College basketball season officially begins with Midnight Madness

NACOGDOCHES, TX (News Release/KTRE) - With a first-team all-conference center anchoring the middle, and having no less than 18 wins in each of the last four seasons, Danny Kaspar's Lumberjacks have reason to be optimistic about the upcoming 2011-12 season.

The 'Jacks took part in their first full practice on Friday.  Midnight Madness is an annual event on college campuses that announces the first day the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) allows formal basketball practices each season.

Last year the `Jacks led the country in scoring defense (56.7 ppg) and got 13.3 points per game from starting big man Jereal Scott (first-team all-Southland Conference), who set a new SFA record for field-goal percentage by hitting 60 percent of his shots; however, SFA will have to replace guard Eddie Williams, one of its key pieces over the last four years.

Williams helped lead SFA to a 91-34 record (.728) over the past three seasons and win the program's first two Southland Conference championships, and leaves behind a backcourt with only three years of combined experience at the Division I level.

Darius Gardner and Antonio Bostic headline that backcourt group after each seeing significant playing time in their first year in Nacogdoches. Gardner assumed the starting point guard role for the majority of league play as a true freshman after senior Denzel Barnes was sidelined with an injury and averaged 4.5 points and 2.7 assists per contest, but will be asked to carry a heavier load this year as a sophomore. As will Bostic, who made 15 starts on the season and became more of a scoring threat as the year went on, reaching double figures eight times.

Lefty guard Desmond Haymon is also back and brings instant offense to the floor. He only played 13 games as a true freshman, averaging just 2.3 points per game; however, he pumped up that average to 7.8 per game in his final four before going down with an injury of his own that kept him out the remainder of the year.

The `Jacks will also add eight new players this season and could boast a roster that is as deep as Kaspar has had in his tenure. Big men Taylor Smith and Jonathan King are each junior college transfers who stand to see immediate court time on the front line, as should forward Joe Bright. Smith was a two-time all-Region XIV selection at McClennan Community College, earning the league's award as top defensive player both seasons in Waco.

Meanwhile, King and Bright were also junior college all-league players for their respective squads. King- a native of Panama - averaged a double-double at East Mississippi CC as a sophomore and ranked in the nation's top 15 in rebounding with his 10.4 per-game average, while Bright is the third player from Howard since 2007 to sign on with the `Jacks. He averaged 10 points and 5.3 rebounds for the Hawks, one year after being there when Howard claimed the 2010 Junior College national title.

SFA should also get help in the backcourt from shooting guard Kevin Broussard (Coffeyville CC) and point guard Hal Bateman (Des Moines Area CC). Broussard averaged 14 points per game in his two years at Coffeyville, leading his team to a 33-5 record last season, while Bateman averaged 10 points and nearly six assists as a sophomore at DMACC.

Four freshmen round out the order with guard Thomas Walkup and forward Jacob Parker possibly in line to see playing time in their first season. Walkup - brother of former Texas A&M forward Nathan Walkup - averaged nearly 26 points per game as a senior at Deer Park High School while Parker was an all-state selection himself as a senior for Bixby High School in Oklahoma.

The Lumberjacks will open up the 2011-12 season on Nov. 11 when it hosts Centenary at William R. Johnson Coliseum with Kaspar in search of his 200th career victory at SFA.

*Information provided by SFA