Oct. 31, 2011
LOS ANGELES, Calif. -- Head Coach Max Good and any of the 11 returning letterwinners from last year's LMU men's basketball team will be quick to say that a year ago was one they would prefer to forget. They will also are just as quick to mention how it has made them closer than ever and ready to take big steps forward as the 2011-12 Centennial Season gets underway.
Click here for preview of Tuesday's Exhibition
"We clearly did not meet expectation and no one is more upset over it than this team and this staff," said Good, who enters his fourth season at LMU. "We definitely circled the wagons this summer, almost the entire team stayed around campus and Los Angeles this summer, focused on working out with one another and working on team chemistry. We are much further ahead because of it."
Of the Lions' 11 returning letterwinners, four were starters at the end of last season, five more have at least 10 starts in their career, and four have earned West Coast Conference honors in their careers. All told, the Lions bring back 73 percent of their offense and 70 percent of their rebounding.
"We had plenty of hurdles last year. Last year, our top players lost around 64 games due to injury, and no one in our league was close to that number," said Good, who ended up starting 15 different line-ups a year ago. "It is not excuse, but we were constantly having to change our line-up and it led to inconsistency, which I think had a lot to do with our inability to pull out close games."
The Lions went 5-13 in games decided by 10 points, 10 of those 13 came in WCC play, including a pair of double overtime setbacks and an addition four games by a combined 10 points.
"With our injuries and inconsistency we had a bunch of young players earn a lot of playing time and experience," said Good. "We have some pieces to work with and they have been working really hard to make sure we finish games this coming season."
The Lions return starters redshirt junior Ashley Hamilton (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), sophomore Anthony Ireland (10.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.0 apg), sophomore Godwin Okonji (4.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.2 bpg) and Preseason All-WCC selection Drew Viney (17.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg). They also have five others who have started in their careers back this season, including Jarred DuBois who is back after a medical redshirt. Also back is sophomore Ayodeji Egbeyemi (13 starts, 5.5 ppg), Tim Diederichs (92 total games played), La Ron Armstead (77 total games, 3.7 ppg), and Edgar Garibay (3.8 ppg, 2.8 rpg).
"Drew had a great summer. He is determined to show he is a top player in this conference as a senior. He had a setback with a fracture in his foot right before practice started. He had surgery and is starting rehab. He will miss games, but with the hard work he put in this summer, he has a chance to make it back quick," said Good. "We clearly are a different team offensively when he is healthy. The last six games of the season he averaged over 23 points per game and went for more than 20 in five straight."
While Viney earned preseason All-WCC honors, sophomore Anthony Ireland was the third straight Lion to earn WCC All-Freshman honors and he returns for year two.
"Anthony Ireland had a great freshman season and due to the injuries we relied on him more than we thought we were to start the year. He really came through. He is very explosive and the effort he put in this summer, I actually think he has gotten quicker," said Good.
The previous to All-Freshman selections were Hamilton in 2009-10 and DuBois in 2008-09.
"Ashley Hamilton worked out with the British National Team again this summer and he continues to get a lot of experience. We will really need his size more than ever this season," said Good. "Jarred worked hard to come back from foot surgery on a redshirt season. It is good to have his leadership back on the floor. We will need that this season to be successful."
A lot of that hard work this summer is thanks to the new Chad and Ginni Dreier Strength & Conditioning Center in the brand new Lions' Athletic Center. The new weight room along with new strength coach Drew Rossi, who played at UMass and has trained NBA players, gave them a huge push this summer.
"We feel if we stay healthy, we can be pretty good," said Good. "We took big steps this summer thanks to Drew Rossi and assistant strength coach Nick Plosser. They have trained at all levels and they have been huge for us."
In the end, for this experienced group, it comes down to the team.
"We have to continue to get better as a team," said fifth-year senior Viney. "This group is much closer than ever before. We worked hard this summer as a group. If we want to get rid of last season's `bad taste', we have to continue to strengthen that."
- GO LIONS -