By Kevin Kline '11
After playing an exhibition game this past Friday, the Shenandoah University men's basketball team, under second-year coach Rob Pryor, officially opens up its 2012-2013 season at home Thursday evening.
The Hornets host the 2012 BB&T Tip-Off Tournament at Shingleton Gymnasium this Thursday night with SU tipping off the second game of the event at 9 p.m. against Patrick Henry. Goucher plays Centenary (La.) in the tournament opening contest at 7 p.m.
The BB&T Tournament makes its return to the SU schedule after a six-year hiatus and provides the squad an opportunity to get the year started on a positive note.
Shenandoah finished last season on a high note by pulling off the USA South Tournament upset over second-seed North Carolina Wesleyan to begin its final USA South Tournament. SU had a 5-22 record last year in Pryor's first season at the helm of the Hornets program and he and his staff will be looking to a bunch of newcomers this year to contribute right away.
"They first must buy-in to be accountable to the standards of our team both on and off the court," Pryor said. "We always emphasize the importance of strong character and academic excellence off the court.
"On the court, they must give maximum effort and pick up our defensive and offensive schemes. They have done a great job as a group so far!"
Junior Avery Green is the leading returner after averaging team highs in points, 15.7, and rebounds, 4.5. Classmate Bryce Mitchell returns and will be the starting point guard once again after averaging 2.7 assists per game. Green and Mitchell are the only returning starters and Mitchell will be the lone team captain.
Mitchell believes trust is key to a good season. "Every person on this team has to trust the guy next to them," Mitchell said. "We have a lot of inexperienced young guys that are going to play major minutes and their confidence needs to be high. Having trust in them is how their confidence will build. I definitely trust in all the players on this team and I know we will have a great season."
Shenandoah will be competing in the Old Dominion Athletic Conference this season for the first time. SU finished 0-8 against seven different ODAC opponents last year and was voted 12th in the ODAC pre-season poll. The Hornets will face three pre-season Top 25 conference foes five times this season along with Division I VMI in January.
Pryor added, "I expect us to compete every game and to improve as the season progresses. We want to be playing our best basketball in February."