2017-2018 men’s basketball season follows disheartening script

McClain Baxley

For Jake Allsmiller and Mike Hughes, the two seniors who were four year letterwinners, their freshman seasons and their senior seasons followed roughly the same script.

The 2014-2015 men’s basketball season was coach Mark Byington’s second at Georgia Southern and it was the Eagle’s first year in the Sun Belt.

The season began with strong performances against competitive non-conference teams closely losing to Big Ten school Illinois. GS’ Sun Belt season was their best yet, earning them the 2-seed in the 2015 Sun Belt tournament.

Before the tournament began, the unthinkable happened.

In the next to last home game of the season against Louisiana, senior forward Angel Matias suffered a season ending ankle injury. The senior was averaging more than eight points and nearly six rebounds a game.

The Eagles stumbled through the final four games before losing a heartbreaker to Georgia State in the Sun Belt championship game.

Four years later, GS had a great non-conference showing, a top-3 finish and an injury to a key player that led to a loss to GSU.

Prior to the quarterfinal game against ULM, the Eagles announced that they would be without junior center Montae Glenn for the rest of the season with a knee injury.

Obviously, you never want to be without a starter. But, being without the number two offensive rebounder nationally would be a large task to overcome.

Senior Coye Simmons and redshirt junior Shawn O’Connell performed nicely in replacing Glenn combining for 15 points, 5 rebounds and only allowing 10 points in the paint. The following game was a different beast for the typical bench players against Georgia State. In the season finale, the two big men scored finished with just six points, six rebounds and State scored 24 points in the paint. It was another season that was plagued with a late season injury.

The 2017-2018 season was still certainly one to remember and one to build on.

10-5 non-conference record

Eagle Nation first saw this team on a Friday night in Winston-Salem with a win over ACC foe Wake Forest.

The win set the tone for the Eagles’ non conference schedule. In GS’ first game in Hanner, they hosted the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners in a blowout 77-53 win that coach Byington said was “the best team on (their) schedule.”

The Eagles went on to have a 5-0 start before falling to Towson in the Gulf Coast Showcase championship game by three.

The non-conference tour ended with a 7,500 mile, four game road trip. Beginning with a win over George Mason in Virginia, GS traveled to California then back to Georgia and ended up in Tennessee, losing to Southern Conference powerhouse ETSU.

Senior legacy

Jake Allsmiller and Mike Hughes obviously were the highlights of the 2018 senior class, but B.J. Gladden, Coye Simmons and even Tione Jones contributed to the Eagles’ success.

Gladden and Simmons averaged over 11 minutes a game, but were crucial to the scheme in the final two games of the season.

With big man Montae Glenn down, Simmons started his third game of the season and gave the Eagles a great burst out of the gate in the win over ULM.

And just as important, walk-on Tione Jones contributed on the bench as a supporter and morale booster all season.

Looking forward

GS returns 71 percent of its scoring and 65 percent of its rebounding. Three of the five starters are set to spend the 2018-2019 season with the Eagles including three time first team all Sun Belt guard Tookie Brown.

Quan Jackson was arguably the biggest surprise for coach Byington and the Eagles. The redshirt freshman started nine games and averaged seven points, three rebounds per game.

Jackson was also a pest on defense, coming up with 48 steals.

The Eagles traveled with two players who never saw playing time this year- Tyshaun Crawford was redshirted and Simeon Carter had to sit out due to NCAA transfer rules. Both players stand taller than 6-foot 8 and will be threats in the paint.

McClain Baxley, The George-Anne Sports Editor, [email protected]