2007-08 South Alabama Basketball Preview
South Alabama Jaguars
Overall Rank: #103
Conference Rank: #2 Sun Belt
2006-07: 20-12, 13-5, 1st East
2006-07 postseason: NIT
The Sun Belt champions lost their coach to Arkansas and a whole bunch of players for a variety reasons, yet South Alabama will not drop too far, if at all, in the Sun Belt. Coach Ronnie Arrow returns to Mobile to replace Coach John Pelphrey. Coach Arrow was the head man at USA from 1987 to 1994 before heading to Texas A&M Corpus Christi where he successfully guided the program to Division I status. The program had some good times under Coach Arrow in his first go around compiling a 114-93 record, but his second time should be more successful.
There are some big names on this list. Ernest Little averaged 13.0 points and a team high 9.4 rebounds and fellow forward Leandro Buboltz added 7.3 points and was one of the best shooters on the team. Trajinski Grigsby provided a little depth to the forward positions and will play elsewhere next year. The big loss in the backcourt is Carlos Smith. He may have depended on the three point shot a little too much, but Smith still knocked down quite a few, averaged 9.3 points per game and played solid defense. Stephen Cowherd was a decent sharpshooter off the bench his last year with the team and Brooks Taylor and Darren Cloud will continue their collegiate careers with a different team after seeing limited playing time with South Alabama.
This group of newcomers will provide a starter or two and some important depth for the Jaguars. Domonic Tilford is not officially on the roster yet, but the former Cincinnati Wildcat is a big time talent for the Sun Belt. Assuming he makes it to Mobile, the guard is too talented to keep on the bench. Kevin Hayden and DeAndrae Ross will also be asked to contribute immediately and both have enough talent to provide a spark off the bench. Small forward Daniel Hayles started 20 games during his two year stint with Auburn and should immediately step into a starting role after practicing with the squad last year. He was never able to show off his scoring abilities with the Tigers, but Hayles has the strength to get to the basket and become a solid scorer and rebounder. Ronald Douglas is a great athlete for a 6-9 post player. The well traveled junior college transfer averaged 9.0 points, 11.3 rebounds and 5.6 blocks at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College last season and will be a major, and much needed, presence in the paint. Kem Nweke will add some depth to the frontcourt, but the 6-10, 305 pound center is still raw and will need some time to develop his skills.
Who to Watch:
Despite all the turnover, the team does return six players who started at least one game in 2006-2007. The two most important are Demetric Bennett and Daon Merritt. Bennett is a prolific scorer and extremely consistent from behind the arc. The 6-4 senior is a quality rebounding guard and will be the go-to-scorer once again. After transferring from Richmond, it did not take long for Merritt to make an impact. The 5-10 point guard averaged 12.7 points and 5.3 assists his first active campaign with USA and should not have any trouble equaling those numbers for his senior season. With Tilford on the roster, the backcourt becomes a little more crowded, but Tilford, despite only being 5-10, could play the off guard position at times and slide everybody else up a position.
The player who would then feel the squeeze is Brandon Davis. The 6-7 junior earned 12 starts last year and, while he will not put up huge numbers in the scoring column, is a talented rebounder and defender. Kenny Hooks has the potential to play a much bigger role, but has failed to develop into a consistent option. The Tabet brothers, Charles and Philip, enjoyed successful, albeit limited, freshmen campaigns, but can play a bigger role if Coach Arrow needs them to do so. More important than any player for South Alabama is chemistry. As soon as the new faces turn into a team, the Jaguars will compete for the top spot in the conference.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Daon Merritt, Senior, Guard, 12.7 points per game
Demetric Bennett, Senior, Guard, 15.5 points per game
Daniel Hayles, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
Brandon Davis, Junior, Forward, 5.8 points per game
Ronald Douglas, Junior, Forward, DNP last season