Overall Rank: #112
Conference Rank: #1 Southland
2008-09: 18-12, 12-4
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Bob Marlin (200-123 at Sam Houston State, 200-123 overall)
The story always seems to be the same for Sam Houston State. Even in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, the Bearkats battled for a Southland Conference title and won the West division, but then failed to make the most of their opportunities in the conference tournament. Part of the issue is a lack of a consistent scoring big man. It is hard to win three games in four days when you rely so heavily on the three-point shot.
Key Losses: F Barkley Falkner, G DeLuis Ramirez
The Bearkats did not get a true big man who is ready to contribute right away, but Gilberto Clavell is pretty close. Despite his 6-6 frame, Clavell, a junior college transfer, is a tough player who can score with his back to the basket against bigger opponents. He should immediately help replace Barkley Falkner in the frontcourt. Power forwards Kelly Lawson and Aaron Thompson are taller, but they will need time to develop more strength before they are ready to play major minutes. While Clavell helps replace Falkner, fellow junior college transfer Trevon Charles will help replace guard DeLuis Ramirez, the only other significant departure from last year’s team.
Ramirez was a starter, but it was his backcourt mates Corey Allmond and Ashton Mitchell that really made this team tick. Allmond showed up from the junior college ranks and immediately turned into the team’s best scorer. He connected on 3.3 three-pointers per game and ended the season averaging 15.3 points per game. Mitchell, a 5-11 senior, is not nearly as prolific of a shooter, but he is a superb scorer who can work his way through the paint and find open looks. More important than his scoring is his ability to find his teammates. Mitchell dished out 6.8 assists per game and the offense will always go through him.
Preston Brown, a 6-6 senior, is the only returning forward with any significant playing time. He averaged 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds last year and will be asked to do more scoring around the basket this time around. Yet, his ability to stretch the defense with his outside shooting ability is a big plus, but that will only help if the Bearkats can find an interior scorer to replace Falkner. The encouraging news is that two years ago Falkner was sitting on the bench barely averaging ten minutes per game. That means players like Antuan Bootle or Arthur Zulu who were both used sparingly last year could turn into solid contributors.
Who to Watch:
Lance Pevehouse was fourth on the team in scoring with 9.1 points per game, but only started one game. His outside shooting ability makes him a perfect sixth man and he could play that role again despite the starting spot opening up due to the graduation of Ramirez. Josten Crow is not much of a scorer, but he is a solid defender and he could be the glue guy who holds this team together if Coach Bob Marlin opts to keep Pevehouse on the bench.
There is little reason to think that this team will not once again win the Southland West and the power will shift to the West division now that Stephen F. Austin lost most of their players. But in the end, it will come down to three games in March during the conference tournament. An NIT, CBI or CIT bid is a decent consolation prize, but this is a group that should be thinking about the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Ashton Miller, Senior, Guard, 12.5 points per game
Corey Allmond, Senior, Guard, 15.3 points per game
Josten Crow, Junior, Guard, 4.2 points per game
Preston Brown, Senior, Forward, 9.9 points per game
Gilberto Clavell, Junior, Forward, DNP last season