The Times West Virginian

Sports

March 21, 2014

Future bright for FSU after challenging season

FAIRMONT — If anything, the 2013-14 season served as an incredible learning tool for Fairmont State University’s men’s basketball team.

The youthful Falcons enjoyed marquee wins, suffered disappointing defeats, endured game postponements and overcame enough injuries throughout the year to fill a MASH unit.

When the dust settled, FSU finished 20-10 overall, fourth in the first-ever Mountain East Conference standings and found itself on the outside looking in, much to the dismay of the players and coaching staff, when the 64-team NCAA Division II National Tournament field was announced earlier this month.

“Anytime you’re trying to build a program it’s going to take some time, and I really think looking back that we made a lot of good strides this season in the right direction,” said second-year FSU coach Jerrod Calhoun, who has a 43-19 record at the school. “Our young, core-group of kids really had to overcome a lot of adversity this year and we had a lot of freshmen thrown right into the fire from the beginning. When Coop (senior forward Brendan Cooper) was out with an injury we were starting four freshmen and a sophomore for a long stretch of games, and I really think those kids, for the most part, responded very well for us.

“When adversity strikes you can go one way or another, and I think our kids kept pushing forward all year for us. We had a lot of big wins. We knocked off West Liberty and beat Shepherd twice. The great thing about us is we are so young and those guys got a wealth of experience this year, so I think when next year rolls around we’re going to be pretty good. I know we have a lot of guys who are pretty motivated right now to get better.”

Much of the source of that motivation comes from the snub the squad received from the national tournament selection committee.

“It was definitely disappointing not making the tournament,” said Falcon sophomore guard Stevie Browning, a second-team All-MEC selection who more than doubled his scoring output this season with a team-leading16.8 average. “I think, though, that’s something we can build on and use as a source of inspiration to help us make a deep run next year.”

Redshirt freshman forward Thomas Wimbush, a second-team all-league pick and the MEC’s Freshman of the Year, agrees.

“It obviously wasn’t the ending we wanted to this season, but when you step back and look at what we were able to accomplish through all of the challenges, injuries and adversity that we faced it wasn’t a bad year,” said Wimbush, who averaged 14.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. “We played a lot of young guys, and we fought hard with what we had.

“When you look to the future I think it’s going to be very bright for us. We have a lot of talent returning, and that talent got a lot of experience this season. We just have to transfer what we learned this year to the court, work to get better and play our style of basketball. If we can do that I think we can play with anyone in the country at our level.”

Next season the Falcons return senior-to-be sharpshooter Chase Morgan, who averaged 10.6 points per game off the bench and led the team with 56 3-point field goals. Also back will be 6-7 sophomore-to-be center Trevor Andrews-Evans, who improved dramatically throughout the course of the season and wound up averaging 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and led the squad in blocked shots with 66.

In addition, true sophomore guards Caleb Davis (9.2 ppg, 4.3 rpg) and Shammgod Wells (8.0 ppg, 3.6 apg) will return along with backup junior-to-be post player Tommy Scales (2.5 ppg, 2.3 rpg).

The Falcons will also have the services of 6-foot-4 junior guard Jamal Morris, a transfer from Glenville State who had to sit out this season. Morris was a second-team all-conference selection for the Pioneers in 2013 when he averaged 19.6 points per game.

The biggest loss for the Falcons will be Cooper, a 6-foot-7 senior do-it-all forward who averaged 14.7 points and a team-high 8.4 rebounds.

“Replacing Coop won’t be easy because he could do so many things for us,” said Calhoun. “He could bring the ball up the floor, score, rebound and he was tough to match up with. I think Thomas Wimbush is only going to get better and better and Stevie (Browning) and Jamel Morris, I believe, will give us one of the best backcourts in the league.

“Trevor steadily got better for us as the year went on, and I think Caleb and Shammgod will both improve next year. As freshmen we asked a lot of them right from the start and it was tough for them at times, but now they have experience and hopefully they’ll build on that.”

The Falcons signed a pair of high school players during the early signing period in November including Trent Elliott, a 6-foot-4 guard from Culver Community High School in Culver, Ind., and R.J. Hutcherson, a 6-foot-6 power forward from Westerville North High School in Westerville, Ohio.

Calhoun and his staff have consistently been on the road recruiting and are hoping to add more depth to next year’s team by signing an experienced point guard and some more athletic post players.

“We’ve got to get some big guys who are mobile, athletic and can rebound the basketball,” said Calhoun. “We’re also going to look for an older point guard as well, whether that’s a JUCO guy or a D-I transfer. We feel like we need an older guy who can come in and run the show.

“I feel like we have some really good pieces in place on this team. We just need a few more to make it all come together for us.”

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