After disappointing seasons a year ago and after suffering major personnel losses, USC Aiken's basketball teams wanted immediate impact.
Forget rebuilding from the ground up, they needed experience and talent all in one bunch. They got it in the form of junior college transfers.
Chris Robinson is one of three Sante Fe Community College transfers to come to Aiken and is expected to start at forward for Mike Roberts' men's squad. The 6-foot-5, 176-pound junior from Alachua, Fla., averaged 13.5 points last season and was named to the Mid-Florida all-conference team.
"He's just real athletic," Roberts said. "He's a combination of a lot of things. We can play him on the post or on the wing. He'll make an immediate impact."
The Pacers finished last season 14-14 overall with a 7-9 conference mark. They loses two first-team Peach Belt all-conference selections in 6-6 forward Juan Wiley and 6-9 center Derek Moore to graduation. Moore now plays professionally in his homeland, Australia, and Wiley is graduate assistant for Roberts.
"We knew there was no way to replace players like Derek and Juan, so we decided to change the whole makeup of our team," Roberts added. "We will be much more of a perimeter-oriented team."
Eric Dugans, a 5-11 point guard from Sante Fe, will start along with returners Corey Faggins (5-11, 160), Michael Tyler (6-2, 160) and Minda Jokulis (6-6, 238). Tyler and Jokulis were teammates on South Aiken High's 1998 South Carolina Class AAAA state championship team.
Aiken opens the season on the road in the Mount Olive Pickle Classic on Friday against Coker College at 6 p.m. The Pacers' first home contest comes Dec. 3, when Mars Hill visits.
Phil Stern also is looking for instant offense for his Lady Pacers, who finished 5-22 overall and 0-16 in the Peach Belt in his first season. Janell Gerk, a 5-7 guard from Northeastern Junior College in Colorado, will step into the lineup immediately.
"Janell fits into our system perfectly as evidenced by her 3-point shooting ability," Stern said. "She will see minutes at both the two guard and small forward positions."
Gerk set Northeastern records last season for most 3-pointers in a season with 99, most in two seasons with 151 and in a game with eight. She will replace Kerry Ansbro, who broke Lady Pacer school records in 3-pointers made in a career with 205 and in a season with 96.
Freshman Jami Cornwell is expected to start at point guard. The 5-7 point from Mount Crawford, Va., earned Class AA player of the year honors in Virginia after breaking Turner Ashby High School records for scoring, pouring in 1,119 points and assists, dishing out 570.
The Lady Pacers also lost their third-leading scorer and top rebounder in Kenya Brown. The strong forward average 9.2 rebounds a game to go with 14 points, trailing Ansbro's 14.5 average.
Aiken returns its leading scorer in senior forward Briar Fontaine, who averaged 15 points per game last season. She will be joined in the lineup by guard Dana Richter, who missed 17 games a year ago with a torn anterior collateral ligament. Post player Mary Wooley also returns, but is sidelined with a stress fracture.
"This year's recruiting class is very strong as a whole," Stern said. "What happened last year won't happen again. We have some exciting players coming in who should be able to play well at this level. Although we're young, we want to be competitive come conference play."
The Lady Pacers open at St. Andrews on Friday, but return home Saturday for the home opener with Allen University at 7 p.m.