Oct. 12, 2012
BEAUMONT - Just seven months after its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade, the Lamar University men's basketball program is back at work as the Cardinals held their first official practice of the 2012-13 season Friday evening at the Montagne Center.
If the Cardinals are to make another run at the Southland Conference crown and a postseason berth, they will have to do so with a vastly different group than last year. Lamar lost its top five scorers from last year's 23-12 team and will rely on a small group of returnees and a talented incoming class.
"I'm looking forward to today," said second-year head coach Pat Knight prior to Friday's practice. "We haven't really done anything on defense. Most of the preseason was about our offense, so today will be the first time we get back to defense. I'm kind of looking forward to how these guys react. I like their attitude and their athletic ability."
Senior forward Stan Brown (6-8, 225) is the lone returning starter after averaging 4.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game last year. The Cards also welcome back three other frontcourt players in senior Nikko Acosta (6-9, 220), junior Osas Ebomwonyi (6-11, 220) and sophomore Sebastian Norman (6-9, 235).
Ebomwonyi appeared in all 35 games for the Cards last season and finished second in the Southland Conference in blocked shots at 1.8 per game.
Bolstering the frontcourt will be a pair of newcomers in junior transfer Amos Wilson (6-5, 205) and freshman D.J. Muepo (6-6, 240). Wilson posted 16.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season for Collin County Community College, while Muepo was an all-city player at Dorsey High School in Los Angeles.
Senior guard Donley Minor
(6-1, 175) is the only returning player in the Cardinals' backcourt. Minor has appeared in 94 games during his first three seasons and has knocked down 62 career 3-pointers. He is an 83.6 percent free throw shooter for his career, as well.
"I think we're ahead of where we were this time last year," said Knight. "Stan and Donley and Nikko have done a good job talking to these guys about what to expect and now we have some extension of the coaches. Last year we didn't because they didn't know what we wanted so the seniors were just like freshmen. Actually I think we're ahead of schedule because of the help of the older guys."
Freshman Rhon Mitchell (6-5, 180) will see his first playing time for the Cardinals this year after redshirting the 2011-12 season. Mitchell is a swing player who posted 17 points and eight rebounds per game as a senior at Inglewood (Calif.) High School.
Sophomore transfer Hondo Webb (6-2, 225) looks to move into the starting point guard role left vacant by Anthony Miles. Hondo was a teammate of Wilson's at Collin County and was the Texas Class 2A Player of the Year as a senior at Melissa High School.
Five other guards will round out the Lamar roster and battle for playing time. Freshman Keilan Blanks (5-9, 160) joins the Cardinals out of Spring Hill (Tenn.) High School where he posted senior year averages of 20 points and just over nine assists per game.
Freshman Donnell Minton (6-0, 145) comes to Lamar from Northwest High School in Indianapolis. Minton was an honorable mention all-state selection after averaging 22 points per contest.
Australian import Matt Hancock (6-4, 200) is a shooter who can play the off guard or forward positions. The freshman has extensive club experience in his homeland and averaged nearly 20 points per game in earning school MVP honors.
Sophomore transfer Brennan Doty (6-3, 170) will be eligible after the first semester per NCAA transfer rules. A local product out of Port Neches-Groves High School, Doty originally went to Oregon to play football before beginning his basketball career at Lamar.
Freshman Brian Curran (6-2, 180) is the final player, joining the Cardinals after a stellar prep career at Juan Diego Catholic (Utah) High School. A second-team all-state selection, Curran average 15 points per game as a senior.