I am a sucker for college basketball. I have an obsession with the round ball on the hardwood that, though not as bad as for Eagle football, is still something that consumes a lot of my free time. Not just Georgia Southern basketball either – UNC, Duke, Rock Chalk, Cinderella, etc. Bottom line, I love it. Since my first year as a Georgia Southern student in 2014, I loved watching Eagles like Jake Allsmiller, Jelani Ferguson and Mike Hughes shoot the three-ball. One of my favorite facets of the game, the three-ball, is a thing of beauty when perfected. It is what makes the Big East so fun to watch, seeing schools like Creighton, Marquette and yes, even Villanova, be automatic from beyond the arc.
Watching my own school shoot the three-ball? Mesmerizing — when it was successful. What I learned over the past four years is that the Eagles were unstoppable when they could hit the long shots, but also were not effective elsewhere whenever they could not make those same shots. But Georgia Southern was at a crossroads entering this season. With Mike Hughes and Jake Allsmiller graduated, who accounted for 161 of the Eagles’ 267 3-point field goals, as well as 412 of the 784 attempted 3- point field goals? Would the team continue to rely heavily on the outside shot, or become more effective in multiple aspects of the game?
Well folks, at the time of my writing, I have had two games and an exhibition to use as samples, but I can tell you that I already like, maybe even love, what I see. The first game against Carver really was not a true test, as the private school from Atlanta only has a student enrollment of 61 students. No that is not a typo. Carver had to bring approximately 20 percent of its student body to Statesboro just to field a full roster. A couple of statistics to note from this game: of the 139 points the Eagles scored, 104 came from inside the paint. Words can’t describe how remarkable this stat is, as Georgia Southern purely dominated and lived down low. The Eagles only attempted 17 3-point field goals, only about two-thirds the amount attempted per game last year. Then, George Mason came to town as the first Atlantic 10 school to appear in Hanner Fieldhouse. The Patriots looked like the Georgia Southern of old in the first half, as they could not miss from deep, making 11 of their 15 attempts, which converted to 73.3 percent. This helped George Mason build a 20-point lead at halftime. However, they went cold after the break only hitting 3-8. Georgia Southern however, finally began to fire on all cylinders, with their combination of mid-range jump shots and points in the paint. The Patriots watched their 3- point shooting go cold, and with it, their large lead.
One thing you may have noticed in my recap is that I did not use any names of the current team, and that was on purpose. Against Carver, there were eight Eagles with double-digit points, and five against George Mason. This team has won by not being selfish, and though they weren’t necessarily selfish last year, this year the ball is being spread around more, which leads to opportunities for everyone else to become involved. Sure, Tookie and Ike are the known leaders on the team by most people who do not follow Georgia Southern as vigorously as others, but their style of play early this year has really led to other players blossoming, such as Quan Jackson and David Lee Jones. This will only help the Eagles become even more explosive on the court as the season progresses, as the youngsters will gain more confidence and take some of the attention off of Tookie and Ike.
On top of this, a notable name that has not seen the floor yet is Simeon Carter, who transferred to Statesboro from Iowa State. The former Cyclone is waiting for his time to shine, and when it comes, I have a feeling that this deep team will get even deeper come conference play. Some good teams are coming to Hanner Fieldhouse, including Little Rock, UT Arlington and yes, even that commuter school from Atlanta. The Sun Belt is a mid-major conference that is rising as of the last 5 years, so the competition Georgia Southern will face is definitely some squads not to be taken lightly.
So now I challenge you to pack Hanner Fieldhouse as much as possible this fall. My takeaway against George Mason was that Hanner was only about half full, but at points it was louder than any game I have ever been to in the past four years. Imagine how loud we as the Eagle Nation can be against the Sun Belt schools that roll into Statesboro looking for a win, only to need earplugs after having the Hooligans in their ears all game.
The beauty of college basketball is that the games are not as long as football, each only about two hours with multiple media timeouts, so there is not the “hassle” (though nothing pertaining to Georgia Southern Athletics should ever be called that) of devoting 4-5 hours. There is not a bad seat in Hanner, and the environment is oh-so electric, so the basketball games are just genuinely fun.
In my time of being a student section president in high school and being in the front row of many athletic events, I will attest that basketball is my absolute favorite to watch, and my hope is that everyone that comes to play in Statesboro feels the Hanner Heat, provided by you!