Ah, what could have been. Jacksonville State isn’t exactly a basketball powerhouse. In fact, since joining the Ohio Valley Conference in 2003, Jacksonville State had just one winning season. This year, they posted their second highest win total since making the transition to Division I, finishing the year just 17-11 despite playing in the much tougher of two divisions in the OVC.
Sadly, off the court issues caught up to the Gamecocks. Their APR score forced the team to be suspended from post season play, meaning the first winning team in seven years to finish on the right side of .500 had to sit out the OVC Tournament.
Now, much of the class that led the Gamecocks to that spot are gone, meaning a mostly younger group will look to help the school post their first back-to-back winning seasons as a Division I basketball program.
James Green‘s squads have been known more for their hard-nosed defense than their offensive prowess, which made last year somewhat unique. The smaller lineups were great at generating turnovers, but struggled defending on the inside. Meanwhile the offense shined, as four double-digit scorers helped generate the most scoring in three years.
Two of those double-digit scorers are gone, but the two that remain create a formidable backcourt combo. Darion Rackley and Brian Williams combined for 26 points, and more than six assists a game last season, and both could see their production rise this season. If it weren’t for an injury that sidelined Rackley over a month, he might have had even better a sophomore campaign.
The frontcourt is where things get a bit more iffy. Tarvin Gaines and Rinaldo Mafra are gone, leaving just part-time starter Nick Cook as the only forward returning with experience, and he averaged just five points a game last year. A lot will be placed on the shoulders of 6’7″ JUCO transfer D.J. Felder and 6’8″ JUCO transfer by the name of Earnest Hunter, one of whom will almost assuredly become a starter.
The rest of the team is quite young, as six freshman who spilt minutes on the back end of the lineup last year get a year older.
Is the APR mess behind Jacksonville State?
Yes. New numbers are due out today, actually, but the year that really drug down their four-year average is now, mercifully, no longer being counted. Their other three-years in the average were solid to quite strong, so it appears JSU basketball doesn’t have anything to fear, at least for now, from the APR.
Is there a sleeper in that group of freshman?
The Gamecocks sure hope so, but there’s wasn’t a whole lot of indication last year.
Alex Anderson got the “bulk” of the minutes, being 6.8 per game in 25 contests. The problem is that he had more of his double-digit minute games in November than any other time of the year, and scored just 12 total points in conference play despite playing in nearly every OVC game. (UPDATE: Anderson is transferring from the program, and heading to the JUCO ranks) Chris Deans has a similar season arc: after posting 12 points against Alabama and 10 against Oregon in a game he played 32 minutes, Deans was shut out in his last 14 games, and played more sparingly in conference play. The rest didn’t play hardly enough to be worth mentioning.