It’s so hard, to say goodbye
Coach Ron Hunter and his staff will have to deal with three key losses to this year’s team. Kevin Ware, Markus Crider and T.J. Shipes all played a big part in Georgia State’s success last season.
Ware, a combo guard transfer from Louisville, made an immediate impact for the team when he returned home during the 2014-15 season. In his first season, Ware averaged 7.6 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game in 28.6 minutes collectively. He was also named Sun Belt tournament MVP that year. He finished his career averaging a career-high 11.6 points and 3.7 rebounds while leading the team with 92 assists and 37 steals.
Crider is another player that the Panthers will look to replace. Crider was a great asset on both ends of the court for the Panthers. He proved to be a threat during the 2015 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Basketball Championship, where he earned Sun Belt All-Tournament honors after averaging 11.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. During his 2015-16 campaign, he got selected to the 2015-16 All-Sun Belt Preseason Second Team before starting all 30 games, averaging 8.9 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Shipes was not as prolific a scorer as Ware or Crider, but he did the dirty work as many would refer to it as. He finished his Panther career by starting 20 of 30 games, averaging 5.4 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 25.8 minutes per contest. Shipes also blocked 24 shots with 22 steals and managed to notch three career double-doubles.
Out with the old, in with the new
The team is bringing back some key players as well as some new additions that can immediately have an impact for this group moving forward. Not to mention, Coach Hunter has also added a key piece to his coaching staff.
That key piece is associate head coach Ray McCallum.
Over his 19-year head coaching career, McCallum has amassed 300 victories and made six postseason runs. During his tenure at Detroit, 16 Titans went on to play professionally.
“I am extremely thankful to Ron Hunter for allowing me this opportunity to join his staff,” McCallum said. “He and his staff have built a great program, and I am thrilled to be a part of it.
Humble, dedicated and hard-working, but most importantly focused describes Jeremy Hollowell’s mindset coming into this season.
“Just gotta put in the work. Once you put in the work, that leads to confidence,” Hollowell said. “This is my last year, too. So I’m definitely hungry, and I have to go out and play every game like it’s my last. It’s that simple. It’s my last season, so it’s go-time.”
Hollowell’s first season playing as a Georgia State Panther was last season and he took full advantage of the opportunity. During his first season on the court at Georgia State, he led the team averaging 14.8 points per game which ranked No.10 in the Sun Belt.
One of the most anticipated new additions to this year’s team is patently D’Marcus Simonds, the 6-foot-3 guard out of Gainesville High School. He was ranked as high as No. 72 in the country in the ESPN 100. He is a player who could generate much excitement for this team.
There can only be one
UT Arlington is the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt conference. Junior forward Kevin Harvey is considered the superstar of the team. After leading the Mavericks to a 9-2 record in nonconference play that included wins over Memphis and Ohio State, Harvey has been named the Preseason Player of the Year. Last season, Harvey averaged 19.1 ppg and 9.8 RPG in 16 games last season. UT Arlington also returns First Team honoree junior Erick Neal (12.7 ppg/6.2 APG) at the point guard position along with two double-figure scorers in senior Jalen Jones (12.7 ppg) and junior Kaelon Wilson (10.0 ppg).
Little Rock is predicted to finish second, followed by Georgia State. The Panthers will face numerous challenging opponents this year.
“This is by far the toughest and most challenging schedule we have ever put together,” Hunter said. “However, I also think it will better prepare us for when Sun Belt play begins. Our team will be tested early, but I believe this is a group that can handle it and will be ready.”
First on the Panther’s schedule is a matchup against Thomas University on Nov. 11.
Wait, there’s more
The Panthers also acquired three transfer players(Willie Clayton, Devin Mitchell and Justin Seymour) last year that can make an immediate impact for the team this year. The most prominent of the group has got to be the big man out of Charlotte Willie Clayton. Clayton is a massive interior threat. His 6-foot-8 245 pound frame will provide an opportunity for him to dominate in a sun belt conference that is not accustomed to defending a bully on the offensive block such as Clayton. During his last year at Charlotte, Clayton ranked fourth in Conference USA and 53rd in the nation in offensive rebounds at 3.09 per game. Rebounding is his forte.
Devin Mitchell is a shooting guard that can do just that- shoot the ball. He will be looked upon to boost the Panthers’ efficiency from beyond the ark. Mitchell is a player that will have a lot to prove, given he has not seen much playing time throughout his collegiate career. But hey, you know what they say, once a shooter always a shooter.
Justin Seymour is an interesting player. He returns home to play his last collegiate year of basketball with the Panthers and he may have the biggest chip on his shoulder going into this season. Similar to the likes of Mitchell, in terms of shooting the ball, Seymour can also be a slasher in his own right. Last year he played in all 30 games for the Murray State, proving that he can be a reliable asset for the Panthers if needed. Heck, who knows, this guy could possibly challenge Isaiah Williams and Isaiah Dennis for a starting position at either guard positions.