- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Thompson, Bulldogs start over
Nov 14, 2006 12:00 am
Lonnie Thompson realized during Cumberland's 5-26 season last winter what the Bulldogs were doing wasn't working.
To change things, the Bulldogs' coach changed most of the roster. Only four of the 17 players on the team were on Cumberland Square last winter.
"Last year, we had some unfortunate things happen in terms of my two best players became academically ineligible," Thompson said. "I planned to bring kids in at the break, but that didn't work out. So I just said, 'Hey, I'll just take it for what it's worth and complete the season'. We knew we had to go out and bring in a lot of new kids this year."
Scanning the Cumberland roster reveals a 6-8 player, two 6-7s, three 6-6s and four 6-4s, sizes which lend themselves to being very versatile on the NAIA level.
"One thing we identified last year...you got to bring in a lot of guys in the neighborhood of 6-4, 6-5, 6-6 who can play a combination of two, maybe three positions on the floor," Thompson said, referring to former CU stars Hollis Hampton and Leroy Hickerson who could play any one of three positions. "In the NAIA, you are going to see a lot more guys 6-4 to 6-6 than you are guys 6-8 to 6-10. Last year, it hurt me. I had small guards and they could double team the guards and we couldn't post up our guards.
"The three guys that we lost last year were guys 6-5. Had those guys been on the team, we could have had 15-16 wins."
Rodney James, a 6-6 junior from Jamaica, and Clinton Tucker, a 6-4 junior from Cleveland, Ohio; are ineligible this semester due to not having enough hours. Pancho Jara, a 6-4 freshman from Chile, is being redshirted.
It still leaves as many as 14 players available as Thompson opens his fifth season at 6 p.m. tonight against Taylor in the Trevecca Classic in Nashville.
Thompson said he plans to start 6-0 sophomore point guard Thomas Douglas (Rock Hill, S.C.), 6-4 junior two-guard Jason Langelier (Virgin Islands), 6-7 junior wing DeCorey Young (Antioch), 6-7 senior power forward Aurimas Silys (Lithuania) and 6-7 senior post Torrez Hampton (Birmingham, Ala.; no relation to Hollis).
Off the bench will be names more familiar to Bulldog fans, including senior guard Chase Burnett (the only player remaining who made the trip to the 2004 National Championships in Kansas City), senior forward Joseph Northington and sophomore guard Ponce Palmer. Senior point guard Desmond Rhodes and junior inside player Kevin Bufford will also be with the second unit.
"It's going to be a lot like the team in 2004," Thompson said. "Very athletic team. Long, wiry-type kids.
"I don't know if any of them can match some of the dunks Leroy, Hollis and Alonzo (Evans) used to do. But we have that type of athlete again... We have a combination of everything this year. We can go inside, we can shoot the ball and we got quickness at the top."
Playing fullcourt defense will be a must to utilize the full roster, Thompson said.
"That's the thing we're going to be doing a lot of," Thompson said. "I can play 10-12 guys a night. The only way I can play 10-12 guys a night, I got to play fullcourt defense, play three or four hard minutes, put the next group in.
"I have the luxury this year, on paper right now, hopefully in a game we can, I can play 12 guys a night."
With so many new players thrown into the mix, it brings up the issue of team chemistry.
"That's the key about bringing in that many new guys, I hope we jell," Thompson said. "I backed off on my schedule in terms of playing these top-20 teams at the beginning of the season. Hopefully we can jell as a team and give us a chance to get some wins before we start playing these top-notch teams."
As for the top-notch teams, which await when TranSouth Conference play begins in January, three current TSC members – Union, Trevecca and Lambuth – reached the National Tournament last year while Crichton, Lyon and Martin Methodist fell just a win or two short. Lambuth, which is returning four starters, is joining the TSC (the Eagles were a member of the old Tennessee Collegiate Athletic Conference, the forerunner to the TranSouth) after a decade in the Mid-South Conference.
"(It's) the best it's been since I've been here," Thompson said of the TSC. "You have seven to eight teams who can go to the National Tournament this year. Up top it's going to be Union and Crichton...not to mention Lambuth.
"Then you got five or six of us who are right there together... You better take care of your home games."
Thompson includes his Bulldogs in that second tier of teams and hints they could even move up into the top echelon.
"We have the talent this year," Thompson said. "The team's got to come together and jell."
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.