Eagles look for fresh start

Trevor McNaboe

A new year, a new coach and a new system are three things that are coming to Georgia Southern University this winter in the men’s basketball program.

After the dismissal reign of former head coach and alumnus Charlton “C.Y” Young, new head coach Mark Byington took over the reigns of a program that has not had a winning season since the 2005-2006 campaign.

Byington is no stranger to Southern Conference play as he was the top assistant coach for the legendary Bobby Cremins at the College of Charleston for seven seasons.

Changes are already being seen in the program in Byington’s first recruiting class, he signed two junior college players along with a handful of freshman players to build and add depth.

Experience and leadership should not be a problem for the Eagles as they have five seniors with significant playing time from last season. To go along with that, redshirt junior guard Jelani Hewitt will return and is a key addition this season after redshirting last year.

In an exhibition game that GSU played last Friday against Thomas University, the Eagles won soundly by a score of 88-49. While this doesn’t mean much record-wise it was a good chance to see if the players have bought into Byington’s system.

Senior Brian Holmes went off in the first half with 18 points and went four for six from behind the three-point arc.

Hewitt, in his return, posted a double-double scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in rout to an Eagle victory.

The schedule out-of-conference this season for GSU will be challenging early on. The Eagles will have to go on the road and play the University of Miami and West Virginia University early in November to start the season.

The SoCon schedule has always been a grueling one for the Eagles as they went 7-11 in conference last season.

The games to watch out for will be on Jan. 25 and Feb. 15when GSU takes on Davidson College. The Wildcats have been a perennial powerhouse in the SoCon and, with the departure of the College of Charleston, it opens the door for GSU to establish themselves as the top team in the league.

The Eagles will hit the courts at Hanner Fieldhouse Friday against Columbia International University at 7:30 p.m.