Saturday , Nov , 05 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

College Basketball Preview – Independents

*** College Basketball Preview – Independents ***

The Sports Network

By Scott Haynes, College Basketball Senior Editor

OUTLOOK: The Independents in Division I change almost yearly and the 2004-05
season saw the spectrum in terms of success in college basketball. The
Islanders of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won 20 games last year, a record-setting
performance for the school. The other extreme saw Savannah State post just the
second winless season in the last 50 years. Others like Utah Valley State and
North Dakota State joined the Islanders with winning records. Some showed
signs of heading in the right direction (South Dakota State and Northern
Colorado), while even others (Longwood) have nowhere to go but up. The
newcomer to the group this year is New Jersey Institute of Technology and the
Highlanders are probably in for a very long journey to finally becoming a full
member of the Division I ranks.


IPFW – After winning just seven games a year ago, the Mastodons made a change
and brought in some youth. That youth comes in the form of 26-year old Dane
Fife. The former Indiana standout is now Division I’s youngest head coach and
hopes to breath new life in a stagnant program. After losing the team’s top
three scorers, Fife will concentrate his efforts at the defensive end of the
court this season. The team is very high on juco transfer Tyler Best (6-8,
230) who won the 2005 NJCAA National title with Paris (TX) Junior College,
after averaging 16.5 points, 8.0 rebounds and 6.0 assists last season.
Freshman Jakari Johnson is a pure shooter with the ability to light up a
scoreboard. He averaged 22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and four steals a game as a
high school senior. The team got a gem in Central Michigan transfer Kevin
Nelson (17.0 ppg last year), but will need to wait a year, as he must sit out
this season due to transfer rules.

SAVANNAH STATE – The Tigers suffered through the first winless season (0-28)
in Division I since 1991-92 and only the second in the last half century. The
team quickly made a change at the top, sending Ed Daniels packing and bringing
in former MEAC Coach of the Year Horace Broadnax in to hopefully change this
team’s fortunes. Broadnax knows a thing or two about winning, being the
starting point guard on Georgetown’s 1984 national championship team. There
isn’t a whole lot of firepower at Savannah State this year, but Broadnax does
get returning leading scorer Mark Williams (16.6 ppg) back and joined with
fellow guard Josh Baker, the Tigers could have something to cheer about in the
backcourt. The coach loves the potential of sophomore forward Lazarius Coleman
(5.1 ppg, 5.4 apg) and he will get every opportunity to shine in the

TEXAS A&M-CORPUS CHRISTI – Ronnie Arrow’s Islanders were the cream of the crop
among Independents last season, as they finished the year with the school’s
best record all-time at 20-8. However, matching that win total will be next to
impossible with all the losses this team has suffered. Gone are four starters
from 2004-05 and almost 80 percent of the scoring, including Travis Bailey
(13.1 ppg) and Corey Lamkin (13.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Still, there is something
abut this team that has created optimism. Junior guard Taurean Mitchell is the
one starter left over from last year’s squad, along with fellow junior Seth
Engelken, who found himself in the starting lineup on a regular basis in the
second half of the campaign. Sophomore seven-footer Chris Daniels (5.3 ppg,
3.2 rpg) is an intriguing low post player that Arrow and company are very high
on. Daniels has a chance to be a focal point in the low post this season.

TEXAS-PAN AMERICAN – The Broncs went 12-16 in 2004-05 in Robert Davenport’s
first season at the helm. That squad had a wealth of experience, but that is
now gone, as Davenport has filled the roster with juco transfers and high
school talent that has a chance to develop. With the top six scorers gone from
a year ago, others will need to step up and take center stage at the offensive
end of the court. Juco transfer Larry Sheppard will take over at the point for
the Broncs, who will utilize his distribution skills and tenacious defense.
The lone returning senior is power forward Derrick East, who is the top
returning scorer and rebounder at 7.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per outing. Much
more is expected of the 6-8, 230-pounder this season. Sophomore forward Zach
Trader was a solid role player off the bench last season at nearly 50 percent
from the floor and will see his playing time grow as a sophomore.


LONGWOOD – The Lancers are in year three of their four-year reclassification
and come in off a 2004-05 season in which the team tied the NCAA Division I
single-season record for futility with a whopping 30 losses. Coach Mike
Gillian had a very young team a year ago and the hope is that now with some
experience on the squad, the wins will start coming a little more frequently.
The team enters the season with a 19-game losing streak in tow, but with four
starters back, the streak could end at any time. Leading the group is junior
guard Michael Jefferson, who has paced the team in scoring the last two years.
A season ago, Jefferson put up 15.4 ppg. Maurice Sumter (6-5) also averaged
double figures at 10.9 ppg, while leading the team on the glass (6.0 rpg).
Chad Kosmo (6-11) gives the team some size inside and netted 6.2 points per
game as a junior, while adding 5.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game. Sophomore
Lamar Barrett (9.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg) will also factor into the equation this

N.J. INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY – The Highlanders went 11-15 in their swan song
at the Division II level, but now must find a way to compete in Division I. It
won’t come easy by any stretch. Coach Jim Casciano had a plethora of freshmen
and sophomores last season and hopefully the experience gained can give the
team a boost in the right direction. The top returning player is forward Marc
Milbourne Swan, who averaged nearly 16 points per game in 2004-05 (15.8),
while grabbing 7.0 rpg. He is joined by guard Clayton Barker (14.0 ppg) to
give the team a solid one-two punch offensively. NJIT will ease into its new
surroundings, as the Highlanders will be under provisional status until the
2009-10 campaign.

NORTH DAKOTA STATE – The Bison had a decent campaign in their second season of
a five-year reclassification. Tim Miles’ squad went 16-12 in 2004-05, but that
record will be difficult, if not impossible to match this time around, as the
team ventures out on its first full Division I slate. To make matters worse,
the team loses all five starters from a year ago, so mixing and matching the
lineup with 12 newcomers will be a task early on to say the least. Redshirt
freshmen Mike Nelson and Ben Woodside will lead the way in the backcourt this
year, along with veteran point guard Phil Hahn, who netted 8.7 points and 3.5
assists per game last year. Miles is high on juco transfer Andre Smith (6-7,
220) to anchor the play in the frontcourt, while youngsters Andrew Brown (6-7,
245-pound sophomore) and Lucas Moormann (6-9, 240-pound redshirt freshman)
fight it out for minutes at the pivot.

NORTHERN COLORADO – The Bears won just eight games last season (8-21), but
they certainly gave it their all with an extremely gutsy schedule. This season
will be more of the same for Coach Craig Rasmuson’s squad, which will
participate in the Guardian’s Classic to start the season, not to mention
games against Colorado State, Wyoming, California, Oregon State, Kansas and
Nebraska. Kirk Archibeque was outstanding as a freshman last year, leading the
team in both scoring (12.2 ppg) and rebounding (6.0 rpg), while converting
nearly 60 percent from the floor (.581). He is regarded as perhaps the top
player in the country among Independents. Guards Matt Kline (9.9 ppg) and Sean
Taibi (9.1 ppg) also return and both are adept at draining the three-pointer.
Taibi led the team with a .444 percentage from behind the arc, while Kline hit
a team-high 49 treys at a .353 clip.

SOUTH DAKOTA STATE – The Jackrabbits finished their first season at the
Division I level with a 10-18 overall record, so their is reason to be
optimistic at SDSU. Head coach Scott Nagy does get starters Ben Beran and
Steve Holdren back in the frontcourt and hopes that they can push this team in
the right direction in 2005-06. Beran averaged 13.6 points and 5.9 rebounds
per game last season, while Holdren came in at 12.5 points and 6.0 boards. The
schedule is daunting to say the least, including the season-opener at Rupp
Arena against the Kentucky Wildcats. Other prominent programs on the roster
include Illinois, Marquette, Nebraska, Minnesota and San Diego State.

UTAH VALLEY STATE – Coach Dick Hunsaker has one of the better Independent
programs in the Division I ranks and hopes to build off a solid 16-12 season a
year ago. The Wolverines were awfully tough in their own building (McKay
Center), with just one loss at home in 2004-05. There aren’t a whole lot of
pratfalls awaiting them on their new schedule, but the team must try to find a
way to replace guard Ronnie Price, who was the third-leading scorer in the
nation last year at 24.3 ppg. One of the players that could assuage the loss
is junior forward David Heck, who averaged 9.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per
game last season. Joining Heck in the frontcourt is senior center Ben Devoe
(6-10), who netted 7.6 points per game, while grabbing 6.1 boards last year.
Senior Pierre Thomas will be asked to shoulder more of the scoring load in the
backcourt, after netting 9.3 ppg a year ago. Thomas shot 45 percent from the
floor overall, but an even better 47 percent from three-point range.