Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders
Overall Rank: #135
Conference Rank: #2 Southland
2008-09: 18-15, 11-5
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Perry Clark (27-35 at Texas A&M Corpus Christi, 277-234 overall)
Coach Perry Clark certainly turned around this team after a dismal 2007-2008 campaign that ended with a mere nine wins. Last year his squad went 11-5 in conference play and looked very good at times. With just one key player departing, the Islanders are prepared to make a run at a Southland title. It helps that Stephen F. Austin, who has dominated the conference over the last couple of years, is decimated by graduation.
Key Losses: G Tim Green
Coach Clark will not ask much from any of the newcomers. However, Terrance Jones could play an important role off the bench in a backcourt that lacks bodies. After not being cleared to play by the NCAA last season, Jones was forced to sit on the bench and watch. The 6-2 Baltimore native is a decent scorer and can also handle the ball so it is quite likely that he will be asked to steal some minutes off the bench every once in a while.
The star on the perimeter is Kevin Palmer. The 6-6 wing came in from Cecil Community College and simply took over the team. He averaged 18.2 points per game and was the only player to average double digits in scoring. He is a capable outside shooter, but will do most of his damage by using his large frame to attack the basket. At the least he gets to the foul line and he shot nearly 81 percent from the stripe last year. Palmer does more than score though; he also ranked second on the team in rebounds and assists, tallying 5.2 and 2.8 per game, respectively. The Baltimore, Maryland product is even a superb defender and tallied 2.6 steals per contest. And all of that was during his first year with the team. If you are looking for the Southland Conference’s next Player of the Year, look no further than Palmer.
The frontcourt lacks a superstar like Palmer, but Demond Watt could be that player. As a sophomore last year he averaged 8.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Ideally, Watt should be playing the four spot, but he might have to slide down to the three with this personnel. That would allow Justin Reynolds and Horace Bond to remain in the starting lineup. Reynolds is the better scorer of the two and can even step outside and hit the occasional three-pointer, but Bond will do the dirty work in the paint. Filip Toncinic, a 7-0 senior, started 20 games a year ago and could work his way back into the starting lineup if he can hold off Reynolds or Bond. Toncinic had an up and down season, but at the least he is an imposing presence under the basket.
Who to Watch:
The unsuccessful season two years ago was partly due to the now departed Tim Green being forced to run the show. Shamar Coombs and LaMarr Drake both missed some time last year, but between the two of them they did a decent job of handling the ball and finding their teammates. Both committed too many turnovers, but Coombs can be a quality scorer who can play at the two spot when needed and Drake is a solid defender.
Having both Coombs and Drake around for an entire season is going to help out a lot. One of them should emerge as the team’s starter and it is feasible that they could both be on the floor at the same time quite a bit. That would allow Palmer to move to the three spot and give the team a couple ball handlers on the floor at the same time. That sounds nice, and it will be nice at times especially if Watt has trouble defending the three spot, but that would force some really talented big men onto the bench.
Projected Post-season Tournament: none
Projected Starting Five:
Shamar Coombs, Senior, Guard
Kevin Palmer, Senior, Guard
Demond Watt, Junior, Forward
Horace Bond, Junior, Forward
Justin Reynolds, Junior, Forward