2008-2009 North Carolina Central Eagles Basketball Preview
North Carolina Central Eagles
2007-08 postseason: none
Their 4-26 record might not be exactly what North Carolina Central hoped for during their first year in division I, but it could have been a lot worse. The Eagles won three of their last six games and have as much momentum as possible heading into the 2008-2009 campaign. More important for Coach Henry Dickerson than momentum is experience. He, and his team, has now gone through a grueling schedule and they know what to expect this time around. And with a decent backcourt returning, NCCU should tally more than four wins this season.
Who’s Out for the Eagles:
The big losses are in the frontcourt, most notably Charles Futrell. One of only two players to start all 30 games for the Eagles, the 6-6 forward led the team with 16.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per contest. Making matters worse for the already undersized team is the departure of 6-9 Marius Vaskys and 6-7 Calvin Wright. Neither put up big numbers, but Vaskys started 26 games and was at least a solid rebounder and a presence in the paint. Little used Brandon Alston, John-Calvin Harris and Raphael McDonald will also not be suiting up for the Eagles this year.
This team needs some size and junior college Stevy Worah-Ozimo will provide just that. The 6-9, 220 pound center will not replace the scoring of Futrell, but he can be a big time rebounder and shot blocker right away. He averaged nearly 11 rebounds per game during his two years at TCI College of Technology in New York and will always work hard on the glass. Another junior college transfer, Lamar Pittman will be asked to do more scoring. At 6-8 and 230 pounds, he has the muscle to battle in the paint against most opponents. Pittman also has a nice mid-range jumper and can stretch out the defense. Pittman is more likely to contribute right away, but both could be starting eventually and, if all goes as planned, will give the Eagles a solid frontcourt duo for the next two years. Nick Chasten, Norbert Randall and Dami Sapara will add depth to the wings. At 6-7, Chasten has the size to play the four spot, but he is really a tall wing. He has a nice stroke out to the three-point arc and this is a team that could use another shooter. Sapara may not sound like a power forward, but the 6-6, 195 pound freshman could play that position. He could also play the two or the three spot and his toughness and versatility will pay dividends right away. Jamar Briscoe, a McDonald’s High School All-American nominee, could end up being the best of the bunch. The 5-10 point guard is a great scorer who can also handle the ball and use his speed to get his team plenty of fast break opportunities. He will likely spend this year coming in off the bench, but he has the talent to work his way into the starting lineup or at least provide a spark when the starters need a break.
Who to Watch:
Bryan Ayala is the star of the team. The point guard tallied 13.0 points and 4.0 assists per game last year. Now the senior will be asked to take all the big shots for NCCU and be the leader on the floor. There are plenty of other returning players in the backcourt, but none of them have proven to be consistent scorers and somebody has to replace Futrell’s shots. Philip Branch was the most prolific three-point shooter last year, but he may spend another year as the shooter off the bench. Ashton Sauls and J’Mell Walters will likely start on the wings. Sauls missed most of last season, but he proved to be an effective slasher and a decent rebounder for a 6-0 guard. Michael Glasker will compete with Briscoe for playing time at the point, but the most important thing for this backcourt is finding a way to keep the turnovers down. Nobody on the team had an acceptable assist-to-turnover ratio last year and that is something that has to change if the Eagles want to have a successful campaign.
Final 2008-2009 North Carolina Central Projection:
Five of the six newcomers are taller than any returning forward who saw significant playing time last year. Joshua Worthy and Tremaine Holloway are both 6-5 and will have to hold off the newcomers for minutes. Worthy is the likely candidate to start at the four spot while the newcomers get adjusted, but Holloway also earned some starts last year and should be in the mix. The backcourt has plenty of experienced depth, but the frontcourt could cause some problems if the new guys are not ready to play major minutes.
Projected Postseason Tournament: none
2008-2009 North Carolina Central Projected Starting Five:
Bryan Ayala, Senior, Guard, 13.0 points per game
J’Mell Walters, Junior, Guard, 4.4 points per game
Ashton Sauls, Senior, Guard, 7.0 points per game
Joshua Worthy, Junior, Forward, 4.2 points per game
Lamar Pittman, Junior, Forward, DNP last season
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer
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