October 23, 2012

Men’s Basketball Ready for New Season and New Goals

2012-13 Quickfacts

DAHLONEGA, Ga. – A year ago, the North Georgia College & State University men's basketball team was left on the outside looking in on the Peach Belt Conference Tournament. But that was last year – this is a new season and a new team – and head coach Chris Faulkner believes he has the pieces in place this year to make some noise.

But what are the goals for the team this season?

A year ago, North Georgia went 10-18 overall with a 5-12 record in the extremely tough PBC which included opening the season by winning four of their first five games. But the tone of the season changed from there as the Saints went 1-11 away from Memorial Hall Gymnasium and were just 8-7 within the friendly confines of their home court. 

Again, that was the 2011-12 season.

This year, Faulkner and staff have a roster they feel confident they can win with that includes nine returning letterwinners and nine newcomers to add that needed depth at key spots on the court.

"Our goal each year is to get into the national tournament," said Faulkner. "Our main goal this year is for the team to come together and play each game as a cohesive unit. I think our conference is always strong, so being able to compete for and win a conference championship is always one of our goals, as well. Another goal is to improve defensively and be able to hold our opponents to a lower field goal percentage than last season."

For the Saints to be able to reach the national tournament, Coach Faulkner and his experienced staff will certainly focus on getting the players where they can execute on the court together as one fluid unit. But for the squad to really succeed in coming together, leaders will have to step up and take the reins.

There is plenty of experience on the roster that could step up and lead the team this season. Not only are there nine returners who have at least one year of experience in the Saints' basketball program, there are also five players with collegiate experience including two NCAA Division I transfers.

Highlighting the returners are seniors Scott Windom and Pat Moynihan as the only two players from last season's squad who logged more than 20 starts. Windom, an All-PBC selection as a forward last year, averaged 17.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game and was a 45 percent shooter from the field while Moynihan, a guard, averaged 9.1 points per game and hit on 30 percent of his shots from three-points range.

Behind Windom and Moynihan are three more seniors and a pair of sophomores who logged more than 1,800 minutes on the court last season and accounted for 515 points and 247 boards. 

Senior center Robby Goldsmith and sophomore forward Michael Varrichione saw action in every game for the Saints a year ago with Goldsmith scoring 97 points and bringing down 62 rebounds. Varrichione, just a freshman a year ago, shot an impressive 62.5 percent from the field in his first collegiate season. 

Victor Holder is the fourth returning senior for Faulkner and adds 112 points and 56 rebounds to the Saints frontcourt.

Senior Tyler Norman and sophomore Travis Core will join Moynihan in bringing experience to North Georgia's frontcourt this season. Core was the team's fourth-leading scorer as a freshman last season as he averaged 7.9 points per game in 28 contests and connected on 41.8 percent of his looks from the field.

As for adding more depth with this year's recruiting class, Faulkner brought in seven more talented players and has two players who were already in the program as redshirts last season who will compete right away for playing time.

Junior college transfer Lamar Richardson from East Georgia College and true freshman Corey Green will give the Saints serious firepower from the perimeter while Ishmael Hollis and JC Ward, both Division I transfers, will give North Georgia a more balanced interior attack as well as help the Saints win the battle on the boards. 

 "I think we have brought together a great group of young men who have tremendous character and ability," Faulkner stated. "I am very much looking forward to helping them develop into a team that works together to achieve a common goal." 

The 2012-13 slate promises to be a difficult one with 13 road dates and 11 home contests including a full Peach Belt Conference schedule. Some of the tougher contests include back-to-back visits from PBC East foes Augusta State and the University of South Carolina Aiken which have become perennial powerhouses within the conference and region. The good news for the Saints is both of those contests are at home this year as part of a season-high four home games in a row. 

The Saints will have a difficult road ahead of them this season, but if they can survive their first stretch, they will be stronger and better for it. North Georgia plays on the road in seven of their first nine contests including starting their 2012-13 Peach Belt Conference campaign on the road to close out the 2012 portion of the year.

"The first stretch will be very tough and I hope it will help our team develop and be prepared for conference play.  We will face several national tournament caliber teams that will help us build mental toughness and hopefully find our identity over the first few weeks.  Conference play will bring a few rivalry games.  Clayton State and Georgia College have developed into great Peach Belt rivals for us, and the addition of Young Harris to the conference will prove to be a couple of very good games as well."

To succeed in 2012-13, the Saints will have to get comfortable on the road as their season starts with so many road contests including their first two games at the Newberry College Tournament on Friday, Nov. 9 and Saturday, Nov. 10. They then get the chance to play two home games with a road trek to Anderson sandwiched in between but then comes a stretch of four straight away games in December to close out the 2012 portion of the season.

Along with being on the road for most of the first portion of the season, the Saints have four teams on their schedule which played in the national tournament last season including the national runner-up, the University of Montevallo. Also advancing to the tourney last season were USC Aiken, Anderson and Columbus State.

Despite the obstacles standing in the way, the 2012-13 season should be an exciting one for the Saints as they work to mesh and come together as one unit and look to reach their goals.