Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Samford Preview: Maybe the Boring is Over

Between now and Friday, all the other previews will be up to cover the SoCon. Each day a Scanning the SoCon participant will be covering one of their teams. Today, a preview from SamfordBulldogs.com.


The theme for 2014-2015 overview is uncertainty and change. Given the last two seasons of Samford basketball, neither of those things is a negative. Gone is the certainty of a Bennie Seltzer and with that development the hope of something new and entertaining to take its place. The train-wreck that was the last two seasons has left the station, along with half the team and 60% of the starting lineup, including first team all-conference player, Tim Williams, and freshman all-conference player Isaiah Williams. Also gone, hopefully, is some of the most boring basketball ever displayed in the history of games played with round, bouncy balls designed to be tossed through a hoop with a net on it.


After the season ended the most interesting phase of the Seltzer-era played itself out in dramatic fashion as player after player announced they were leaving. Gone are starters Tim Williams (former all-conference freshman team and freshman of the year (2012-13), and pre-season and post-season first team all-conference teams (2013-14), Isaiah Williams (freshman all-conference team) and Conner Miller. So too is former all-conference freshman and 2013-2014 preseason all conference player, Raijon Kelly, who found himself spending most of last season on the bench. If Kelly wrote a book about his time under Seltzer, it would be titled "From all-conference to the bench, my development as a player under Bennie Seltzer". Also gone are Russell Wilson, Jordan Capps and Chris Longoria. Most significantly and positively, also gone is Bennie Seltzer, although too late to keep the likes of Miller, Kelly, Williams and Williams. Hopefully gone with Seltzer is his signature style of play that can only be described as incomprehensible--chaos may have been more effective on both ends of the floor. Seltzer appeared on the scene promising uptempo, entertaining basketball and promptly delivered a bizarrely deliberate pace that made the Princeton offense look like Showtime with Worthy, Jabbar, Scott, Cooper, Rambis, Green and Magic Johnson and a defense that was remarkably similar to that played in an NBA all-star game.


Head Coach Scott Padgett (HCSP) returns to the bench, this time significantly as head coach, with the promise of truly high-speed, fast-paced entertaining basketball that creates offense off of high pressure defense that never developed under Seltzer. Though there was some skepticism about replacing Seltzer with anyone off of his staff, Padgett has arrived on scene as a head coach with energy, optimism and, interestingly enough, likeability (to say that Seltzer wasn't likable doesn't do it justice--he gave the impression he did not want to be liked, did not want to be bothered, did not want to be at Samford). Padgett has been a breath of fresh air since he took over the job and if nothing else, his players seem to like playing for him and he is thrilled to be at Samford.

Returning are seniors center Mike Bradley (6'10"), who came on strong at the end of last season, but who has been plagued by injuries throughout his career; forward Tyler Hood (6'6") who will have played for three coaches at Samford and probably deserves an award for not only his effort, but his perseverance, positive attitude and loyalty; and undersized forward Brandon Hayman (6'3"), who saw limited action last season, but very athletic and always effective when given a chance. These three seniors are joined by three sophomores who saw limited action last year: Nnamadi Enechionyia (6'6"), reportedly a three point specialist, although we did not see much of it last year; Brandon Roberts (6'1") slasher with plenty of energy, but struggled with his shooting touch last season; and Emeka Ikezu, who is chiseled out of stone, but with a touch and hands to match--if he can defend without fouling and develop some finesse around the basket, this guy could be a beast.

New faces:

Samford picked up three junior college transfers to fill a roster devoid of juniors after the exodus of 2014 and add some needed athleticism in open space. Joining the Bulldogs from the JUCO ranks are: Marcus Johnson (5'11"), Jamal "Showtime" Shabazz (6'6") and Darius Jones-Gibson (6'1"). All are expected to see significant playing time. Since every D1 player has a bio that makes him sound like he's ready for the NBA, they all sound great on paper--the average fan has guarded optimism for what they will bring to the court.

Samford also added 4 true freshman, including: Christian Cunningham (6'2"); Evan Taylor (6'4") and Gerald Smith (6'4"); and Alex Peters (6'8"). Rumors abound that the freshmen guards are for real and will get plenty of playing time.

The Schedule/expectations:

The schedule is more realistic than the last two years. Three money games take the Bulldogs to Purdue, Pitt and Wake Forest. Realistically, these dogs should be able to play with the other teams rounding out the schedule, both out of and in conference. "Play with", however, doesn't mean "win" It means have a chance. With some anticipation that the SoCon may be down this season (not sure how realistic of a hope that is with the SoCon resting comfortably at RPI 30 last season), Samford is probably looking at 10 to 12 wins--anything more than that and Scott Padgett should be SoCon coach of the year and the Bulldog faithful drunk with optimism for 2015-16. If the Dogs are entertaining, it will be an improvement on the past two seasons.

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