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Return to the 2006-07 Top 144 Preview

August 21st, 2006

By Joel Welser

Broadcast Basketball


George Mason Patriots

Overall Rank: #80

Conference Rank: #4 CAA


2005-06: 27-8, 15-3, 1st (t)

2005-06 postseason: NCAA


No matter how much they messed up our brackets, we all have a little special place in our hearts for George Mason.  Yet, here in August, its all looking ahead to 2006-2007 and its back to reality.  Coach Jim Larranaga loses three instrumental players of the Final Four run and there is a little rebuilding to do.


Whos Out: The top three scorers are gone in Jai Lewis, Tony Skinn and Lamar Butler.  Big man Lewis averaged a team high 13.7 points and 7.8 boards, while Butler and Skinn tacked on 12.6 and 11.9 points, respectively. 


Whos In: It wont be easy to replace Lewis, Butler and Skinn, but with a couple guys returning from injuries and one of the best classes GMU has seen in a while, it is possible that the Patriots wont take too much of a hit.  There will be a couple starting spots up for grabs among these newcomers.  Power forwards Jesus Urbina, Darryl Monroe and Louis Birdsong will help replace Lewis.  Urbina redshirted last season and has yet to reach his full potential due to nagging injuries.  As a sophomore two years ago, the 6-7 Venezuelan earned two starts, averaging 2.7 points and rebounds per contest.  If not healthy, junior college transfer Monroe will earn the starting nod.  Incoming freshman Louis Birdsong might not see too much action this year, but he is a great pickup for George Mason.  The 6-6 forward is tough and athletic and is expected to be an exceptional player before his career is through.  In the backcourt, shooting guards John Vaughan and Andrew Smith will compete for a starting gig.  Vaughn started the final 15 games of his freshman campaign before missing the magical season with an injury.  Healthy again, the 6-3 sophomore will regain his starting role and knock down the long ball and get to the basket.  Smith wont make it easy for Vaughan to return to his starting role though.  The junior college transfer can play both guard spots and GMU might need him to spend a little time at the point as well as the two.


Who to Watch: Folarin Campbell and Gabe Norwood will be the new go-to-guys on the perimeter.  Campbell moved to the point a couple years ago and has obviously been successful.  The 6-4 Silver Spring, Maryland native started all but one game last year, averaging 11.0 points, 3.4 assists and 4.2 rebounds.  Norwood came off the bench most of last season and is expected to move to a starting role this year.  The 6-5 versatile wing averaged 3.4 points last season, but should see a drastic increase in numbers with more minutes. 


Final Projection: Up front the Patriots return Will Thomas who averaged 11.8 points and 7.2 boards as just a sophomore.  With Lewis gone, Thomas will be the man in the paint.  It will be imperative that Thomas continues to work hard on the glass or GMU will have some problems in that category.  A little work on the free throw shooting wouldnt hurt either.  Sophomores Sammy Hernandez and Chris Fleming showed promise during their first campaign in Fairfax and with a little more development could make a much bigger impact this season.  What separates Mason from the rest is the fact that they have a system that works and the players believe in it.  Plugging a few new guys in here and there might not have as a big of a negative effect as many think. 


Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT


Projected Starting Five:

Folarin Campbell, Junior, Guard, 11.0 points per game

John Vaughn, Sophomore, Guard, DNP last season

Gabe Norwood, Senior, Guard, 3.4 points per game

Darryl Monroe, Junior, Forward, DNP last season

Will Thomas, Junior, Forward, 11.8 points per game

81 Marist Complete List 79 California

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