New basketball coach announced

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Gianna Carme

Former Virginia Tech University assistant, Mark Byington will be the new Georgia Southern University head men’s basketball coach, announced yesterday by Athletic Director Tom Kleinlein.

“I wanted to have a CEO type person, a person who had his hands involved in everything and a person who had a commitment to excellence, and that’s what I found,” Kleinlein said.

Before becoming an assistant with the Hokies for the 2012-2013 season, Byington was the assistant head coach at the College of Charleston for nine seasons. Byington was the interim head coach for 11 games with the Cougars, posting a record of 7-4.

“You deserve a winner. Myself, the players (and) the staff we’re gonna work as hard as we possibly can to give you that,” Byington said.

With the Cougars, Byington was a big part of the team’s success. In his nine seasons with the team, the Cougars made the postseason five times including an NIT appearance.

Under former head coach Charlton Young, GSU went 14-19 this past season and lost against Davidson College in the Southern Conference Tournament by 27 points. The Eagles were an abysmal 43-84 under Young through four seasons.

With plenty of experience under his belt, Byington will look to change the culture of basketball at GSU as the Eagles transition from the SoCon to the Sun Belt Conference.

“The biggest elephant in the room is beating Davidson,” Byington said. “I told our guys we’re not shying away we’re not hiding from anybody we’re coming after everybody and that’s going to be our mentality,” Byington said.

Byington will have rising seniors Eric Ferguson and Jelani Hewitt at his disposal for the 2013-2014 season as well as freshman Cleon Roberts.

“I feel like we have some really good parts to work with. Eric Ferguson is one of the most talented guys in the league. Cleon Roberts I saw first hand at Virginia Tech what he can do,” Byington said.

During their recent inconsistent season, GSU did manage to beat the Hokies 78-73. In that game Roberts was the second leading scorer, going for 20 points on 7-12 shooting including four from downtown.