After playing his last collegiate basketball game, Jaguars center Festus Hawkins saw a bright future for his teammates.
Augusta's 65-48 loss to Winston-Salem State in the Division II Tournament round of 32 on Friday marked the end of the Jaguars' remarkable season.
"This right here was a learning experience," Hawkins said. "All we did was give 'em a taste. Maybe next year it'll be a meal. I feel like this team will go far next year."
Augusta returns six of its eight scholarship players next season, including Gary Boodnikoff (15 points per game), T.J. Ott (13 ppg) and Russell Hinder (8.5 ppg). The Jaguars also return both point guards in Jayme Johnson (111 assists) and Chris Harriman (106 assists).
On Nov. 15, the Jaguars signed former Butler star William Gates during the early signing period. The 6-foot-7, 205-pound forward averaged 19 points and 12 rebounds per game in his senior season at Butler. He then went to Butler Community College and a year later transferred to the University of Idaho, where he suffered a season-ending ankle injury after playing in 12 games.
Unless Tuell recruits another big man, Augusta won't have the intimidating inside presence that the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Hawkins brought. However, with four players on next year's team standing 6-7 or taller, Tuell may decide to pick up the tempo.
The Jaguars (21-10) will have their work cut out for them to improve on the 2000-01 season. Augusta had its most wins in a season since the 1970-71 season, when the Jaguars went 22-6.
Augusta earned its first NCAA postseason win with a 96-84 win over Catawba. The Jaguars captured their first Peach Belt Tournament title along with their third straight Peach Belt North Division crown.
"We got to the final 32," Tuell said. "We're not happy with that. We'd like to go farther. But that's just the way it works sometimes."
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222 or email@example.com