Unfinished Business: Men’s Basketball preview


Georgia State comes into 2014 more experienced and more hungry than ever. The Panthers basketball team came up just a little short of turning what was a magical season into a NCAA tournament bid.


They went 25-9 last season with their season culminating with an invitation to the NIT tournament where they faced the Clemson Tigers and lost 78-66.

The Panthers’ season was highlighted by big moments and the magical 14-game winning streak in the middle of the season which was unexpectedly snapped by Troy on Feb. 15. Georgia State would not lose again until the Sun Belt Tournament final against rival Louisiana-Lafayette 82-81 in New Orleans which left the Panthers outside looking in for the NCAA tournament last year.

The team is now looking at that loss as motivation and have gained a new found hunger that may make them even more dangerous than the 25-9 club from last season.

“These guys are hungry,” said Head Coach Ron Hunter. “The last game we had to play in that conference tournament left a bitter taste in out mouth and that unfinished business is something we’ve talked about.”

Hunter said the team has been on-edge for two seasons making their practices even better.

The Panthers return with top scorer RJ Hunter, electric point guard Ryan Harrow and the versatile power forwards Curtis Washington and Markus Crider.

Promising Newcomers

Kevin Ware: 6-foot-2-inch Shooting Guard (Redshirt Junior)

Ware comes from a powerhouse in Louisville where he was part of a national championship team and the 2013 Final Four team. Ware will be returning to the court full-time after he suffered a gruesome injury in the 2013 NCAA tournament against Duke; though this game gave him national attention and support. Ware will add an athletic element on offense and has elite defender status.

Jeff Thomas: 6-foot-5-inch Guard (Freshman)

Thomas is a freshman from Norwalk, Ohio and has garnered early praise from coaches and


teammates as a potential star.

“I kind of see myself in Jeff just how he moves on and off the court,” RJ Hunter said of his young roommate .

The Panthers can potentially have a lethal twosome from the perimeter with another Hunter-like player.

Jordan Session: 6-foot-7-inch Forward (Freshman)

Session joined The Panthers from Eagle’s Landing High School in McDonough, Georgia. He averaged 21.6 points and 10.5 rebounds along with three assists per game in his senior season last year. Session should provide the Panthers with another versatile big body off the bench early in his college career.

Jalen Brown 6-foot-8-inch Forward (Junior)

Brown is a junior college transfer from South Suburban College where he averaged 13 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season. Brown is a South Holland, Illinois native. Brown will be yet another big body for the Panthers to throw at the competition.

The Ware Factor

Ware suffered one of the most gruesome injuries in recent sports history on a national stage in the NCAA tournament in 2013 against the Duke Blue Devils, creating a horrific scene that will not be soon forgotten by sports fans.

His team quickly rallied around their fallen teammate and went on to win the national championship. Ware played in nine games last season before deciding to sit out the season in an attempt to rehab the injury before transferring to Georgia State in the late spring.

He will fit right in with the Panthers and allow them a luxury that they didn’t necessarily have last season as an elite defender. Ware knows that defense may be his ticket to a big role and many wins for the Panthers this season.


“I think I bring a really good defensive skill set to the team,” he said. “I’m really a good defender on the ball and reading things, coming up with steals and things like that. I kind of feel like I’m a good fast break addition to the team. I like to get out on the fast break and cause a lot of havoc and get in the lane and score as much as I can.”

“I bring a leader to the team,” Ware continued. “I kind of get the vibe that RJ [Hunter] and Ryan [Harrow] were the captains and that hasn’t changed. I’m just an addition to that.”

Georgia State will be able to do things defensively that last year may not have been possible. This could jumpstart an already potent offensive attack.

“You take a great defender and then you got an average defender,” Coach Hunter said. “Average becomes good with all the rest of the guys because his [Ware’s] energy kind of rubs off on some other guys.”

Hunter said that having Ware on board changes things for the Panthers this season.

Panther’s Big Three: Players to watch

RJ Hunter

Averaged 18.3 points per game last season. The sharpshooting guard is now a junior and now the focal point of the offensive attack and more mature.

Ryan Harrow

Averaged 17.8 points per game. The electric Kentucky transfer enters his second season with Georgia State and has become more vocal and confident after his electric and dazzling performances of last season.

Kevin Ware

The elite defender joins The Panthers from Louisville with a championship pedigree. He adds defensive nastiness to a potent offense and athleticism on the perimeter on offense and in the fast break.

Games to Watch

November 17 Georgia State vs Iowa State

Iowa State is ranked fourteenth in the preseason polls and will be the Panthers’ first opportunity at a resume building victory and possibly the only one chance to impress for a potential at large bid into the NCAA tournament in March.

– November 29 Georgia State at. IUPUI

Coach Ron Hunter heads to face his former team. RJ Hunter is an Indianapolis native.

– January 8 and January 24 Georgia State vs. Louisiana Lafayette

Two old fashioned revenge games against a budding rival. The two teams will meet twice in one month. Louisiana-Lafayette kept the panthers out of the NCAA tournament after defeating them in the Sun Belt Championship game in New Orleans.

Sun Belt Overview

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (2013: 23-12, 11-7 Sun Belt)

– The Panthers’ biggest nemesis last season. The 2014 Sun Belt Tournament champions head into 2015 without point guard Elfrid Payton who was a lottery pick in the NBA draft. Returning is forward Shawn Long who will be looked at to carry the load this season. The Ragin’ Cajuns will face the Panthers Jan. 8 and 24 in what could possibly be the battle for conference supremacy.

Texas State Bobcats (2013: 8-23, 4-14 Sun Belt)

– The Bobcats finished up 2013-2014 in last place in the Sun Belt Conference. They lost leading scorer Joel Wright to graduation after last season. Notable returners include Emani Grant who averaged 8.9 points per game and five rebounds per game last season.

Troy Trojans (2013: 11-20, 6-12 Sun Belt)

– Troy finished eighth last season in the 10 team Sun Belt Conference. Lost top three leading scorers Hunter Williams, Tevin Calhoun and Antoine Meyers to graduation. Their key returner is junior forward Kevin Thomas.


Georgia Southern Eagles (2013: 15-19, 6-10 SoCon)

-2014-2015 will be the first season for the Eagles in the Sun Belt Conference. The Eagles finished last season 15-19 which was good enough for eighth in the 12 team Southern Conference. The Eagles will be without last year’s leading scorer Jelani Hewitt.

Appalachian State Mountaineers: (2013: 9-21, 5-11 Sun Belt)

– The Mountaineers open their first season in the Sun Belt Conference.The Mountaineers were a previous member of the Southern conference. They will be led by last year’s leading scorer Tab Hamilton who averaged almost 13 points per game.

Arkansas State Red Wolves: (2013: 19-13, 10-8 Sun Belt)

– The Red Wolves come into 2014-2015 with big hopes after finishing fourth in the Sun Belt last season. The Red Wolves will have to replace the two top scorers from last season Melvin Johnson and Kirk Van Slyke.

Arkansas Little Rock Trojans (2013: 15-17, 9-9 Sun Belt)

– The Trojans went 15-17 overall and 9-9 in conference last season which placed them sixth. The Trojans will be without last year’s leading scorer Will Neighbour who put up 16.3 points per game.

South Alabama Jaguars (2013: 11-20, 5-13 Sun Belt)

-The Jaguars finished last season 11-20 total and 5-13 in conference. The Jaguars will look to Mychal Ammons and Ken Williams to pick up the slack left by last year’s leading scorer and rebounder Augustine Rubit.

Louisiana Monroe Warhawks (2013: 10-17, 7-11 Sun Belt)

– The Warhawks finished with a 10-17 overall record from last season and a 7-11 in conference record putting them seventh in the Sun Belt last season. The warhawks will again lean heavily on senior forward Tylor Ongwae.

Texas Arlington Mavericks (2013: 15-17, 9-9 Sun Belt)

– The Mavericks finished last season 15-17 overall and 9-9 in conference putting them fifth in the conference. The Mavericks will be replacing the top scorer in the Sun Belt last season as they lose Roger Dowell to graduation.