Lee University Men's Basketball Picked 10th In GSC

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When the Lee University men’s basketball team opens the regular season by hosting the GSC-SIAC Classic on Nov. 11-12 against Tuskegee and Miles colleges, the Flames will be looking to improve upon their overall and Gulf South Conference (GSC) record from a year ago.

The Flames completed their first season under head coach Bubba Smith with an overall record of 11-17 and tied for ninth, just shy of earning a GSC Tournament berth, with a 7-15 mark.


GSC Tough from Top to Bottom

“The GSC is really tough from top to bottom and there is a ton of parity,” said Lee second-year head coach Bubba Smith as he took time away from his busy schedule to discuss the 2017-18 campaign. “Valdosta (State) lost the bulk of their production from last year, but we expect them to be right back up near the top. “UAH (Alabama Huntsville) will always be in contention. They have a great culture, good players, and really good coaching in Lennie Acuff. I think Christian Brothers will be a preseason favorite with the bulk of their team returning. West Florida has really taken a big jump in a short period of time. I think they have things going in the right direction. Delta State lost one of the better players the GSC has seen recently in Devin Schmidt, but they have a really solid nuclear returning. It’s really hard to tell what teams have added with the number of junior college players and transfers that enter our league, but I expect it to be extremely competitive each night.”


Christian Brothers earned eight first place votes on their way to 158 total points and receiving the title of preseason favorite in the GSC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. Valdosta State tallied four first place votes to land in second with 144 points. Alabama Huntsville (one first place vote) rounds out the top three. The Flames landed in 10th with 58 points. 


Non-Conference Schedule Strong

“I think our non-conference schedule is strong as we pair off against some in-state competition, with home and away contests against Tusculum College,” explained Smith. “We also travel to play a really good (old rival) Carson-Newman team. We are hosting the crossover this year with Miles and Tuskegee visiting Walker Arena on Nov. 11 and 12.  We finish our non-conference slate with games against Freed-Hardeman and Cumberland universities, teams we have competed against in the past.”


Replacing Keevin Tyus

“Probably our biggest loss from last year’s team is Keevin Tyus,” stressed the coach. “Keevin played with a lot of energy and was a guy that could get a basket in big moments.  He was an emotional leader for our team and loved to compete. We lost five seniors last year, so the bulk of our minutes and production graduated.”


Asking Role Players to Step Up

“We have a number of guys returning that contributed in complimentary roles last season that we will rely on this year to fill those gaps,” pointed out the coach. “(Senior) Levi Woods and (sophomore) Ryan Montgomery will need to step up and play larger roles in our guard play.  (Junior) Cody Jones and (sophomore) Parker Suedekum both were in our top eight as far as minutes played. We expect them to be significant contributors in our backcourt as well.” 


Seven New Players Added

“We added seven new players to our roster, including four freshman, three transfers, and two players coming off redshirt years, noted coach Smith.  “We also have seniors Bryce Copeland and Chase Cullen returning who were out last season. I expect to see Chase and Bryce play a significant role and contribute this season. Both bring a level of toughness and will compete at a high level.”


Big Challenge for Front Court

“Our front court will face the biggest challenge as we return only one player, Isaac Merian, who saw time last year,” confessed Smith. “Newcomer (freshman) Jason Landman and (freshman) transfer Colton Blevins will compete at the post position to round out our front court.”


Looking for New Guys to Step Up

“It’s hard to say what new guys will step in and compete for time this season, including our redshirts and transfers,” admitted the coach. “We have a number of guys I think that will make contributions and have shown some good things this fall. I feel like we have a lot of parity in our guard play and haven’t seen a ton of separation yet between young and old, which is good. We will need to see some of these guys in live practice situations, as well as a scrimmage and exhibition before we know more about how they will contribute.  Learning what we do takes time and the quicker our new guys pick things up will determine how quickly they contribute.”  


Compete Consistently Each Day

“If I could pick one area I think we will be better at than last season, it is the effort it takes to compete consistently each day,” injected Smith. “I also think this team has some toughness across the board and that will be needed for the tough grind of the Gulf South Conference.  


“We will always look for ways to be better defensively and rebound the ball better.  We have to be able to get stops in big moments late in games.  We struggled to do that last year and it cost us in some games we had chances to win.  We always want to be an efficient team offensively, control the tempo of the game, and take great care of the ball.”


Goal: Getting Better Every Day

“The biggest goal we have for this team is getting better every day,” allowed the coach. “I know it sounds like a cliché, but it’s the best approach to building the culture we want and keeping what we can control in front of us daily. I like the way our guys compete and have been working. The energy has been at a high level and the competition daily has been a big difference from a year ago. If we keep finding ways to push ourselves and not settle for being average, we will reach our potential as a team.”


New Grad Assistant Added

“We have added Brody Stone to our staff as our graduate assistant,” said Smith. “Brody played for me at Sewanee for three years and had a stellar career. He graduated with honors and was an active member in a number of different groups on campus. It’s really nice having someone who is familiar with your expectations and understands what you want out of your players. He embodied the development and growth we desire for our players over the course of their careers.” Cole Rose returns for his fourth year as the top Lee assistant and second season under coach Smith.

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