Georgia State Men’s basketball team primed for comeback

Redshirt point guard Isaiah Williams continues to grow this season with the Panthers. Photo by Dayne Francis | The Signal

When basketball season comes around for Georgia State, the feeling around campus changes. The mood picks up, the energy is undeniable and that is due to the success of the men’s basketball program. Georgia State has been Sun Belt Conference champions two of the last three seasons, missing the three peat last season.

Over the course of the past three seasons, many memories have been made. Georgia State qualified for March Madness two seasons ago, even pulling out an upset over Baylor and providing one of the most memorable moments in NCAA tournament history. The Panthers had a rough season last year, but they look primed for a major comeback this year.

The Panthers are led by head coach Ron Hunter, who may be remembered most for his antics during the NCAA Tournament. He has been the head coach for Georgia State since 2011 and is a big reason for Georgia State’s success since then. All the glory does not belong solely to Coach Hunter, as his amazing coaching staff has helped the cause too. Hunter’s coaching staff consists of assistant coaches Everick Sullivan and Claude Pardue, and formerly included associate head coach Darryl LaBarrie, who recently accepted an offer to become an assistant coach at his alma mater, Georgia Tech.

Replacing LaBarrie would be no easy task, but Coach Hunter did an excellent job with his hire of Sharman White, head coach of the highly successful Miller Grove High School. Coaching is very important, but it comes down to the players who make the final difference on the scoreboard.

Georgia State will be returning numerous players from last season including three consistent starters. The team’s leading scorer, Jeremy Hollowell, will be back for his senior season after averaging 14.1 points per game in his first season at Georgia State. The team will also bring back their starting point guard and third leading scorer, Isaiah Williams, who averaged 9 points per game.

After the graduation of four seniors, three of them whom played heavy minutes, the rotation opens up for 6-foot-7 junior forward Jordan Sessions, 6-foot-5 sniper redshirt sophomore guard Jeff Thomas, and former Georgia State dunk champion and six foot senior guard Isaiah Dennis. Sophomore guards Malik Benlevi and Austin Donaldson should both see an increase in their playing time after playing consistent minutes last year as true freshman. Georgia State has a lot of quality players returning, but also a couple of players beginning their Panther careers next season.

Georgia State has always been a transfer heavy school, and this year is no different. Finally Alabama transfer Devin Mitchell will have the opportunity to suit up for the Panthers after sitting out last season. The same goes for Charlotte transfer Willie Clayton and Ball State graduate transfer Jeremiah Davis. Georgia State will also bring in one of the best high school players in Georgia as guard D’Marcus Simonds committed to the program. Joining Simonds in this year’s freshman class will be forward Chris Clerkley. The 2016 season looks very bright for the Panthers.