AIKEN — USC Aiken’s Alvin Brown developed into a defensive force in the paint last season, swatting shots all over the court.
The 6-10 center also showed glimpses of his overall game. The Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year recorded his school’s third triple-double, with 13 points, 13 blocks and 10 rebounds in a win over North Georgia.
“That makes me work even harder,” he said. “Once you know it’s possible, you want to do it again and again.”
Brown returns this year looking to help USC Aiken get back to the postseason. The Pacers finished 17-10 last season, failing to make the Division II Tournament after a three-year postseason run.
USC Aiken lost Myles Holley and Kenny Manigault, who averaged a combined 22 points and 10 rebounds a game, in December because of academic issues. All of the Pacers’ losses were by seven or fewer points, linked to poor free-throw shooting (63 percent) and turnovers (15.7 per game).
“We could’ve won a lot of those games,” junior guard Re’mon Nelson said. “We know we underachieved. This year, we’re looking to show this conference what we can do.”
USC Aiken is picked to finish sixth in a preseason conference coaches poll. The Pacers will start the year without Brown, who is academically ineligible this fall and is expected to return in mid-December. He said it’s been tough watching his teammates play in exhibitions and scrimmages without him.
“It’s my fault,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can to fix that mistake.”
USC Aiken will look to Brown (8.9 points, 5.9 boards a game last season) and Nelson (7.9 points a game, 22 3-pointers) to increase their offensive output after the loss of Byron Faison.
In the off-season, Brown worked on free throws and extending his shooting range.
“He’s gotten so much stronger,” Pacers coach Vince Alexander said. “He’s developed a scoring game. It’s going to be exciting to have him back.”
Alexander, who sports a 193-151 career record, added eight newcomers to his roster. He added depth and size in the frontcourt, with 25-year-old senior forward Jeremiah Pojah (6-7, 215) and junior forward Joel Gierbolini (6-8, 230), who will start at center in place of Brown.
Junior forwards Maurice Hubbard (6-6, 220) and Rick Alderman (6-6, 220) are each expected to see significant playing time.