Braves have experience, bodies waiting in wings

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 1, 2004

LORMAN &045; The recruiting process began before the season started for Alcorn head coach Samuel West, and it may have been completed before it ended.

Now that doesn’t mean the first-year coach is not going to find a player or two this summer to add to the roster for the 2004-05 season, but the Braves already had a number of players not in uniform, but eligible to play next season.

With the losses the Braves have facing them following this past season in their 11-18 campaign, it may be a matter of sliding into spots vacated by seniors Brian Jackson and Dion Callans &045; the only players not eligible to return for next season.

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&uot;We have six kids sitting out on campus,&uot; West said. &uot;Our starting center from the year before and our starting point guard from the year before. Plus we had a 6-8 forward sitting out and a 6-5 forward sitting out. And (the returners) got a lot of experience. We should be a little more confident in our play.&uot;

With the new players sitting out the season awaiting the next, it may be a problem finding them a place to play. They’ll have guard Alleo Frazier and center Rhau-Chavis Landfair back after the two played in the 2002-03 season, and four other newcomers are set to join &045; 6-5 Patrick Horton, 6-0 guard Delvin Thompson out of Jefferson County, 6-8 center Roland Parson out of Northeast Mississippi Community College and 6-5 forward Jason Scott, a Natchez native and Co-Lin product.

How much of an impact they can make next year is the only question. But the departures of Callans and Jackson opens up the small forward and power forward positions.

&uot;(Scott) could be a difference-maker for us next year,&uot; West said. &uot;(Parson) can make an immediate impact with his quickness. He’s a lot like those Texas Southern forwards &045; run, jump, bang. He’s a gamer. He can make an immediate impact, but we’ve got to find a place for him to play. It should be fun. God has been pretty good to us.&uot;

For Landfair and Frazier, the year off allowed them to improve their game before getting back in. Both played significantly two seasons ago, while Landfair assumed the starting center position after Lee Cook was booted from the squad midway through.

The 6-10 Landfair, the one-time Freshman of the Year in the Gulf South Conference while playing at Arkansas Tech, appeared in each game but one two season ago while starting in 18. Frazier played in all 33 games and started 11.

&uot;They are assured they will graduate on time, and they got a year of being stronger and faster,&uot; West said. &uot;They’ve already adjusted to me, so it won’t be anything new.&uot;

The positions already taken for next season will have experienced players in point guard DeAndre Jones, shooting guard Trey Johnson and post Juan Wyatt. At the guard, Johnson and Jones over 18 points a game and clicked more down the stretch after West switched the two.

Jones played shooting guard up until mid- to late January with Johnson at the point before the two switched. Both players seemed more comfortable and played well down the stretch, particularly in the Braves’ 67-66 upset win over Mississippi Valley in the first round of the SWAC tournament.

The year of experience can help the Braves cut down on turnovers, an area that plagued the team most of the season.

&uot;I think they could be probably the best guard tandem in the league next year,&uot; West said. &uot;It was what we always wanted. (Jones) wants to be the leader of this team. That’s good when you want do be, and he wanted to do it. It was just a progression &045; I wanted to try Dion first and then Trey, and we progressed to DeAndre. I feel good about that. No problems whatsoever.&uot;

Then there’s Wyatt, the 6-8 freshman out of Jefferson County who saw significant action in his first season. Wyatt started 18 games while appearing in 26, and he averaged 2.3 rebounds and 2.8 points per game.

It also helped that he trimmed down some. The 2002 All-Metro Player of the Year dropped some 10-15 pounds &045; &uot;all baby fat,&uot; West said.

&uot;Juan will probably move to the power forward next year,&uot; West said. &uot;He’s a true power forward. He’s a man-child. He just needs to mature. But I was real proud of where he was when he started off to where he ended up. He’s lean, and we’re trying to make him mean. He got a lot of experience this year.&uot;

There’s also other players who may be able to help out in that department. West said there’s also a 7-0 player sitting out, and the Braves are also expected to suit up former Natchez High center Kenneth Hicks.

Then there is the job all basketball coaches are supposed to do during the summer &045; get out and recruit.

&uot;With this young group and them working hard, you would think our work is done in terms of recruiting,&uot; West said. &uot;Actually, we are going to sign a couple of big kids.&uot;