Coach: Billy Kennedy (53-39 at Murray State, 155-165 overall)
During the 2008-2009 campaign Murray State had a dynamic offense…at least on some nights. On other nights the team struggled to score 50 points. It was that inconsistency that was the hallmark of the season for Coach Billy Kennedy and his Racers. With a young team that is growing up and five players returning that started at least a dozen games, Murray State should put this consistency issues behind them.
Key Losses: G Tyler Holloway, G Kevin Thomas
Despite the newcomers being dominated by forwards, it is on the perimeter where Coach Kennedy has some holes to fill. Tyler Holloway and Kevin Thomas split starting time throughout the season and now both are gone. Holloway was the only player who was a real threat to hit the long ball and that skill will certainly be missed. The good news is Donte Poole and Jewuan Long are both back after missing most of last season with injuries. Poole will not fill the shooter role that this team needs, but he is a good slasher who can score around the basket. Long is not much of a scorer at all, but he is a good defender and should play an important role off the bench.
Danero Thomas is the star of this team after leading the squad with 12.5 point s per game last year. The 6-4 senior could even emerge as the team’s best outside shooter. He hit one a game last year, but shot less than 30 percent. The rest of the frontcourt is just as productive as Thomas. Ivan Aska had a superb freshman campaign, averaging 10.3 points and a team high 5.8 rebounds. Tony Easley might not score as much as Thomas or Aska, but he is a tough player under the basket who will hit the glass hard and even block an occasional shot.
Who’s In for Murray State:
The Racers arguably picked up the best recruiting class in the conference. Their biggest need was finding some athletic slashers or power forwards to fill in off the bench and they got three players who could fill that role. A.J. Wilson is a great athlete and the junior college transfer has the experience to step in and immediately make an impact. Freshmen Daniel Edward and Colin Slotter might need a little more time to adjust to playing at this level, but both are good pickups for Murray State. Combo guard Isaiah Canaan could work his way into the regular rotation as a freshman as well if he can consistently hit the outside shot.
There might be some questions in the backcourt, but not at point guard. Isacc Miles did a great job last year after transferring in from Creighton. Miles is an experienced player, but this will be the first time in his collegiate career that he is returning to the same team for a second season. The 6-2 junior turned into a great slasher who averaged 10.6 points per game and dished out 3.8 assists. Miles will have to take over a bigger leadership role on this team and he may have to play a lot of minutes if Canaan is not ready to come in off the bench.
Final 2009-2010 Murray State Projection:
Murray State has been a dominating team in their conference over the last 20 years. Last year the offense was simply far too inconsistent for this group to win the conference tournament or the regular season. Is that problem solved? The team better find a consistent outside shooter or the opposition will simply hang out in the paint and stop the talented group of forwards. If they can find a shooter, Murray State could win the Ohio Valley Conference title, otherwise they will be on the outside looking in for another year.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
2009-2010 Murray State Basketball Projected Starting Five:
Isacc Miles, Junior, Guard, 10.6 points per game
Donte Poole, Sophomore, Guard, 5.8 points per game
Danero Thomas, Senior, Forward, 12.5 points per game
Ivan Aska, Sophomore, Forward, 10.3 points per game
Tony Easley, Senior, Forward, 6.7 points per game
By Joel Welser
CollegeSports-fans.com Senior Basketball Writer