Paine's mens basketball team looks to turn page

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Paine’s off-court issues last season overshadowed everything else.

Paine's Tony Baker and Mario Jordan will try to lead the Lions to their first winning season since the 2006-2007 campaign. Jimmy Link is heading into his first full season as head coach after taking over for Ron Spry.   Chris Gay/Staff
Chris Gay/Staff
Paine's Tony Baker and Mario Jordan will try to lead the Lions to their first winning season since the 2006-2007 campaign. Jimmy Link is heading into his first full season as head coach after taking over for Ron Spry.

While the Lions were forced to find a new home with the renovation of their gym, they also found themselves in the middle of regime change. Assistant coach Jimmy Link was named head coach in January after longtime coach Ron Spry stepped down.

“Last year, we had a lot of distractions,” junior guard Mario Jordan said. “We had a lot of adversity.”

After last season’s 11-17 campaign, Paine is back looking to reverse a tired trend. The Lions seek their first winning record since the 2006-07 season.

Link, starting his first season as the team’s head coach, was able to install his offensive sets this fall. He also brought in eight newcomers to add to all-conference guard Jordan and Tony Baker, as well as senior forward Geno Green and senior center Chris Hunt. Green and Hunt each are academically ineligible this fall and will miss five games before their expected return in December.

Link is looking to fill the team’s weaknesses from last year with new players. Paine shot just 38 percent from the field and posted a minus-5.6 rebounding margin. Jordan, who led the Lions in scoring (14.1 points a game), shot 38 percent from the field, while Baker (10.2 scoring average) shot 40 percent.

“There’s not as much pressure on us to make shots as there was last year,” Baker said. “If we’re not making our shots, we know we’ve got other people on our team who are going to step up and make shots.”

Kenny Fluellen, a former first-team, all-state high school player from Warner Robins, Ga., is expected to help with scoring. He transferred in from Limestone and will play small forward.

“He can shoot the cover off the ball,” Link said.

While James Devlin is expected to play point guard, transfers Allen Young (6-foot-8, 210), Mike Dorceus (6-5, 220) and Danny Feliciano (6-6, 225) will be asked to rebound and be active in the paint. Forward Darius Smith (6-4, 185), a sophomore transfer from Columbus State with a 45-inch vertical leap, also is expected to contribute down low.

While Paine’s Health Education Activities Learning (HEAL) Complex is in the midde of construction and expected to be open by next fall, the Lions will play their home games at Richmond Academy this season. It’s one more bit of adversity for the team.

“You have to be mentally ready,” Jordan said. “Basically, it’s like 26 road games. We just have to get used to it.”

PAINE LIONS

HEAD COACH: Jimmy Link, second season

2010-11 RECORD: 11-17

KEY RETURNERS: G Tony Baker (Sr., 10.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg), G Mario Jordan (Jr., 14.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg), F Geno Green (Sr., 9.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), C Chris Hunt (Sr., 8.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

KEY NEWCOMERS: G Kenny Fluellen (So.-TR), G James Devlin (Jr.-TR), F Danny Feliciano (So.-TR), G Kedric Taylor (Fr.), C Allen Young (Jr.-TR), G Darius Smith (So.-TR)

NOTES: The Lions endured a transitional year last season, when they found themselves under a new head coach and in a new home gym in the second half of the season. Paine had issues shooting (38 percent from the floor) and rebounding (-5.6 margin). Baker and Jordan were each named this fall to the league’s preseason all-conference team.

OUTLOOK: Starting his first full season as a head coach, Link has been able to add eight new players to his system and teach his team to run his style of basketball. Paine should be battle-tested when it begins its 24-game league schedule after playing Auburn and Georgia Southern in exhibitions and Augusta State in its home opener. The Lions are ready to post a winning season and shock some people throughout the SIAC.

PAINE MEN’S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE

Note: All home games at Richmond Academy (unless noted)

• Wednesday at Augusta State, 7:30 p.m.

• Saturday at Claflin,
4 p.m.

• Nov. 26 Lane (at USC Aiken), 3 p.m.

• Nov. 28 Kentucky State, 5:30 p.m.

• Dec. 3 at Erskine, 4 p.m.

• Dec. 29 Miles, 7:30 p.m.

• Dec. 31 at Clark Atlanta, 8 p.m.

• Jan. 7 at Kentucky State, 3 p.m.

• Jan. 9 at Lane, 7:30 p.m.

• Jan. 12 Fort Valley State, 7:30 p.m.

• Jan. 14 Albany State, 5 p.m.

• Jan. 19 at LeMoyne-Owen, 7:30 p.m.

• Jan. 21 at Miles, 3 p.m.

• Jan. 24 at Benedict, 8 p.m.

• Jan. 28 at Stillman, 3 p.m.

• Jan. 30 at Tuskegee, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 2 Clark Atlanta, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 9 Stillman, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 11 Tuskegee, 4 p.m.

• Feb. 10 at GC&SU, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 14 at Fort Valley State, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 16 at Albany State, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 18 Benedict, 3 p.m.

• Feb. 20 LeMoyne-Owen, 7:30 p.m.

• Feb. 25 Claflin 3 p.m.


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