NEWBERRY, S.C. – The 2005-06 edition of the Newberry College men’s basketball team is prepared to take the court tomorrow night in the season opener with Anderson College. With eight returning players and some athletic “new blood”, the Indians are ready to return to winning ways and championship contention.
After a run to the 2004 Food Lion South Atlantic Conference tournament championship game and a 16-win season, Newberry College head coach David Conrady made the move to Tennessee-Chattanooga, leaving the Indian top post open. Shaun Golden was the man selected to take Newberry to its next era of success, but year one was an expected bumpy one. Factoring in losses of Rashaad Carter, Newberry’s best basketball player this century, and Brandon Moses, chances for instant success were questionable at best.
Early in the year, the Indians were 4-3 and runners-up at the Mt. Olive Pickle Classic, sparking hope for a second consecutive winning season. However, nine straight losses sent the season into a tailspin and Newberry went 4-17 over the last 20 games. However, three of those last four wins were against conference opponents on the second try, giving hope for the future of the program.
Newberry bid farewell to nine departed players, several of whom were seniors of which Golden spoke fondly: "We lost leadership, guys who may not have played the most minutes, but truly inspirational leaders who contributed to the growth of the program."
Two starters who did make statistical impacts on the team—Elijah Frasier and Tymere Zimmerman—will not suit up for the Indians this year. Frasier, Newberry’s second-leading scorer last season, has since graduated and Zimmeman, the top rebounder and third-leading scorer, has hung up the basketball shoes in favor of football cleats. Chris Johnston, a point guard who logged substantial minutes in 2004-05, is doubtful this season due to an offseason hand injury.
Golden indicated that the returnees have been challenged in practice by the newcomers and that no guarantees are in place for starting positions or playing time. The new crop of Indians is an athletic bunch that will challenge any opponent with its combination of size and speed.
Matt Alexander (Atlanta, Ga.), brother of Lady Indian point guard Monica Alexander, and Clemente Martin (Freeport, Bahamas) redshirted last season but are prepared to make waves this season after a year in Golden’s system. Each is a quick, high-flying slasher that can fill any role from 1 to 4, but will likely settle in at 2 or 3.
Seven Ezumba (Anumbra, Nigeria) is in his second semester at Newberry and should be a nice complement in the post to fellow African Eric Nwawel (Cameroon, Africa). Zach Chandler (Greenville, S.C.) is a 5-11 junior college transfer who will likely assume Frasier’s point guard position.
Several other newcomers, such as Jerrell Jeter (6-4, 220, Greenville, S.C.), Sammy Monroe (6-6, 205, Mt. Olive, N.C.), and Dominique Simmons (Greenville, S.C.) will see quite a bit of playing time and should turn heads when they are in the game.
When asked if he had any games on the schedule circled, Golden responded immediately: "The first one [against CVAC opponent Anderson College]. We want to come out and make a statement on opening night. We know that [turnaround] won’t happen overnight, but through hard work and dedication we’ll reach that goal. I feel like we have some pieces to the puzzle to make some real strides, young men who are dedicated and will work hard."
The game against Anderson will open the season on November 15 at home with a 7 p.m. tipoff. Conference play begins on the road at Carson-Newman on the first Saturday of 2006.