College hoops preview: SUU looks for scoring, improvement
After running down his roster, Southern Utah's Nick Robinson answered the question before it was asked.
"I hope," he said, "we can score."
Robinson laughed, mostly because he feels the balanced Thunderbirds can improve from a year go, when they finished 11-20 overall and 8-12 in the Big Sky Conference.
Robinson knows the key to climbing the ladder in the Big Sky, however, will be finding enough firepower to replace top scorers Jackson Stevenett (17.6) and Damon Heuir (15.5).
Either Stevenett or Heuir led all Thunderbird scorers in 29 of their 31 games last season Robinson's first as a head coach.
"You don't replace two second-team all-conference players their scoring ability and their leadership," Robinson said. "It will have to be a collective effort in terms of making up the difference."
Southern Utah returns two full-time starters and one part-timer, led by senior 6-foot-11 center Jayson Chessman from Orem. He averaged 6.8 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots
"He gives us a presence on both ends of the floor that is important for any basketball team," Robinson said. "Blocked shots, rebounds, points in the paint. All those things are important as far as establishing a presence."
Jaren Jeffery, a 6-8 forward from Delta, started 29 games last season. He averaged 3.5 points and 3.3 rebounds.
Sophomore A.J. Hess, a 6-6 guard, averaged 9.3 points and five rebounds while starting the final six games last season. In the search for consistent scoring, he is a likely contributor.
Among SUU's six new scholarship players are two freshman guards from Las Vegas, Trey Kennedy and Juwan Major.
Kennedy averaged 12.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists at Bishop Gorman High School. Major averaged 14.2 points at Las Vegas High and was named his region's co-MVP.
"At this point," Robinson said, "I like our versatility. But we have a long way to go."
SUU men's basketball schedule
Friday Arizona Christian, 7 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Utah State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 18 at California, 9 p.m.
Nov. 23 UC Riverside, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 1 at Portland, 2 p.m.
Dec. 3 at Cal-Northridge, 8:05 p.m.
Dec. 14 UNLV, 5 p.m.
Dec. 18 at San Diego State, 8 p.m.
Dec. 21 at San Diego, 3 p.m.
Jan. 2 at North Dakota, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 Sacramento State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 13 Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.
Jan. 16 at Idaho State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 18 at Weber State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 23 at Eastern Washington, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 at Portland State, 8 p.m.
Jan. 30 Montana, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 Montana State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 at Northern Arizona, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 10 at Sacramento State, 8 p.m.
Feb. 13 Weber State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 Idaho State, 5 p.m.
Feb. 20 Portland State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 22 Eastern Washington, 7 p.m.
Feb. 27 at Montana State, 7 p.m.
March 1 at Montana, 7 p.m.
March 6 North Dakota, 7:35 p.m.
March 8 Northern Colorado, 5 p.m.
March 13-15 Big Sky tournament, TBA