2011-12 Lumberjack Preview: Guards
Nov. 9, 2011
This is the second in a three-part series taking a glance at the 2011-12 Lumberjack basketball team. The `Jacks will open up the season on Nov. 11 vs Centenary at William R. Johnson Coliseum.
NACOGDOCHES, Texas - With only four returners on the roster for 2011-12, the bulk of SFA's experience from a year ago will come in the backcourt with three returning guards for the upcoming season, all of who played big roles in their first season as Lumberjacks last year.
In all, SFA has just six years of Division I experience on the roster entering this year, with half of that coming from senior post Jereal Scott. That leaves a year apiece coming from SFA's trio of returning guards - Darius Gardner, Antonio Bostic and Desmond Haymon. Those three will be joined by a group of four of newcomers - junior college transfers Hal Bateman and Kevin Broussard, along with freshmen Thomas Walkup and Micah Delph.
The `Jacks lost guards Deznel Barnes and Eddie Williams to graduation after last year, a duo which accounted for nearly 40 percent of SFA's assists and better than 30 percent of SFA's 3-point buckets from a year ago. Still, with a year under their belts, SFA's three returners should be ready to pick up the slack.
Bostic looks to be the most likely to pick up the offensive slack after starting more than half of SFA's games last year and breaking into double digits eight times, five of which were Lumberjack wins. With a long wingspan and a steadily improving midrange game, Bostic possesses the tools needed to be a factor in Kaspar's system.
"Antonio fought his way off the bench to start the majority of the conference games last year for us," Kaspar said. "But he's got to improve his offensive consistency to really take the next step forward. He's got the ability to be an excellent defensive player, especially because of his long arms. He's made progress, but there's still progress to be made, but I am confident he will continue to improve."
Gardner was forced into starting action just two games into conference play as a true freshman and finished the year with 14 starts on the season, hitting better than 80 percent from the free throw line and averaging five points and more than three assists in better than 27 minutes of floor time during conference play.
"Darius has good leaderships skills, and he needs to use them to their fullest extent," Kaspar said. "I'm asking him to be more of a distributor this year and to get the ball to our primary shooters and scorers. But he is a serious candidate to be in the starting lineup again this year, because I feel like he's improved his game in a lot of key areas."
Along with Gardner, fellow sophomore Desmond Haymon is expected to be an impact player for the `Jacks after suffering an unfortunate setback that put an abrupt end to his freshman season. Haymon was coming off a breakout game in which he scored 15 points off the bench to help SFA to a comeback road win over eventual SLC Tournament champion UTSA before suffering a season-ending arm injury in practice before the next contest.
For the year Haymon was averaging four points per game in 13 games for the year, but the coaching staff has high hopes for the left-hander from Durant, Miss., who possesses a dynamic offensive attack.
"Desmond was really coming on when he got hurt last year," Kaspar said. "He's had a great fall and has improved by leaps and bounds leading into this year. He's a great outside shooter who can put it on the floor and score as well, but he's also worked very hard to improve defensively as well."
The `Jacks will also welcome three more guards to the roster, with junior college point guard Bateman and shooting guard Broussard ready to step in and contend for immediate playing time. Bateman averaged double figures in points and dished out more than five assists per game last season at Des Moines Area CC, and despite just a 5-11 frame, should provide an offensive threat at the point guard spot with the ability to penetrate and get to the basket off the dribble.
"Hal is the quickest player on our team, and he has the ability to be a very good defender, " Kaspar said. "He's a very good penetrator and brings us an offensive threat to the table at that position, which is not something that we had last year."
Meanwhile, Broussard should provide a much-needed outside threat to an SFA perimeter that hit just 31.1 percent of its shots from behind the arc, the lowest percentage for SFA in the Kaspar era and the lowest for any Lumberjack squad since the 1996-97 season. The 6-0 guard who originally hails from Lafayette, La., hit better than 40 percent of his 3-point buckets last year and averaging more than 13 points per game in each of his first two years at Coffeyville CC.
"Kevin is one of the best shooters I've ever had on my teams," Kaspar said. "It was a priority for us to get someone in here who can really shoot the ball, and he fills that role. He's pretty good at putting the ball on the floor too, and I can see him being our leading scorer in a lot of our games."
The `Jacks could also have an impact freshman in the backcourt this year if Thomas Walkup can get some help from mother nature. One of SFA's top signees in last year's class, Walkup was leading the Houston area in scoring at better than 25 points per game when he went down with a broken foot. Complications have kept him off the court except for a shot time since then, but as the season looms closer, so does his return.
A 6-3 guard who Kaspar says brings a well-rounded game to the collegiate level, the younger brother of former Texas A&M player Nahtan Walkup, Thomas was hitting 62 percent of his shots as a senior before injury and was coming off a season in which he led Deer Park HS (TX) to a 24-11 record and the area round of the Class 5A state playoffs.
"Thomas was one of our prized recruits last year and we just felt as though he fit our system really, really well," Kaspar said. "He is still recovering from a broken foot that he suffered around Christmas of last year, but we are optimistic that he could still make it back and maybe make an impact this year. He does everything well, which is why he was so appealing for us."
SFA also has even more solid pedigree in its backcourt with combo guard Micah Delph, who is the son of former University of Arkansas Razorback Marvin Delph, who was part of the 1978 Razorback team who made it all the way to the Final Four. The younger Delph, Micah has hardware of his own after leading Conway HS (Ark.) to a state title in the Class 7A ranks a year ago.
"In these early-season practices, Micah has really shown that he belongs here," Kaspar said. "He is easy to coach and does a lot of good things for us. I wasn't really sure where he would fit in here when practices began, but since then I am very optimistic that he has a significant role on this team."