On June 3, 2013 Stetson Director of Athletics Jeff Altier announced Corey Williams as the 21st Hatters men’s basketball head coach in program history. Coach Williams went to work immediately after stepping foot on campus, hiring his staff in just a few weeks, and bringing in four new recruits less than a month after that.
With an earlier start to the season – holding its first official practice on September 27 – the 2013-14 version of the Stetson men’s basketball team has been hard at work preparing to build off of the team’s success from a year ago.
“We’ve been learning,” Williams said of the Hatters’ preseason. “We’ve been learning the intensity of it all, the expectations of the coaching staff, and our guys have really put forth the effort. We’re still making some mistakes that we will need to get better at, but overall I think the enthusiasm, the energy has been good.”
Having finished third in the Atlantic Sun Conference standings, earning a berth to the A-Sun Tournament for the first time since in four years, and reaching the conference semifinals for the first time since 2005-06, last season was one of the Hatters’ best in recent memory.
When Williams arrived on campus, however, there were only nine players on the Stetson roster, and only six of them had seen time on the court as Hatters.
Seniors Aaron Graham, Willie Green, and Hunter Miller have all seen time in the starting lineup during their careers at Stetson, giving the Hatters a healthy core of experience and leadership with a new coaching staff on board.
“They’ve been here,” Williams said of his returning seniors. “They know how this place operates. They know this league a lot better than I know the league, because they’ve played in it. They bring a wealth of knowledge to our newcomers. They need to share what it takes to be on top, and hopefully that message resonates.”
Graham is coming off of two productive years with the Hatters, recording two of the four best single-seasons for three-point shooting in Stetson history. As a sophomore he knocked down 68 triples – the second most ever – and last year he tallied 66 treys. With just 15 more makes from beyond the arc, Graham will become the all-time three-point leader in Hatters history.
Miller stepped into the starting point guard role midway through last season, his first year of competition with the Hatters after transferring from Florida Gulf Coast, and he will see much of his time at the point again as a senior. With the ability to control the game and score when needed to, Miller finished 2012-13 with 88 assists, 25 steals, and a 40.9 three-point percentage.
After leading the Hatters in rebounding a year ago, Green returns to the frontcourt ranked eighth in Stetson history with 80 career blocked shots in just two seasons. Last year the Orlando native had a breakout campaign, starting all 31 games while leading the team with 6.6 rebounds per game, shooting at 54.1 percent from the floor, and recording 41 blocks.
Sophomores Tanner Plemmons and Leke Solanke, junior Kyle Sikora, and redshirt freshman Brian Pegg round out the returning Hatters for the 2013-14 season.
Plemmons showed signs that he can seriously shoot it as a freshman last year. In limited minutes, the guard knocked down 11 three-pointers on 44.0 percent shooting from beyond the arc, and shot 46.7 percent overall during his 20 games of action.
Solanke and Pegg, who came in together as freshmen last season, will provide plenty of depth to the Hatter frontcourt in their second seasons at Stetson. Solanke brings plenty of energy, has the ability to block shots, and can finish with authority. Pegg only played in two games last season before missing the rest of the year due to injury, but the younger brother of former Hatter star Adam Pegg certainly showed signs of excellence in limited action.
Sikora, who sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, gives the Hatters size in the middle. The seven-footer also has experience from his time at Oakland. In 2011-12 he played in 33 games, starting 16 contests and averaging nearly 10 minutes per game at center.
Stetson brings eight new faces into the fold for the upcoming season, including a pair of upperclassmen who gained valuable experience at Louisiana-Lafayette.
After three seasons and 68 starts at point guard for Louisiana-Lafayette, Raymone Andrews brings experience, leadership, and stellar defense to the Stetson backcourt as a fifth-year senior. In 2011-12 Andrews averaged 6.3 points per game while shooting 72.9 percent from the free throw line and recording a 1.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“Raymone is a natural leader,” Williams said. “He’ll bring that poise that we need at the point guard position. [He and Hunter] understand that they have to be an extension of me, so when I need something done I look at those two guys to make sure they spread that message and that our guys are up to the task.”
Kentwan Smith played in 28 games as a freshman at Louisiana-Lafayette before transferring to Otero Junior College in Colorado. There he averaged 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds while shooting 51.8 percent from the floor.
A trio of true freshmen guards will give the Hatters plenty of depth in the backcourt in 2013-14. Glenn Baral, who has brought winning ways everywhere he’s played, is a big shooting guard with a pure stroke. B.J. Glasford, who moves upstate from Miami, is a smooth combo guard who can play the point or the two. Finally, Raekwon Harney is a true point guard who averaged double digit assists and nearly five steals per game while leading Winston-Salem Prep to two state championships.
Freshman Andrew Zelis is a 6-11 center who gives Stetson another big man to work with in the middle. Sophomore Cameron Harvey was added late in the summer, and will redshirt after transferring from Eastern Illinois. Finally, sophomore Aidan Hadley was added as a walk-on just prior to the start of the season.
After home exhibitions against Tampa and Palm Beach Atlantic, Stetson begins the 2013-14 campaign at Clemson and Notre Dame to open an eight-game road trip. The Hatters will host Davidson in the home opener on Nov. 30 and begin Atlantic Sun Conference play on Dec. 30, hosting Lipscomb.
“The resounding message that [the players] will here from me is take advantage of today,” Williams said. “Today is very important. Let’s not look on down the line. Let’s make the best of today. If we do that, if our approach is that way, then we won’t have any regrets each and every day that passes by because we’ll know that we gave 110 percent.”