June 27, 2007
After witnessing the Broncos win 15 games last season, Coach Sam Hanger is anxious to see the program take the next step. The 2006-2007 season saw the Broncos finish 15-13 overall, 11-9 in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) and tie for first with Johnson C. Smith in the Western Division. For his effort, the National Association of Basketball Coaches awarded Hanger with the Outstanding Team's Effort Award.
Now Hanger and his coaching staff are ready to turn the page and begin a new season, continuing their steady ascent up the CIAA ladder. The Broncos will start the climb with five returning veterans and a large youthful recruiting class brimming with potential. "There were definitely some positives that came out of last season," Hanger said. "I believe we have established a work ethic in this program. There is also a certain level of expectation that was put in place last season and we must now continue progressing as we move forward."
The Broncos lost two of their offensive threats, Jesse Fells (9.7 ppg) and Zeke Mays (10.2 ppg). The loss of these two will put pressure on what Hanger is attempting as he makes the climb up the ladder. The hit will be taken up by three battle-tested veterans in Andy Gebru (16.6), Jamel Austin (8.6) and Phillippe' Harris (6.3). The three will form arguable the best three-player punch in the CIAA. "The loss of Jesse and Zeke will definitely hurt the program," said the sixth year mentor. "You can't loss that much offense and not feel the pinch. We feel we have three of the best players in the league and we are comfortable with any three on the court."
Gebru, a 6-4, 200 pound, guard, is an extremely athletic player who has improved over the years with his shooting. Last season he had 24 double figure games, including eight games with 20 plus points. "We need Andy to assume an expanded role as a scorer this season," said Hanger. "He has shown the ability to score points, but we are looking for more consistency for this season."
Harris enters his last go-round in a Bronco uniform and poised to become the floor leader. Harris looks to add more offensive punch and defensive intensity at the guard positions. He is a dedicated player and has good court awareness. When left open, he is dangerous from the three-point arch hitting 32 last season.
Austin, a 6-3 guard, welcomes contact and thrives on physical and intense play. He will continue to provide an offensive spark from the perimeter and will not hesitate to take the ball to the hoop. Last season he led the Broncos in assists, averaging 3.2 per game. A student of the game and a capable floor leader, Austin is expected to run the offense. Another returnee is Larry Ross. Ross looking for playing time at the forward positions. He had limited time on the court, averaging 1.0 points per game. However Hanger expects more scoring from the 6-7 sophomore. Ross also brings athleticism and the ability to take the ball to the hoop.
Joining the veterans and newcomers are James Wooten and Derek Holmes. Holmes, who was red-shirted last season, is a 6-4, SO, forward from Washington, DC. A tenacious rebounder and natural inside player, Derek will be called upon to defend wing players with his quickness. How quickly he makes the offensive adjustment will determine how much he will contribute. Wooten, a 6-4, JR, center from Fayetteville, NC enters his third season of CIAA competition. Last year he played sparingly but always competitively. He works hard and contributes to whatever the task he is assigned.
Hazael Andrew, the team's leading rebounder has graduated and Hanger will miss the 6.2 boards per game that Andrew provided. Hanger has two incoming recruits that is expected to fill the void and make an immediate impact on the program. Brandon Green, a 6-9, JR, center from Tallahassee, FL played at Southern Union Community College in the tough and highly competitive Alabama Junior College League. He is a strong rebounder and a tough inside defender. He has a strong outlet pass and makes good decisions in the half court. "This year will be a learning process for Green," said Hanger. "He must learn to post deeper and use his strength to finish around the basket. He will be our vocal leader on the defensive end." Darshawn Johnson, a junior forward, will bring good athletic ability to the Broncos. At Montgomery-Germantown Community College he earned All-Tournament recognition from both Maryland and Region 20 tournaments and was Most Valuable Player of Maryland Junior College All-Star game. He is strong and attack the rim. To be effective in Hanger's philosophy he must make quick adjustment to the CIAA defenders.
"We have a number of immediate areas that we need to address and I feel this incoming class and the veterans have the potential to make an impact right away," Hanger said. "Every one of the players are competitive and driven and they possess a strong desire to take the program to the next level."
In addition to the rugged CIAA slate, the Broncos will face a rigorous out-of-league schedule. However, with this year's recruiting class, should be able to take the next step. In order to make the move up, the youth and the veteran must gel early. If the Broncos are able to create an environment of hard work and discipline on and off the court and have a couple of leaders emerge that are constantly trying to bring the group together, than they will have the opportunity to take the program to the next step.