Men’s basketball set to start season

Brantley Claunch, #30, takes a shot during the UNA v Oakwood game at Flowers Hall Nov 17, 2011.

The UNA men’s basketball team came into the 2011-2012 season with a lot of returnees and key additions to help rebound from a 13-16 record last season.

The Lions are projected by the coaches to finish fourth in a talented Gulf South Conference led by No. 2 UAH. With two returning starters and seven new additions to improve on an already high-scoring offense in the off-season, the Lions are hoping to be the spoiler and return to conference prominence.

“We have no reaction to the pre-season polls because I believe everyone is in the same boat,” said UNA head coach Bobby Champagne. “We were projected third the year we made it to the Elite 8, so the polls don’t mean a whole lot. Everyone likes to look at the projected wins and losses, but our goal is to improve every day.”

Senior point guard Beaumont Beasley, who averaged 12 points and four assists a game, and GSC Freshman of the Year Wes Long are the only returning starters. A rising star in the conference, sophomore Wes Long came on strong at the end of the year with a 32-point performance against West Alabama.

“(Beasley) has been a vocal and emotional leader for us this off-season,” Champagne said. “He really wants to win, works really hard and has pushed some of the new guys in practice. (Long) has worked really hard, but is now on everyone’s radar.

“He came on strong at the end basically because no one knew about him. We hope he can continue on what he left off from last season.”

Also returning are seniors Nick Luttrell, Sam Buxton, Warrick Mastin and junior Keynan Jackson. All were key contributors for the Lions last season and are in the mix for the final three starting spots. Mastin is the second leading scorer coming into the season, but Champagne has yet to name his final five.

“All the seniors are doing a good job leading on and off the court,” Champagne said. “All of them are competing, and three spots are wide open. Every day is a competition, which is always a good thing.”

UNA added seven players to the roster for the 2011-2012 season that includes a mix of Division I talent, international and also local products. UNA was one of the top offensive teams in the conference, averaging 78 points a game.

Each of the additions seem to be highlighted by offensive ability, which could be scary to the rest of the conference.

Division I transfers senior guard Theron Jenkins (Texas Tech) and sophomore forward Tyler Richardson (Wichita State) lead the way along with freshman international players Luke Corkery, Nathan Spehr and Lazar Petrov. Also joining the Lions are local products Davonte Anderson and Corey Ricks.

“The team is blended all right,” Champagne said. “The freshmen are adjusting to the speed and flow of the game and the transfers are fitting right in and learning the new system.”

With the addition of good young talent and a blend of returning starters with a lot of experience, the potential of the team could be there for the Lions going into this season with hopes of improving from a disappointing end to last season.

“We can shoot the ball very well, and we have executed really well in the off-season,” Champagne said. “Our whole is greater than its parts.”

Quick Facts

2010 Record: 13-16

Returning Starters: 2

Players to Watch:

 G. Beaumont Beasley- 12 ppg. 4 asts.

 G. Warrick Mastin- 10.5 ppg. 42 FG %

 F. Wes Long- 8 ppg. 42 3pt. %