With senior-led group and favorable schedule, men’s basketball begins quest for first Sun Belt Title

Ryan Pye

The schedule is set, the talent is there and the hype is beginning to build around Georgia Southern’s 2018-19 basketball season.

The Eagles will be returning three seniors, Montae Glenn, Ike Smith and Tookie Brown, to this year’s squad, a trio that Byington says will be vital to the team’s success.

“The three seniors have started pretty much since they were freshmen,” Byington said. “They have a chance to take it [the program’s success] to another level.”

Apart from the well-experienced leaders, the program will have five new scholarship freshmen on the the team, many of whom Byington expects to make an immediate impact.

“I’m really excited about the freshman class,” Byington said. “I think it’s a really good group of talent that will contribute this year.”

Among them is Tyshaun Crawford, a redshirt freshman center who, standing at over seven feet tall, will add considerable size to the Eagles’ lineup.

But the talented freshman class won’t be the only new faces seen playing in Hanner Fieldhouse. An additional four team members are transfers who will see their first playing time in the upcoming season.

Another huge addition and potential impact player is Simeon Carter, who had to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Carter is a redshirt junior who has college experience playing at Iowa State.

Byington said the two other transfers, Isiah Crawley and Trey Dawkins, have both been pleasant surprises so far in practice, and are also expected to make an impact on the team in the upcoming season.

“We’re definitely gonna need those guys to be major contributors because a lot of people graduated and left the program,” Byington said.

The Eagles’ schedule this season will be a tough one to say the least. Luckily, the Eagles have a leader – Tookie Brown – who pushes them to reach new heights day in and day out.

“Tookie Brown is our engine,” Byington said. “He drives everything, whether it be in practice or in games.”

Brown, a member of the 2017-18 Lou Henson All-America Team, has been a four-year starter for the Eagles, but he has yet to break the barrier of winning the Sun Belt Conference or reaching the NCAA tournament, which Byington says drives him and the team around him even harder.

With their schedule including teams like national-power Arizona, and the daunting task of Sun Belt Conference play, Brown is expected to lead the charge.

“Sometimes you’ve just gotta out-tough a team,” Byington said.

Describing Brown and the rest of the talented Eagles roster as “tough” might be an understatement.

Seemingly, the games throughout the season never go as planned, and even last year the Eagles were forced to overcome injuries and other obstacles along the way, which is why Byington said talent won’t get the job done all the time. You need a little luck.

“You have to sometimes win games when you don’t play your best,” Byington said.

On paper, this Eagles team is very talented, experienced and poised to make a run for the Sun Belt Title. There’s bound to be a lot of obstacles in the coming months, but don’t count out this Eagles team. With the winning culture Byington has established, the Eagles can overcome almost anything thrown their way.

Ryan Pye, The George-Anne Sports Reporter, gasports@georgiasouthern.edu