Jacob Parker

UC Davis v Washington State

Chase for 180: Corey Hawkins turns UC Davis into a Big West contender

Leave a comment

The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

While UC Davis senior guard Corey Hawkins was a preseason all-conference selection back in October, his team was picked to finish seventh in the Big West by the league’s media. However to this point in the season Jim Les’ team has exceeded those expectations, as they’re 16-4 overall and part of a three-way tie for first in the Big West with a 6-1 record. And as expected Hawkins has been a big reason why the Aggies have been so successful, as he’s averaging 21.3 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game.

Hawkins has been a prolific scorer in each of his three seasons at UC Davis after transferring in from Arizona State, but the difference now is that he’s a more efficient player. Hawkins averaged 18.0 points per game in 2013-14, which is a good number, but he did so shooting 44.4% from the field and 32.2% from beyond the arc. Through 20 games this season Hawkins’ shooting percentages are 51.2% (field) and 52.6% (three-pointers), and he’s also shooting 80.6% from the foul line.

According to Ken Pomeroy’s numbers Hawkins’ offensive rating is up to 122.2 this season after finishing the 2013-14 campaign with a rating of 108.3, and that jump is one reason why UC Davis has improved significantly on the offensive end of the floor. UC Davis is ranked third nationally in effective field goal percentage (59.1%), fourth in field goal percentage (50.1%) and first in three-point percentage (45.4%), and they’re ranked 25th in offensive efficiency (not adjusted) after ranking 23oth in that category a season ago.

With Josh Ritchart (12.4 ppg) being the only other Aggie averaging double figures and Josh Fox at 9.4 ppg, a lot is asked of Hawkins (who also leads the team in rebounding and assists) on that end of the floor. Yet even with the attention that opposing teams pay him, Hawkins has flourished for a team that has a realistic shot at its first NCAA tournament berth as a member of the Big West.

In wins over UCSB and Cal Poly last week Hawkins averaged 25.0 points per game, shooting 53.1% from the field and 64.3% from beyond the arc while also averaging 5.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per. UC Davis’ schedule down the stretch will be tougher, beginning with a road game at UC Irvine Thursday night and remaining games against Long Beach State, Hawaii (which gave them their lone conference loss) and a rematch with UC Irvine.

But if Hawkins can continue to play as he has to this point in the season, Jim Les’ team will be a factor in the Big West title race. And given his ability to shoot the basketball, Hawkins is the kind of player who can carry a team through a conference tournament.

50-40-90 Players

Jack Gibbs (Davidson)
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs remains sidelined due to a slight tear of the meniscus in his knee.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks (Boise State)
52.7%, 54.7%, 83.8% = 191.2

Marks (23 points on 9-for-13 shooting from the field) was too much for Utah State on Tuesday, helping to propel Boise State to its first-ever win in Logan after losing their last 18 games there.

Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington) 
50.5%, 47.6%, 86.1% = 184.2

Harvey shot just 4-for-13 from the field in the Eagles’ win over Idaho on Saturday, and he’ll need a better performance Thursday night at Montana.

Seven More “180” Players

Corey Hawkins (UC Davis)
51.2%, 52.6%, 80.6% = 184.4

Jacob Parker (Stephen F. Austin)
55.6%, 44.9%, 81.8% = 182.3

The Lumberjacks still haven’t lost since late November, and Parker’s shot 50 percent or better from the field in each of the last six games.

Marc Loving (Ohio State)
49.1%, 53.2%, 79.7% = 182.0

Loving didn’t make the trip with the team Wednesday night, and the Buckeyes could have used his shooting as they lost by two at Purdue.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso) 
50.5%, 46.3%, 84.8% = 181.6

In the Crusaders’ three-game win streak Peters has shot 22-for-36 (61.1%) from the field and 7-for-15 (46.7%) from three.

Tim Huskisson (Northern Colorado) 
50.8%, 45.0%, 77.3% = 180.3

Huskisson shot 5-for-11 in a 2-0 week for the Bears, which included a win over Weber State on Saturday.

Justin Anderson (Virginia)
49.7%, 50.0%, 80.6% = 180.3

Anderson bounced back from his showing in the Cavaliers’ loss to No. 4 Duke, shooting 6-for-10 from the field (3-for-5 3PT) in a win at No. 12 North Carolina Monday night.

Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Rice was expected to return to the court against Rutgers, but he and teammate Aaron Cosby were suspended by head coach John Groce.

 

Chase for 180: Already a good shooter, Tyler Harvey’s been even better in 2014-15

Troy Williams, Tyler Harvey
Leave a comment

The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey enjoyed a productive debut season after redshirting in 2012-13, scoring an average of 21.8 points per game while shooting 44.3% from the field and 43.3% from beyond the arc. Obviously the opportunities Harvey saw a season ago would once again be present in 2014-15, and he’s certainly taken advantage for head coach Jim Hayford. But the scary thing for the rest of the Big Sky is that while Harvey’s scoring 24.0 points per game, he’s putting points on the board in a more efficient manner than he did last season.

Harvey’s percentages have risen to 51.4% from the field and 48.6% from beyond the arc, with the biggest change coming in the way he’s scored inside of the arc. After making 45.2% of his two-point attempts as a freshman, Harvey’s shooting 54.3% this season. The ratio has changed some this season, with the majority of Harvey’s shots coming from outside of the arc (163 three-point attempts, 92 two-point attempts) after attempting just 24 more three-pointers than two-pointers in 2013-14 (234 three-point attempts, 210 two-point attempts).

But Harvey’s done a better job of converting the two-point looks he does get, even with the increased attention that comes with being the focus of every opponent’s scouting report.

Scoring-wise, Harvey’s reached double figures in every game this season and he’s scored no fewer than 16 points in any of those games. In conference play Harvey’s been even more productive, averaging 26.1 points per game on a team that’s 6-1 in Big Sky play. In wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota last week, Harvey averaged 30.5 points per game on 59.3% shooting from the field, 46.7% from three and 88.0% from the foul line.

While the presence of three other double-figure scorers in conference play, led by freshman forward Bogdan Bliznyuk (15.1 ppg), helps Harvey from a spacing standpoint teams still know who EWU’s primary scoring option is. And yet he continues to put up highly impressive numbers for the Eagles, who are aiming for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2004.

50-40-90 Players

Jack Gibbs (Davidson) 
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs has missed the last two games for the Wildcats due to a knee injury.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks (Boise State)
51.9%, 53.8%, 86.2% = 191.9

Marks and the Broncos have now won five straight, with the senior scoring 28 in a win over Colorado State Tuesday night.

Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington)
51.4%, 48.6%, 85.8% = 185.8

Seven More “180” Players 

Jacob Parker (Stephen F. Austin)
55.6%, 46.2%, 81.6% = 183.4

Parker followed up a 13-point outing in a win over Sam Houston State with a 20-point (7-for-13 FG), 12-rebound night in a win over Lamar on Monday.

Justin Anderson (Virginia)
50.0%, 51.9%, 81.0% = 182.9

Like his teammates Anderson got off to a slow start Sunday at Virginia Tech. But he scored ten points in the final 7:05 to lead the Cavaliers to the 50-47 win.

Corey Hawkins (UC Davis) 
50.9%, 51.0%, 80.0% = 181.9

Shooting wasn’t an issue for Hawkins in the Aggies’ loss at Hawaii last Thursday (5-for-8 3PT), but the seven turnovers were.

Nic Moore (SMU) 
45.9%, 46.3%, 89.2% = 181.4

With the Mustangs navigating multiple personnel losses, it’s been Moore leading the way for a team one game behind Tulsa in the conference standings.

Alec Peters (Valparaiso) 
50.2%, 46.4%, 84.4% = 181.0

Peters bounced back from Friday’s loss at Green Bay in a big way Monday night, shooting 10-for-14 from the field to lead the Crusaders past Milwaukee.

Kevin Pangos (Gonzaga)
49.7%, 47.0%, 83.6% = 180.3

Pangos played just 18 minutes in the Bulldogs’ blowout win over Pacific on Saturday, making three of his five three-point attempts.

Rayvonte Rice (Illinois)
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Like Gibbs, Rice remains out of the lineup for Illinois due to injury (left wrist).

Chase for 180: Boise State rebounds from 0-3 conference start thanks to Derrick Marks

Derrick Marks, Ivo Basor
Leave a comment

The “Chase for 180″ is back for a second year, and for those who may not be familiar with the project it’s our attempt to identify some of the best shooters in America. But what makes one an “elite shooter?” For some it’s merely the ability to knock down perimeter shots at a high rate, but that isn’t the case for all players. High-level shooting requires proficiency from three, the field overall, and from the foul line. 

“180” refers to the resulting number when adding a player’s field goal, three-point and free throw percentages, with the best shooters either approaching or surpassing that mark. 50 percent or better from the field overall, 40 percent or better from three and 90 percent or better from the foul line. This achievement has occurred more often in college basketball than it has in the NBA, where just six players (Steve Nash did it in four different seasons) have done it in the history of the league. 

We’ll update this list throughout the season, with players also needing to qualify to be ranked by the NCAA in each of the three percentage categories in order to be considered. In order to qualify to be ranked a player needs to have played in at least 75 percent of his team’s games and have averaged: 

  • five or more field goal attempts per game;
  • two or more three-point attempts per game;
  • 2.5 or more free throw attempts per game.

To read prior installments of the Chase for 180, click here

Entering the 2014-15 season expectations were high for a Boise State team returning its two best players in seniors Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks, even with the graduation of all-Mountain West performer Ryan Watkins, as they were picked to finish second in the conference’s preseason poll. And if dealing with an inexperienced front court wasn’t tough enough for Leon Rice to do, there was also the loss of Drmic to back and ankle injuries.

Without Drmic, who averaged 15.9 points per game as a junior, even more would be asked of Marks from a scoring standpoint. And for a player who at times had issues with shot selection in 2013-14 (see: their home loss to San Diego State), this could be either a gift or a curse depending upon Marks’ shot discipline. After losing their first three conference games the Broncos have now won three in a row, and while the progress made by James Webb III has been key the most important factor has been Marks’ improvement.

After averaging 14.9 points per game as a junior Marks is up to 18.6 as a senior, and his percentages have improved as well. The senior has raised his field goal percentage by more than seven percentage points (51.7, from 44.1), and the improvements made from beyond the arc have been stunning. After making just 19 of his 66 attempts in 2013-14, through 19 games Marks is shooting 36-for-71 (50.7%) from three.

Marks may not be scoring from the foul line as often as he did last season, with his free throw rate being cut in half, but there’s been improved accuracy from both the mid-range (46.6% FG on two-point jumpers compared to 36.7% last season, per hoop-math.com) and from three. On the whole Boise State doesn’t get to the foul line all that often, ranking last in the conference in free throw rate (conference games only), but they’re still second in the Mountain West in adjusted offensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers even with the loss of Drmic.

The performance of Marks, who averaged 29.5 points per game and shot 52.4% from the field in wins over UNLV and New Mexico (we’re going to leave out last night’s 86-36 win over San Jose State), is the biggest reason why the Broncos have rebounded from their 0-3 start to conference play.

50-40-90 Club

Jack Gibbs, Davidson
51.7% FG, 41.4% 3PT, 90.8% FT = 183.9

Gibbs missed Davidson’s win over No. 22 Dayton with a slight tear in his meniscus, and he’ll be out of the lineup for a little while.

He’s Close to 50-40-90 Status

Derrick Marks, Boise State
51.7%, 50.7%, 84.3% = 186.7

Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington
50.6%, 48.8%, 85.2% = 184.6

Harvey’s scored 21 points or more in eight of Eastern Washington’s last nine games, and he’s a reason why the Eagles are now the favorites to win the Big Sky.

 

Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga
50.0%, 47.2%, 83.1% = 180.3

Still haven’t been able to see how the addition of Eric McClellan will impact Pangos due to McClellan’s foot injury, but the senior continues to lead the way for one of the nation’s best teams.

Eight More “180” Players

Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin
55.6%, 46.6%, 84.4% = 186.6

Why are the Lumberjacks 15-3 overall and 5-0 in Southland play? Parker’s one reason, as he’s shot 70 percent or better from the field in each of the last three games.

Justin Anderson, Virginia
50.6%, 52.7%, 79.7% = 183.0

With Georgia Tech in town, Anderson will look to rebound from his worst performance of the season (0-for-8 FG, zero points) in Saturday’s win at Boston College.

Richaud Gittens, Weber State
46.4%, 54.9%, 81.3% = 182.6

Given the amount of talent lost from last year’s NCAA tournament team, Gittens is one player the Wildcats needed to step up. The hope in Ogden is that his last three games (14.0 ppg, 71.4% FG, 9-for-10 3PT) are a sign that the sophomore is becoming a more consistent scoring option.

Alec Wintering, Portland
46.7%, 51.2%, 84.0% = 181.9

Wintering’s been kept in check the last three games, which were all defeats for the Pilots. He managed to score just five points (2-for-9 FG) in their loss at Pepperdine on Saturday.

Marcus Marshall, Missouri State
45.9%, 45.6%, 89.9% = 181.4

Marshall’s played his last game in a Missouri State uniform, as it was announced last week that he’ll be transferring in May.

Alec Peters, Valparaiso
49.6%, 47.0%, 84.0% = 180.6

Peters shot just 34.8% from the field in wins over Wright State and Youngstown State, and the Crusaders will need greater accuracy from their leading scorer if they’re to win at Green Bay Friday night.

Corey Hawkins, UC Davis
51.2%, 50.0%, 79.1% = 180.3

Jim Les’ Aggies remain undefeated in Big West play (4-0) with Hawkins, who’s shooting 50 percent from the field and 54.5% from three, being the biggest reason why.

Rayvonte Rice, Illinois
51.5%, 48.3%, 80.3% = 180.1

Rice (broken left hand) isn’t expected to return until sometime next month for the Fighting Illini.

2014-2015 Season Preview: NBCSports.com’s Mid-Major All-Americans

ucsbgauchos.com
1 Comment
source: AP
Keifer Sykes (AP Photo)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Here are our Preseason Mid-Major All-Americans.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

A quick disclaimer before I begin, because determining who qualifies as a mid-major and who doesn’t is always a touchy subject. Here is how we broke it down for these rankings: The Mountain West, the Big East, the Atlantic 10 and the American were all, by default, barred from these rankings. The WCC was eligible with the exception of Gonzaga and BYU. The Missouri Valley was eligible with the exception of Wichita State. Everyone else was fair game.

Why did we eliminate the Shockers from contention? Well, the complicated answer is that “high-major” delegation is more about financial resources, support from the university, the fan base and the community, and consistent, high-level success during the season and on the recruiting trail, but the simple answer is that the Shockers would be the clear-cut No. 1 team here and it’s more fun to do this without them involved. Our rankings, our rules. Deal with it.

RELATED: NBCSports.com’s Mid-Major Power Rankings

FIRST TEAM

  • Keifer Sykes, Green Bay, Sr. (20.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 4.9 apg): High-flying, high-scoring point guards aren’t that easy to find. Sykes is the reason that the Phoenix have a shot at winning a game-or-two in the NCAA tournament.
  • R.J. Hunter, Georgia State, Jr. (18.5 ppg, 39.5% 3PT): Yeah, I know he plays for Georgia State, but we picked him on this team because he may actually be the nation’s best spot-up shooter.
  • John Brown, High Point, Jr. (19.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg, 1.6 spg, 1.5 bpg): The nation’s highest-flying wing, Brown is the reigning Big South Player of the Year and a human-highlight reel.
  • Alan Williams, UC-Santa Barbara, Sr. (21.3 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg): Williams has been a star at the mid-major level for three years now, but the Gauchos simply haven’t had the kind of success as a team that would garner him more national recognition.
  • Shawn Long, Louisiana-Lafayette, Jr. (18.6 ppg, 10.4 rpg, 2.7 bpg, 42.3% 3PT): It will be Long’s Ragin’ Cajuns team this season with Elfrid Payton now in the NBA. His ability to block shots and shoot threes at 6-foot-10 could mean that he winds up in the NBA Draft after this season as well.

MORE: Top 25 Potential Breakout Stars | Top 25 Non-Conference Games | Coaches on the Hot Seat

source:
Wesley Saunders (AP Photo)

SECOND TEAM

  • Jalan West, Northwestern State, Jr. (19.4 ppg, 6.4 apg, 40.3% 3PT): His numbers are inflated by Northwestern State’s uptempo style of play. That doesn’t make him any less talented, however.
  • Daniel Mullings, New Mexico State, Sr. (16.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 3.5 apg): Mullings is the reigning WAC Player of the Year, and he’ll have a chance to play more point guard this season.
  • Wesley Saunders, Harvard, Jr. (14.2 ppg, 3.8 apg): Saunders was the Ivy League’s Player of the Year last season and should once again be the leading scorer on a Harvard team that has one a game in the tournament in back-to-back seasons.
  • Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin, Sr. (14.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 46.9% 3PT): Parker won last year’s Southland Player of the Year award and was the best player on a team that went 32-3 and beat VCU in the NCAA tournament.
  • Justin Sears, Yale, Jr. (16.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.9 bpg): Sears is our Preseason Ivy League Player of the Year and the biggest reason Yale has a chance to contend with Harvard for the Ivy title.

THIRD TEAM

  • Siyani Chambers, Harvard, Jr. (11.1 ppg, 4.6 apg): The heart and soul of the Crimson. He’s one of the nation’s most underrated point guards.
  • Ryan Harrow, Georgia State, Sr. (17.8 ppg, 4.2 apg): The former Kentucky and N.C. State point guard found his niche back in his hometown of Atlanta.
  • Julius Brown, Toledo, Sr. (14.9 ppg, 6.0 apg): ‘Juice’ Brown helped lead the Rockets to a share of the MAC regular season title last season.
  • A.J. English, Iona, Jr. (17.2 ppg, 4.3 apg, 3.9 rpg): English is the best player on an Iona team favored to win the always-competitive MAAC.
  • Cameron Payne, Murray State, So. (16.8 ppg, 5.4 apg, 1.7 spg): The Memphis-native had a terrific freshman season trying to replace the production left when Isaiah Canaan graduated.

HONORABLE MENTION: D.J. Balentine (Evansville), Joel Bolomboy (Weber State), Karl Cochran (Wofford), Brett Comer (Florida-Gulf Coast), Juan’Ya Green (Hofstra), Martez Harrison (UMKC), Tyler Harvey (Eastern Washington), Damion Lee (Drexel), Tshilidzi Nephawe (New Mexico State), Andrew Rowsey (UNC-Asheville), Bernard Thompson (Florida-Gulf Coast), Marcus Thornton (William & Mary), Seth Tuttle (Northern Iowa), Isiah Umipig (Seattle), Jameel Warney (Stony Brook), Kyle Wilson (Army)

Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin gain confidence from communication

Getty Images
Leave a comment
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Senior forward and reigning Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker wasn’t always a star-quality player at Stephen F. Austin. After two years under previous head coach Danny Kasper, Parker put up ordinary numbers on ordinary teams.

But under new head coach Brad Underwood last season, Parker’s game expanded. The same thing happened to Parker’s teammates and it helped launch the Lumberjacks to unprecedented program success, including an undefeated record in Southland play, a 29-game win streak and a trip to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament.

Underwood’s strategy as a head coach certainly paid off — including setting a culture predicated on a theory of, “getting better every single day we’re in the gym,” — but he’s also tried to keep it loose and fun for his players so their personalities come through and they can focus on basketball when the time comes.

“Once he came in, it was a whole different lifestyle,” Parker said to NBCSports.com. “With Coach Kasper, it was clean shaven, crew cut, nothing out of the ordinary. Coach Underwood came in, he was a whole different guy. A lot of fun to be around him. Guys were in the office all the time last year. It’s just a good environment to be around.”

With the new coaching staff in place, the changes became particularly apparent for Parker, both on-and-off the court, as the 6-foot-6 forward had a tremendous year in 2013-14. After putting up 7.2 points and 4.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore, Parker became the conference’s best player, averaging 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.4 steals per game as a junior while shooting 53.8% from the field, 46.9% from three-point range and 79.8% from the free-throw line.

RELATED: Southland Conference Preview

But the changes also came off-the-floor. Parker grew his hair out long for the first time and Underwood said he began to show his personality and leadership ability.

“This is the first time in my life I’ve ever grown out my hair. So that was a big change for myself,” Parker said.

Parker’s coach described him as a “really quiet leader,” but teammates respect Parker in-part because he’s grounded and simple, often sticking to activities he’s done his whole life and working very hard on the court. His teammates and coaches like the person that Parker has become and Underwood likes his star player’s personality.

“He’s a guy that at the end of the day would probably be just as happy being the star of Duck Dynasty,” Underwood said. “He loves to hunt and fish, it’s part of his upbringing. He’s very creative.”

Communicating with players and learning about hobbies and problems is a huge component of the Stephen F. Austin men’s basketball program. Underwood wants players to have fun and remain loose away from the court and he believes earning that trust will help lead to better communication in games and on the court.

“I think that communication is the single most important thing to the success of a program,” Underwood said. “I think, as a coach, I’m trying to push these guys to get better every day, knowing the hardest thing to get a kid to do is to be an everyday guy. I need to understand why they have a bad day. Whether they stayed up for an econ test, or problems at home and to do that we need communication.”

That kind of focus on communication led to Underwood being able to reach his new players on his style of play nearly immediately. Parker said that the communication on the floor was positive from the moment Underwood took the job and the team grasped what they were trying to accomplish.

“Right when he got down here he kind of showed us what we would be doing,” Parker said. “Our defensive principles are very strong, which is very important. He showed us about the kind of offense we would run. And it was eye-opening because I’d never played like that.”

The ability to instantly learn the new concepts coupled with a balanced team that could shoot helped Stephen F. Austin have a special season. Four players ended up averaging double-figure scoring last season and five players shot at least 35 percent from the three-point line.

There’s some questions heading into the season now that Desmond Haymon and Deshaunt Walker are gone from the wing, but senior forward Thomas Walkup is back with Parker and the team is anxious to build on last season’s success. The rotation for the Lumberjacks should be deeper this season.

“I love the increased depth. I think that this will be a more competitive team in practice, which I hope makes us much better,” Underwood said. “I think this team has the capability of maybe scoring the ball a little easier than last year’s team. We do lose a great deal of experience.”

Stephen F. Austin might not be able to go unbeaten in a deep Southland Conference this season, but they’re hoping that the new pieces are able to come in and grasp the concepts quickly like Underwood taught the whole team last season.

The Lumberjacks want to get back to the NCAA Tournament and make some more noise.

2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?

Jacob Parker (Getty Images)
Leave a comment

 

source: Getty Images
Jacob Parker (Getty Images)

Beginning on October 3rd and running up until November 14th, the first day of the season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2014-2015 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

MORE: 2014-2015 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.

That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.

The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.

Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.

The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.

This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).

Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.

It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.

Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.

REALIGNMENT

  • In: None
  • Out: Oral Roberts

PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin

The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:

  • Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
  • John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
  • Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
  • Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.

ONE TWITTER FEED TO FOLLOW: @SFA_MBB

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Northwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. McNeese State
6. Incarnate Word
7. Southeastern Louisiana
8. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Abilene Christian
11. Houston Baptist
12. Central Arkansas
13. Lamar