When forward Devon Wright-Nelson makes a mistake, he gets an earful from his point guard, D’Angelo Boyce.
One freshman is holding another accountable this season at Augusta State – not an uncommon scene.
“D’Angelo will definitely get on you if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to be doing,” Wright-Nelson said. “We’ve been put in the position of taking a leadership role. Somebody’s got to do it. And because D’Angelo’s the point guard, he’s been real vocal and keeping everyone in check.”
Boyce, Wright-Nelson and freshman shooting guard Devonte Thomas are the foundation of the Jaguars’ future. Instead of rebuilding his program with junior college players, coach Dip Metress decided to go 3D, starting three freshmen in the lineup who share more than just the same first initial. The trio also hails the area known as the “DMV” – the District of Columbia (Wright-Nelson), Maryland (Thomas) and Virginia (Boyce).
“I’ll take our three freshmen and put them against anybody,” Metress said. “They just need to keep developing.”
Francis Marion will see plenty of 3D action during today’s homecoming game against Augusta State, which starts at 3:30 p.m. at Christenberry Fieldhouse. The women’s game begins at 1:30.
After the Jaguars’ slow start to the season, Metress decided to start all three freshman, along with sophomore forward Harold Doby and junior center Travis Keels. With Boyce, Thomas and Wright-Nelson all in the starting lineup, Augusta State (13-9, 9-5) has won eight of its past 11 games and has climbed from fifth to second in the Peach Belt Conference East Division.
Wright-Nelson is the reigning Peach Belt Conference Player of the Week, leading the team in scoring (13.1) and rebounding (8.1). Thomas is the second-leading scorer (12.0), with a team-best 57 3-pointers. Boyce is shooting 45 percent from the field with 75 assists and 39 turnovers.
“They’re good players, “and all completely different players,” Metress said.
Wright-Nelson entered Augusta State in the fall of 2010 at 240 pounds, 20 more than when he signed with the team. In an exhibition against Georgia, he broke his foot. Wright-Nelson redshirted the season, and he lost focus in the classroom. When he showed his grades to Metress, his coach erupted.
Metress said he was so furious he wasn’t sure about bringing Wright-Nelson back in the fall. But Wright-Nelson learned from the mistake, going to summer school and picking up his grades in the fall. And he returned to the team weighing 198 pounds.
“I needed to buckle down and become more mature,” Wright-Nelson said. “Last year, I was playing around in the classroom and not paying attention.”
Wright-Nelson is held accountable on the court by Boyce, a late signing by Metress during the summer. The 6-foot-1 guard had interest from Division I schools like Old Dominion, George Washington, and Saint Francis. Those schools offered lip service, but not a formal scholarship. Metress soon shut the door on the competition.
“He came in and stepped up and said, ‘I like you,’” Boyce said. “I know in the past he’s won championships. He’s a great coach.”
After helping lead North Point High School to a state title last season, Thomas almost committed to Jacksonville. But the school decided to go the junior college route, and Thomas soon visited Augusta State.
Now, Thomas is the team’s top perimeter threat, shooting 34 percent from 3-point range. Despite taking 76 percent of his shots from the perimeter, Thomas wants to prove he can do more with the ball.
“I can shoot, but I can do a lot of other things as well,” Thomas said. “I just don’t want to get labeled as a shooter.”
Off the court, Thomas is labeled as the future. He, Boyce and Wright-Nelson will be looked upon to add banners to Christenberry Fieldhouse in the coming years. When Metress adds a few more pieces to the puzzle for next season, Augusta State could soon make another Elite Eight run.
“If we keep playing like we are now, we can go very far,” Thomas said.