My Take: 2015-2016 Men’s Basketball

Marqus Williams

The Georgia Southern basketball team finished the season with a 14-17 overall record and 10-10 in the Sun Belt. Our reporter offers his thoughts on the season and the program going forward.

With the season finished for the Eagles, there was much to learn from this year’s team. To start, they can’t be compared to last year’s team in the slightest. Both teams made the Sun Belt Tournament, but other than that the teams are far apart in who they are.

The 2015-2016 Eagles were young, inexperienced and undersized coming into the season, but they have all grown up. They learned how to play together, win games and learn what it takes to play in the Sun Belt.

The Eagles started off the season in a downward spiral, losing 10 of their first 15 and starting 1-4 in conference play. Many fans might make conclusions about how the season would go based of the rocky start, but judging the team based off that stretch is an injustice. They finished the season on an 11-7 run, beating rivals App State twice in a series sweep, splitting games with Georgia State and beating top conference opponent Louisiana-Monroe.

They went 10-10 in conference play, placing them fifth out of 12, much higher than preseason polls had them finishing. The Eagles showed they are capable of being competitive in the Sun Belt, despite the fact that they were the youngest team in college basketball. That has made them more impressive in where they started to where they finished, not only for what they accomplished, but also for the future of the program.

The most intriguing players to watch have been the freshmen. The Sun Belt Freshman Player of the Year was GSU’s very own Tookie Brown, who ranked fourth in the conference in points per game and was an All-Sun Belt First Team honoree. Brown is also the record holder for most points in a season by a freshman at GSU. Combined with the play of fellow freshman Ike Smith, Montae Glenn and Shawn O’Connell, the future is bright, providing they can max out their potential and put in the work needed to get better.

Since the team was as young and inexperienced as labeled, the leadership displayed by sophomores Mike Hughes and Jake Allsmiller put the Eagles in a better spot to succeed this season. Without clearly stating who played key leadership roles on the team, it was evident in their body language and actions that the team looked to these guys for support when things got tough.

Hughes was honored with an All-Sun Belt Third Team selection and provided two SportsCenter Top 10 plays this season that led to wins for the Eagles. He was a vital point in keeping the team focused and only looking at the task at hand, no matter the opponent.

While the record and the early Sun Belt Tournament exit wasn’t what the team wanted, they did better than most experts, fans and even friends believed they could. They persevered even when things didn’t go their way and pushed through until the end.

This season may not go down as a success in the record book, but it should serve as a successful step in their building block to a Sun Belt Championship. Their potential shown this season was no accident and the players should keep this season in their memories not as a painful reminder, but as a note of where they started and where they are going.