Georgia Southern Men’s Basketball Preview

Robert George

November is here, which means the weather gets colder, leaves start changing colors and student-athletes all around the country lace up their shoes to hit the hardwood. Thankfully, the college basketball season is about to start again. Here’s what to look for from the Eagles this season.  

Familiar Faces

For the Georgia Southern Men’s Basketball team, this season is a chance for a young team to take the next step in establishing the program as a basketball powerhouse. Last season, the Eagles went 14-17 (10-10 Sun Belt) and were knocked out of the Sun Belt Tournament in the first round. The Eagles were the youngest team in the nation, with just one upperclassman on the roster.

“Last year, with so many new parts and players, we didn’t exactly know what the guys’ strengths and weaknesses were,” GS head coach Mark Byington said. “But this year I feel like we’re using guys to the best of their ability.”

The Eagles will have virtually their entire team back from last season, and the players are hoping that the experience of playing together will help them on the floor. Returning are point guards Tookie Brown and Devonte Boykins, sharpshooters Jake Allsmiller and Aubrey McRae, a pair of athletic wings in Ike Smith and Mike Hughes and post-men Shawn O’Connell, Montae Glenn and Coye Simmons.

“We’re a more experienced team than last year and we have high expectations for ourselves. We know what we have to do this year,” Hughes said.

Players to Watch

Among the newcomers last year, Smith wound up being one of the more versatile options for Byington in the starting lineup. He finished third in scoring and second in rebounding for the Eagles, and was used as a ball handler and the front man in their half-court press. He said conditioning has been a big part of his off-season.

“When I’m on the floor, I’m gonna have to be able to produce, even when I’m tired,” Smith said. “The speed of the game is so much different (from high school).”

Another player who could have the biggest impact on the Eagles success is sophomore Brown. Brown was a late-commitment to the program last summer, but he turned out to be a gem for Byington and the program. He was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year and garnered First-Team All-Sun Belt honors in his stellar freshman campaign. He finished eighth in scoring among all Freshmen in the NCAA. He said he’s looking to build on the strong season and wants to become more of a leader.

“Since I am one of the captains this year, the team has to hear my voice,” Brown said. “Just getting everybody involved on and off the court.”

GS also saw BJ Gladden transfer in from Eastern Florida. According to Byington, the 6’6” junior should help provide play-making and rebounding as a stretch-forward.

“He’s very good at passing the ball and making decisions,” Byington said. “His length will help him disrupt people on defense.” 


Last season, Byington played a lot of small-ball lineups with four wings and just one man in the post. That much spacing on the floor helps create driving lanes for Brown and Hughes, who then can kick the ball out to open shooters when the defense collapses. That was somewhat out of necessity due to injuries, but he expects to do more of the same this year. He wants the Eagles to run the floor and and exploit the gaps in the defense in transition.

“With our guys, one of our rules is to find the first good shot. If there is a good one early, I want them to take it,” Byington said. “Defensively, we like to disrupt people and take them out of their systems.”

Final Analysis

Georgia Southern has one of the best back courts in the conference and enough depth to withstand a tough early-season schedule and a grueling conference slate. They are capable of finishing in the top four in the Sun Belt standings, and have aspirations of making a deep tournament run at the end of the season. It could all come down to how much the young team can take the experience from last season and build off that this year.

Photo by Xxavier Robertson.