MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. - Now entering his 26th season as a collegiate head coach, including 17 at the helm of the Georgia College & State University men's basketball team, head coach Terry Sellers has seen the scenario plenty of times before. A team coming off a great season, 20-plus wins and a trip to the NCAA Tournament, with some things left to prove.
The 2009-10 Bobcats have a solid balance of talented newcomers and experienced, battle-tested veterans that helps a program maintain the high level of excellence Sellers and Georgia College fans are used to.
"We'll find out a lot about this year's team in the next couple of weeks," he said. "I'm looking forward to seeing us in exhibitions and scrimmages playing against outside competition."
"The work ethic has been consistently good from the very beginning of preseason practice. The potential is there for a successful season."
Of the five-member senior class, these are some of the team's hardest workers, including a pair of returning starters and one of the top newcomers to the 2009-10 roster.
Preseason All-Peach Belt Conference (PBC) selection Graham Martin (Marietta, Ga.) is coming off a season averaging 11.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per contest, and will need to add to those numbers to offset the loss of two-time all-conference and all-region guard Shaun Keaton.
"Graham has the ability, he's got the experience, and we expect him to be one of those go-to type guys for this team. He's half of a backcourt that has the potential to be one of the best in the conference."
The other half is point guard Ty Rowland (Lilburn, Ga.) straight off a breakout season for the ‘Cats. Rowland took over the starting point job halfway through his sophomore season, and has never looked back, improving by leaps and bounds each year. A season ago, he was the guy taking (and making) shots with the game on the line in the waning seconds. He led a backcourt that paced the PBC in assist to turnover ratio as well as turnover margin.
Jake Rios (Bozeman, Mt.) returns from his super-sub role, providing a spark with 7.3 points and 40 percent dead-eye shooting from long range. He's made great strides in improving his work on defense to become a more complete and dangerous player.
"Jake is one of the best shooters we've ever had in the program," Sellers said.
Jordan Poole (Warner Robins, Ga.) is in year two as an active player, and there's not a "harder worker in the program" according to Sellers. "I'd love to see him earn some more minutes this year," he added.
Big 6-foot-10 Robert Thomas (Mankato, Minn.) transferred from Northern State University (S.D.) for his final season. Thomas gives the Bobcats a legitimate scoring threat in the post, and could step in to a starting role right away.
The six-member junior class features the majority of the Bobcat depth, as well as a few potential starters in this 2009-10 season.
Athens native Josh Hurst is coming off a season as a rare sophomore everyday starter. Hurst averaged 6.3 points and 6.0 rebounds as an undersized center, and with the addition of more post depth, may be able to move to a more natural power-forward position.
"He was a leader for us," said Sellers. "He was just so steady, and to have that with his relative inexperience at the time was impressive. We're expecting big things from Josh this year."
Trent Fildes (Adelaide, Australia) transfers from Miles Community College, the same program as Rios. Fildes can play either forward position for the ‘Cats. Fildes may be able to help "fill Ken Kemp's role, in that he's versatile, smart and hardworking".
Defensive stopper Andre Mikell (Snellville, Ga.) returns to the point guard depth chart, and has "really been playing well in practice" according to Sellers, so well he's considering a lineup with both Mikell and Rowland on the floor at the same time. Mikell is extremely quick and athletic, creating favorable defensive matchups.
Post-player Reece Wiedeman (Suwannee, Ga.) continues to make vast improvements in his game each year. "He's improved each year since arriving and he's in the best shape of his career." Wiedeman averaged 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds per game, including a big 25-point, 11-rebound game in a win over Carver Bible.
A transfer from Aiken Tech, Robert Praylo (Savannah, Ga.) has worked hard in the early going to get himself in the mix to battle for playing time at a guard spot. Praylo is a solid player on both ends.
Kurt Thompson (Brisbane, Austraila) is another international player for the ‘Cats, transferring after two seasons at Grossmont College. Thompson is another two-guard, and is a hard worker with "potential to be a good player in this league".
Only three members deep, the sophomore class features a point guard, one of the best athletes on the team, and a potential starter.
Forward Ryan Aquino (Roswell, Ga.) saw action in 29 games as a rookie, scoring double-digits on two different occasions. He finished averaging 3.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game.
"Aquino has really looked good in early practices and is battling for a starting position," revealed Sellers. "He has always been a hard worker, but has added some confidence in his game that has really elevated his play."
Point guard Ryan Lively (Cumming, Ga.) saw time in seven games last season and is one of the more improved players on the squad this season. With the depth at the position, the coaching staff is considering redshirting Lively to be a bigger factor in the future. Sellers is unsure he can go the season without the savvy, basketball IQ of Lively, however.
Guard Marvin Harris, Jr. (Tennille, Ga.) is one of the most athletically gifted players on the Bobcat roster. He plays a position (the two guard) that is one of Georgia College's deepest, but will use his experience to jockey for position in the depth chart.
The Bobcats redshirted three freshman last year, and bring in three true freshmen to join the ranks of rookies. Nate Hamilton (Snellville, Ga.), Mike Ross (Blairsville, Ga.) and Jordan Stephens (Mt. Sterling, Ky.) all redshirted in 2008-09, with Joey Bell (Hinesville, Ga.), Darrie Stephens (Cairo, Ga.) and Derek Zittrauer (Cumming, Ga.) joining the fray.
Ross is available at a 3-or-4 position, and made quite a bit of progress in his redshirt season, according to Sellers. He could become a solid contributor at some point. Hamilton is a lights-out long distance shooter, has improved other facets of his game and will battle for minutes at the deep two-guard position. Jordan Stephens is a 6-foot-8 forward with a hardworking attitude, and will battle for playing time at both post positions.
"I'm excited about the potential of Joey Bell," said Sellers. "He has a chance to develop into an outstanding player in the PBC."
Zittrauer played with Lively at South Forsyth High under former Bobcat Coach David Sokol. Zittrauer has excellent rebounding and defensive skills that will see him earn minutes as a freshman.
Darrie Stephens is athletic, with a long 6-foot-5 frame. The Midnight Madness slam dunk champion will redshirt this season and has a "very bright future" according to Sellers. He has solid offensive and defensive skills and is a very coachable player.
The 2009-10 Bobcats will continue to gel the new faces with the established players to keep Georgia College hoops in the upper level of Peach Belt programs.
The Bobcats begin the season with an exhibition at Mercer University Thursday, Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. The Bobcats begin the regular season at home against Newberry College Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
The GCSU Department of Athletics, winners of the 2008-09 PBC Commissioner's Cup, sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Sign up at Twitter.com username GCSUSID for up-to-the-minute reports, and visit www.GCSUBobcats.com to nominate your favorite former Bobcats and Colonials to the GCSU Athletics Hall of Fame.