A Panthers Who’s Who

Photo by Trent Legaspi | The Signal

On Oct. 31, the GSU Sports Arena of 1973 will no longer be and the 2022 GSU Convocation Center will officially be the home of Panthers’ basketball. The legendary 3rd floor, Decatur St. Sports Arena will finally be put to rest. In with the new, out with the old. This year Georgia State’s men’s basketball program will be playing all home games down in Summerhill. 

It’s an extremely exciting year for the program. There’s a new coaching staff, new players, some returning players and a new arena. This year’s squad represents new beginnings. It’s set to be one of the most hyped up teams Georgia State has seen in its entire program’s history. 

After finishing last year’s regular season on a roll and going on to win the Sun Belt Conference championship, the team went on to play in the NCAA tournament where the Panthers met the number one overall seed,  the Gonzaga Bulldogs. 

Like many expected, the season ended that day and immediately after the Panthers held a “road work ahead” sign for the world to see. It was time for construction and a rebuild.  Former head coach, Rob Lanier took an offer to become the head coach at Southern Methodist University and brought his staff down with him. Lanier left a plethora of vacancies open that new head coach Jonas Hayes quickly filled. 

Hayes comes from the Atlanta area, so heading back to the city is just like heading back home. As they say, “home is where the heart is.”  Hayes is familiar with the program and knows the shoes he’ll be filling here at the helm of a program that has cemented itself throughout the past decade. The team has done great things over the years: six NCAA tournament appearances, eight regular season conference championships and six SBC championships. Don’t forget the historic run by Ron Hunter’s 2015 squad.

Hayes has a long history of coaching, but his most recent stint before GSU comes from the Xavier University Musketeers. He worked six years as an assistant coach at Xavier until Head Coach Travis Steele was fired at the end of the 2021-2022 regular season. Hayes was elevated to an interim head coaching role right before the Musketeers entered the NIT tournament and began walking on water. He beat Texas A&M at the Garden in New York and made national headlines. The time had come for Hayes to become a head coach. Soon after winning the NIT championship, Georgia State called and the rest is history. 

Last year’s team was sneaky good and surprised the entire SBC as they went on a 10-game win streak to punch themselves a ticket to the big dance. 

Fans across the nation watching the tournament last March had the opportunity to see the Panther’s weakness stick out like a sore thumb. If your memory allows, Georgia State was down by two going into halftime against the number one team in the country on college basketball’s largest stage. The Panthers were utterly destroyed in the paint in the second half as Drew Timme scored 22 individually in the second half. Coming into this new season, Georgia State won’t have center Jalen Thomas as he entered the transfer portal and forward Eliel Nsoseme graduated. Over the offseason, Hayes recruited 6’10 center, Edward Nnamoko from Riviera Prep in Miami. Based on the information known about Nnamoka thus far, he should pick up where Thomas and Nsoseme left off. 

Over the offseason, the program lost seven guys – either to the transfer portal or to graduation. Seniors Corey Allen, Kane Williams, Justin Roberts and Eliel Nsoseme all made up for a total of 47.3 points per game for the Panther’s offense. They played a pivotal role in this team’s success last year. When they left it seemed like the program was destined for a rebuild. 

That couldn’t have been further from the truth. Over the offseason, Hayes came into Atlanta swinging like a Gervonta Davis fight at the MGM Grand. In Gervonta’s style, Hayes landed the program two important transfers: Dwon Odom and Brenden Tucker. 

Odom played under Coach Hayes at Xavier and also happens to be a hometown guy. During his two years in Cincinnati, he averaged 6.4 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 2.5 APG. He improved his shooting stats tremendously during his second year in college, so the potential for a breakout season is there. He’s an athletic 6’1 guard, with great athleticism and a tremendous penetrator. Odom will have two years of eligibility left with the Atlanta program. 

Brenden Tucker, also a hometown kid, comes from the College of Charleston. Last year, Tucker averaged 11.2 ppg and shot 39% from three. Tucker, a 6’3 shooting guard will be able to spread the floor and force opposing teams to gameplan for his shooting threat. The pair between the two transfers could prove to be lethal. 

A couple of familiar faces remain, yet nothing is the same. Georgia State and associates, prepare yourselves. Basketball is back.