November 7, 2013

Men's Hoops Looks To Lean On Experience In 2013-2014

DAHLONEGA, Georgia – (UNGAthletics.com) - After being voted fourth in the Peach Belt Conference preseason coaches poll, the 2013-2014 University of North Georgia men's basketball team will look to build on a 16-win last season that ended in the conference semifinals marking their first final four appearance since 2008.  

Head coach Chris Faulkner enters his 11th season at the helm for North Georgia and is hopeful that his team's late season momentum from last year will carry over into this season.

"We felt like we had a good year last year, I think some injuries prevented us from possibly having a great year. I also felt like we closed out the year really well and we made a good run in the Peach Belt tournament," said Faulkner.  "So, we're hoping that spring boards us into an even more successful season this year."

In hopes of building on last season's success, the Nighthawks will return seven players, including three starters – seniors Ishmael Hollis and Lamar Richardson, plus junior Travis Core.

Hollis, a 6'8 forward, is coming off a big season in which he averaged a team-high 15.4 points per game and pulled down 7.3 rebounds per game, where he ranked 8th in the PBC. After being named 2nd team All-Conference last season, Hollis was also named to the 2013-14 PBC preseason all-conference team.

Richardson averaged 13.5 points per game and was the Nighthawks' top three-point threat knocking down a team-best 84 three at a 39% success rate.  Core registered 26 starts at the point guard position

Corey Green and Chris Tanzy also return after seeing significant action off the bench last season.  Green averaged 7.9 points and 3.9 rebounds during his freshman campaign while Tanzy ranked fourth in the PBC with 6.1 assists per game while depositing 8.2 points per contest. 

"There are lots of guys that have all played a lot and have experience in the Peach Belt, also good experience in the post season tournament," said Faulkner. "We bring back guys who have kind of been in those battles, that'll help us too."

The Nighthawks are hoping the addition of freshman guard Shaquan Cantrell and transfer Brian Cole will help ease the loss of Scott Windom, who was second on the team in scoring last season and post player JC Ward. Prior to transferring to UNG, Cole garnered quite a bit of experience against top tier competition while playing at Division I UNC Greensboro and will be counted on early to contribute down in the paint.

"Those guys (Cantrell and Cole) will probably make more of an immediate impact," said Faulkner. "Size is the biggest thing (with Cole), he's 6'9 and very skilled. He shoots the ball very well. He's going to have to give us some size and particularly, defend around the basket."

With the addition of some new faces and the return of several key contributors, Faulkner will have a bevy of talent at his disposal; it's simply a matter of playing well together. 

"Our guard play should be improved just because of more experience. I think, and we've shown glimpses in the preseason, but overall continuity as far as playing together (is important)," said Faulkner. "I just hope that they understand each other and play with each other very well."

Faulkner is hopeful that this will be the team that can get UNG on the map at the Division II level, as the Nighthawks have never made it to the NCAA tournament at this level.

"One of our team's goals is to get to postseason play. Since we have been Division II, we haven't made the national tournament yet. So that's our biggest goal and you do that one of two ways, either winning the Peach Belt Conference or by getting an at-large bid," said Faulkner. "We've been on the verge of that a couple times since we've been in Division II. I try not to put a whole lot of emphasis on number of wins or anything like that because I'm more concerned with how we're progressing as a team; are we getting better every day and the process of doing that."

UNG will open its 2013 campaign on Friday, November 8th at 5:30 PM as the Nighthawks will travel to Tigerville, S.C. to face off against Erskine College as part of the Conference Carolinas/PBC Challenge.

Story By: Chris Natsch, UNG Athletic Communications Student Assistant