Oct. 16, 2007
BEAUMONT - With four returning starters, optimism is running high in Cardinal Country as second-year men's basketball coach Steve Roccaforte addressed the crowd at Media Day Tuesday afternoon at the Montagne Center.
In addition to the four starters, the Cardinals return a total of six letterwinners from last year's 15-17 squad that advanced to the semifinals of the Southland Conference Tournament for the third straight season. This year's addition hopes to advance to the championship game and receive the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
"The players are working hard and our physical condition is much better this year than last," said Roccaforte in assessing the team after three full practices. "We already had everything in by the start of practice (offensive and defensive schemes).
"It's easy to coach when you have high-energy players who listen and can pickup things easy. We are able to work with the players on a limited basis once school starts, and we have taken full advantage of that, which is why we are so far along at this point."
The six returning players accounted for 66 percent of the scoring and 59 percent of the rebounding from last year's squad. Lamar ranked 12th in the NCAA in assists per game (17.3), 31st in three-point field goals per game (8.3) and 52nd in three-point percentage (.379).
The Cardinals set a new school record for three-point attempts in a season (702) and recorded the second-most three-pointers made in a season (266).
The returning players are highlighted by seniors Lamar Sanders and Darren Hopkins. Sanders averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, which led the SLC and ranked 12th in the NCAA. He also shot 59.3 percent from the field and led the team in assists with 104 (3.3). He was named second-team All-SLC and SLC newcomer of the year.
Hopkins is the team's leading returning scorer at 13.4 ppg. He led the team in three-point percentage at .435 (67-of-154), tied for second in steals (27) and was third in assists (89).
Also back are senior guards Currye Todd and Matthew Barrow, junior forward Lawrence Nwevo and sophomore guard Shane Mahoney. Todd averaged 10.6 ppg and 2.9 rpg. He shot 34.5 percent from three-point range and led the team with 29 steals.
Barrow averaged 7.9 ppg and 2.8 rpg. He was second on the team with 93 assists and tied for second with 27 steals. He shot 37.9 percent from three-point range and 73.7 percent from the free throw line. Nwevo averaged 4.9 ppg and 3.9 rpg.
Roccaforte and his staff have added a nice compliment of newcomers to solidify the roster. Expecting to make an immediate impact is point guard Kenny Dawkins and forwards Jay Brown, Ashton Hall and Justin Nabors.
Dawkins (5-9, 155) was a second-team NJCAA All-America selection at Arizona Western College. Brown (6-7, 235) was named first-team all-state and Co-MVP of the South Coast Conference at L.A. City College. Hall (6-5, 210), who led Kountze HS to back-to-back state titles, averaged 14.8 ppg last season at Angelina College. Nabors (6-6, 215) was named Region XXIII co-player of the year and honorable mention NJCAA All-America.
Lamar opens its 56th season as a four-year institution Nov. 13 when LeTourneau University visits the Montagne Center. The Cardinals will also host Wyoming (Nov. 19), Oral Roberts (Nov. 24) and Rice (Dec. 22).
Prior to the start of the regular season, the Cardinals will play a pair of exhibition games against Incarnate Word (Nov. 3) and Central Oklahoma (Nov. 10) at the Montagne Center.