When Gary Tuell became head coach at Augusta State in 1997, he inherited a foundering program.
In the three years prior to Tuell's arrival, Augusta State went 28-54.
Funny how a good coach can turn a program around. After an initial 5-22 campaign, Tuell has led Augusta State to five straight Peach Belt Conference North Division championships, two PBC tournament titles and two NCAA Division II Tournament appearances.
Tuell's teams have gone 79-39 overall in the past four years and 59-19 in the past four years of conference play. In the process, Tuell's won two Peach Belt coach of the year awards.
"We've just had some really good players," said Tuell, who enters his sixth season at Augusta State with an 84-61 mark. His .579 winning percentage at the school is second only to Marvin Vanover (.598).
"Good players make for good teams."
Winning this season will be Tuell's biggest challenge in five years. Augusta State lost five starters from last season's 22-8 squad, including Player of the Year Gary Boodnikoff.
The Jaguars return senior guards Chris Harriman and Darrick Broddie, a defensive stalwart who's currently sidelined with an abdominal strain. Broddie scored 7.3 points with 4.7 rebounds per game last season, while Harriman had 6.0 points a game and a team-high 111 assists for the year.
Augusta State added 10 newcomers to the fold, including 6-foot-7 senior forward David Siebrands.
Siebrands, a second-team all-conference player last season, led UNC Pembroke in scoring (15.0) and rebounding (6.5) in 2001-02.
Other players expected to make an impact include: 6-foot-6-inch junior forward transfer from Wingate, Patrick Curran, and Coastal Georgia Community College transfers Marty Dunham, a 6-foot-4-inch forward, and Ben Butler, a 6-foot-5-inch guard.
The Jaguars open their season at Carson-Newman Friday night. Augusta State plays seven of eight non-conference games against teams that advanced to the Division II Tournament last season.
"The Division II Bulletin said we play the toughest non-conference schedule in the country, so I guess we do," Tuell said. "It's baptism by fire. It's going to be a shock to some of these guys, but it makes you better in the long run if you survive."
Augusta State women's basketball coach Greg Wilson is looking for more than survival after last season's 10-17 record. The Lady Jaguars finished fourth in the Peach Belt North Division and lost to Clayton State in the first round of the conference tournament.
One of the reasons for Augusta State's poor play has been poor shooting - finishing at or near the bottom of the conference in field goal shooting the past three seasons. The Lady Jaguars shot .391 and finished 10th of 12 teams in the conference in 1999-2000, shot .379 (11th) in 2000-2001 (12th) and .366 last season.
"We have not shot well in the past three years," said Wilson, Augusta State's fourth-year coach. "We had to address that."
To combat the problem, Wilson brought in Melanie Massey, a sharpshooting junior guard from Grayson County College. Massey made 71 of 181 3-point attempts (39 percent) last season. Former Lady Jaguar Dwanna Gardner holds the record for most 3-pointers in a season (56, 1993-94).
Augusta State also added 6-foot-2-inch Arijana Sijercic, a senior transfer from the University of Hawaii. The addition of Sijercic combined with returning forwards Sabrina Jones (5-feet-7-inches, senior) and Shundra Johnson (6-foot, junior) possibly gives the Lady Jaguars their best frontcourt in Wilson's tenure.
AUGUSTA STATE MEN
CONFERENCE: Peach Belt
2001-02 RECORD: 22-8 (14-5 conference)
2001-02 POSTSEASON: won Peach Belt Conference Tournament; lost to Johnson C. Smith, 73-70, in first round of NCAA Division II Tournament.
COACH: Gary Tuell, sixth season
RETURNING STARTERS: G Chris Harriman (6-1, 190, Sr.); G/F Darrick Broddie (6-2. 185, Sr.).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Ben Butler (6-5, 190, Jr.); F Patrick Curran (6-6, 210, Jr.); F Marty Dunham (6-4, 210, Jr.), F David Siebrands (6-7, 215, Sr.).
NOTES: The Jaguars are two-time Peach Belt Tournament defending champions and four-time Peach Belt North Division champs. ... In Tuell's six seasons, Augusta State has posted an 84-61 record. ... Seven of Augusta State's eight non-conference games are against teams that played in the Division II Tournament last season.
BOTTOM LINE: This team resembles the 1998-99 squad that first advanced to the Peach Belt Tournament title game. Tuell, a two-time PBC Coach of the Year, has done a masterful job of coaching the past five seasons. Despite replacing five starters, including PBC Player of the Year Gary Boodnikoff, the Jaguars could become a real threat in late January/early February and make another run at a PBC tournament title.
AUGUSTA STATE WOMEN
CONFERENCE: Peach Belt
2001-02 RECORD: 10-17 (5-14 conference)
2001-02 POSTSEASON: lost in first round to Clayton State, 68-65, of Peach Belt Tournament.
COACH: Greg Wilson, fourth year
RETURNING STARTERS: F Sabrina Jones (5-11, Sr.); F Shundra Johnson (6-0, Jr.); G Ernesia Wideman (5-7, Jr.).
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Melanie Massey (5-8, Jr.); F Arijana Sijercic (6-2, Sr.); C Christina Pedarre (6-3, Jr.); G/F Julie Robbins (5-9, Fr.); G Erin Flynn (5-7, Fr.).
NOTES: Sijercic, Pedarre, Johnson and Jones give the Jaguars its biggest frontcourt in Wilson's tenure. ... Massey made 71 of 181 3-point attempts last season ... Massey's made 3-pointers were more than any Lady Jaguar has ever made in a season (Dwanna Gardner, 56, 1993-94).
BOTTOM LINE: Despite having the lowest amount of scholarships (seven) in the conference and a part-time assistant coach, Wilson may have done his finest job of recruiting. If Massey and Sijercic pan out, the Lady Jaguars could have their first winning season since the 1997-98 season.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 114.
|EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series previewing local college basketball teams.|
WEDNESDAY: Augusta State
THURSDAY: USC Aiken