Summer Preview: Unity At the Base
With experienced seniors leading the way, Lions wrap-up summer session hungry for more.
LOS ANGELES - Unlike last season when the LMU men's basketball team entered the new season with more new faces than you could count on one hand, they enter year three under Head Coach Mike Dunlap with some pieces in place. As the month turns to August, the Lions wrap-up their summer training program and set the tone for wanting more as the new season approaches.
The Lions will be led by four seniors in 2016-17 but will once again look to newcomers to bolster the line-up.
"We considered last season as year one with such a big group of guys new to the program," said Dunlap. "This year those guys are a year older, and we can build on the foundation we set last year. We finished the year on an upswing and we have some things in place to build from."
Some of those things included finishing the regular season with a pair of overtime wins in West Coast Conference play, including a 90-83 double overtime win over Pepperdine. They equalled their longest winning streak of the season with their third straight, defeating San Diego in the opening game of the WCC Championships.
"The team's ability to come together and work every minute of every game was our trademark in what was our first year with this group," said Dunlap. "This summer, those who were in a our program a year ago set the tone for those new to our roster."
Check-out this LMU Sports Network video that took a look at the summer conditioning program:
Ball handling was among the best in program history last season, thanks in large part to one of those returning seniors. The Lions' turnover average of 11.35 was the best ever, as was their assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.37. Honorable mention All-Conference selection Brandon Brown was a big reason why the Lions were among the best in taking care of the ball. He ranked seventh all-time in program history with a 2.24 assist-to-turnover ratio and his 177 assists in 2015-16 rank 10th best in program history. He was ranked fourth in the WCC in assists at 5.7 per game (ranked 27th nationally) and helped the Lions to rank in the top-50 nationally in assists per game (46th), assist-to-turnover ratio (39th), turnover margin (26th) and fewest turnovers (29th).
Joining Brown after their first season as transfers last year are Shamar Johnson and Buay Tuach. Johnson has become a team leader and averaged nearly nine points and six rebounds in the final six games of the season, nearly double his season numbers.
Adding more senior leadership to the Lions' roster in 2016-17 is the first of four new faces to the program. Stefan Jovanovic, a native of Serbia who grew-up locally going to Bishop Montgomery High School, transfers to the Lions from Hawaii. He led Hawaii to a 28-6 overall record as the Rainbow's advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. He is eligible immediately to play in 2016-17.
Also growing into a leadership role on the team is redshirt junior Steven Haney, Jr. He was a WCC First-Team All-Academic selection a year ago in his first season of action after coming from Central Florida in 2015. He led the Lions in the overtime win against USF, going for 25 points, hitting 8-for-8 from the free throw line. He ranked seventh in the WCC averaging 2.4 three-pointers per game. He had 73 on the season, ranking eighth all-time for three-pointers made in a season in LMU history. He is just the fourth player in school history to have 200 or more attempts from three, ranking fifth with 208.
As a freshman Tutu, who like the rest of the Lions got better as the season progressed, finished the season with 94 assists and just 35 turnovers, good for an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.69 per game. It is the best ever in LMU history and ranked fifth in the WCC (and 48th nationally). Herman gives the Lions size in the post and he continued to grow as the year advanced into February, posting his first career double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. In the win over Pepperdine, Tutu and Jeffery McClendon provided the big lift. Tutu had 13 points, six assists and six rebounds in 34 minutes while McClendon had seven points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes.
The Lions returning experience in 2016-17 can be tied to their depth a year ago. The Lions featured 13 different starting line-ups, the 13th coming in the WCC tournament against Saint Mary's when the Lions went withBrown, Tutu, Haney, graduated senior Marin Mornar and Johnson. All told, 11 of the Lions' 12 scholarship players earned at least two starts while featuring at least 10 players in every game last season except for three.
LMU will look to their group of four newcomers to take the Lions even further. Joining Jovanovic are sophomore transfer Trevor Manuel and freshmen Mattias Markusson and Donald Gipson. Manuel is a transfer from Oregon who joined the Lions at mid-year in 2015-16. He will be eligible at the end of the Fall 2016 semester.
Take a look at this inside look to the Lions' newcomers on the LMU Sports Network:
"We are very excited about this incoming class," said Dunlap. "We were able to get good size and they have really fit well with the our returning players. Once again, this group has really come together and their unity will be a strength of our program."
The Lions will have a 17-game home schedule in 2016-17, highlighted by a non-conference match-up with UConn on Nov. 17. For the full schedule, CLICK HERE..
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