of time at the four spot, the team has a decent amount of depth up front. That depth is also now experienced and the Racers can use their big men to bully their way to a conference championship. Having a senior heavy backcourt will help.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Kevin Thomas, Senior, Guard, 6.7 points per game
Tyler Holloway, Senior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Danero Thomas, Junior, Forward, 12.3 points per game
Marvin Williams, Junior, Forward, 5.6 points per game
Tony Easley, Junior, Forward, 9.3 points per game