The Valdosta Daily Times
A blend of experienced veterans and talented newcomers are set to take the floor for Head Coach Mike Helfer, who enters his ninth year as the leader of the Blazers, when the Valdosta State men's basketball team takes to the floor Monday in the 2013-14 season opener.
Forward David Murray will lead the Blazers as the squad's top returning player. Murray started 22 of the 29 games Valdosta State played last year and averaged 10.5 points per game. He connected on 60 three-pointers during the 2012-13 season.
Joining Murray as returners for this year's team will be forward Colin Cook and guard Dylan Nsiah.
Cook played in each of the final 22 games last year, all as a reserve, and averaged 2.3 points and 2.1 rebounds a game. However, the Atlanta native's greatest strength came in his ability to alter the game defensively as he blocked 28 shots on the season.
Meanwhile, Nsiah played in 17 games off the bench and provided a steady hand at the point guard position, as he dished out 17 assists while turning the ball over just 13 times.
A good mix of athletic forwards and sharp-shooting guards will supplement the three returning players.
Jarod Leonard, a transfer from Daytona State Community College, will look to be a force for the Blazers underneath as his 6-foot-7, 250 pound frame will be an imposing presence underneath the basket. However, Leonard will be a double threat as he also has the ability to step outside as he connected on 38 three-pointers as a sophomore at DSCC.
Also providing depth in the front court will be sophomores Vic Wyrick and Breon Dixon as well as junior Jamalcolm Griffin. Griffin, who hales from Rome, Ga., began his career at Wallace State-Hanceville, where he made 130 three-pointers over two years.
Dixon, a Tifton native, opened his collegiate career at Troy after earning second-team All-State and averaging 18 points a game two years ago for the Blue Devils.
Meanwhile, Wyrick, one of two players from Ohio to head to South Georgia, averaged 6.6 points and 6.2 rebounds while dishing out 42 assists in one season at Sinclair State Community College.
The Blazer backcourt will see a great deal of influx of talent in 2013-14 as six new players will suit up for the Red and Black this year.
The lightning quick Larry Stone, who began his career at Division I IUPUI and played at Indian Hills Junior College, will provide play-making ability while Blake Justice, who played at Division I Akron after finishing his prep career as the state of Ohio's No. 3 all-time scorer, will provide scoring threat from anywhere on the floor.
Jacob Obande, a Marietta, Ga. native, showed a well-rounded game at South Georgia Tech last season, during which he averaged 9.4 points and 3.2 rebounds a game while recording 38 assists and 23 steals.
Jeremy McKay was a NJCAA All-American for Wallace State-Hanceville in 2011-12 before playing last season at Division I Sam Houston State while Jalen Crawford played two seasons at Division I Bradley after being a prep star in Detroit.
Rounding out the roster will be junior Lester Moore, who joined the team midway through the season last year as well as freshman Andre Powell, who played at Harrison in Marietta during his prep career.
The Blazers will be busy in the first month of the season as they play six games in the first 19 days of the year, but then only play a pair of games, Gulf South Conference tilts against West Florida (Dec. 14) and at Lee (Dec. 19) in the month of December.
The brunt of the schedule, which features all GSC contests the last two months, begins Jan. 4 as the Blazers play the first of four home games in the first month of 2014 when they host West Alabama.
The season culiminates with the Gulf South Conference Tournament in Birmingham, Ala. March 7-9.