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2011-12 Blue Ribbon Preview - Stetson
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2011-12 Blue Ribbon Preview - Stetson
Team preview: Stetson
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COACH AND PROGRAM

Stetson Hatters
Last Season 8-23 (.258)
Conference Record 6-14 (t-8th)
Starters Lost/Returning 3/2
Coach Casey Alexander (Belmont '95)
Record At School First year
Career Record First year
RPI Last 5 years 283-256-226-326-303

Casey Alexander has a leg up on the other first-year head coaches in the Atlantic Sun. He doesn't necessarily have any more coaching experience than they do, but Alexander knows the A-Sun as well as anybody else in the league.

Alexander's coaching career consists of one previous stop -- Belmont. After he finished his playing career with the Bruins in 1995, he became a coach at the Nashville school under Rick Byrd. He was an assistant for seven years, then became Byrd's associate head coach nine years ago.

That's 16 years under one of the most successful coaches in college basketball. Byrd is one of five active coaches who have won 500 games at his current school; the others have names such as Krzyzewski, Boeheim and Calhoun.

Alexander should be ready for this. Not only has he sat at the right hand of Byrd, but he won't go into an arena in which he hasn't already been. He's familiar with all of the returning players in the league. He'll know what to expect from A-Sun coaches such as Byrd, Lipscomb's Scott Sanderson, East Tennessee State's Murray Bartow, Jacksonville's Cliff Warren.

"I think that was the mutual attraction for me and for Stetson," Alexander said. "There's so much familiarity, and there are a lot of similarities between Belmont and Stetson as schools and the type of programs the administration wants. They liked Belmont's success and the model we had, and I felt like it could fit here."

As for learning from Byrd, Alexander says he can't imagine his career without him.

"I could not ask for a better person or coach to be mentored by," Alexander said. "I give him all of the credit for any success we have going forward."

Alexander says he's sure a lot of his coaching philosophies are derived from Byrd, but he's quick to point out he's not exactly a clone of the A-Sun's winningest coach.

"While I'm sure most people would say we're more alike than either one of us would care to admit, there are some significant differences to how we approach the game," Alexander said. "He's more finesse and offensive mentality. I'm more ground it out and defensive intensity."

Stetson more or less has become Belmont South. Alexander brought Belmont assistant Roger Idstrom with him; Idstrom had spent 11 years on the Bruins staff. The new coach also hired former Belmont player Steve Drabyn as an assistant.

PLAYERS

Unfortunately for Alexander, he can't bring the Belmont roster with him. He inherits a team that only won only eight games a year ago, but four of the top six scorers, including the top three, all transferred.

Alexander said none of the players was asked to leave by him, but that he would prefer to talk about the returning players.

"I have not spent one minute with anything that has happened before my time here," he said. "I don't think it's relevant to where we want to go. I have some familiarity with who's here and who isn't because I've been in the league, but as far as adjustments or developing players, it's a completely fresh approach."

Alexander will head into his first season without a full deck with which to play. The Hatters have only 10 scholarship players, and it will be interesting to see how the coach is able to patch things together.

The leading returning scorer is 6-0 junior guard Tyshawn Patterson (8.3 ppg, 2.0 rpg). He knows only one speed -- fast -- and he might take some time to adjust to Alexander's desires.

"Tyshawn is a dynamic, energetic player," Alexander said. "He plays at a really high speed all the time, and that's the good news and the bad news. He has to learn to play under control. It will take him a while to adjust to the way that we play.

"We'll play fast, as fast as our depth and talent allow us to. I want to get the ball up and down the floor and shoot threes, but not if it's detrimental to the final score."

Australian Joel Naburgs (7.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg) is a 6-4 shooting guard with excellent range. Judging from what Alexander said, the junior seems to fit what he's looking for. Naburgs led the team with 42 three-pointers a year ago and shot .323 from behind the arc.

"I like Joel. We have really high expectations for him," Alexander said. "He can score in a variety of ways. He's a tough kid, too."

Aaron Graham (6.1 ppg), a 6-4 sophomore, figures to battle Patterson for minutes at the point. He started 16 games last season and showed flashes.

"Aaron has got great potential as a scorer," Alexander said. "He shoots well off the move and can shoot with range. He can play any of the three traditional perimeter positions. He works hard, and he wants to be good."

Any coach will tell you that a player with desire and work ethic can reach unforeseen heights. For the Hatters to reach those heights, they'll have to get great play not only from the key returners, but from their newcomers.

Chris Perez (5.5 ppg 1.6 rpg, .516 FG in 2009-10) is a 6-3 sophomore guard who is coming eligible after transferring from Liberty. He is a stocky 210 pounds, meaning he's the muscle in a backcourt heavy rotation that could see Stetson play as many as four guards at a time.

"Perez is a really tough, strong, physical, perimeter player," Alexander said. "He has a reputation as a scorer, but he can do a little bit of everything. He can finish at the rim, but he can make threes. He's a versatile player, which we like. He can defend, too. He's probably the guy on our team who most readily would accept the challenge of shutting somebody down."

Freshman Dennis Diaz (DeLand HS/Deltona, Fla.), a 6-3 guard, will have to fight to get minutes in the crowded backcourt.

The Hatters are somewhat thin up front. Alexander says the top guy in the post is 6-9, 260-pound junior Adam Pegg (5.0 ppg, 2.6 rpg in 2009-10), at transfer from Delaware who sat out last season.

"Pegg is really strong," Alexander said. "He's tough and physical but skilled. He can score inside and out. He'll eat up a lot of minutes in the post. He'll let us play four out and one in and play the five spot."

That's a nod to Byrd, who loves to surround a good low-post player with four guys who can handle and shoot the three.

Another Aussie, 6-8 junior Liam McInerney (0.9 ppg, 1.9 rpg), will have to get some minutes up front to spell Pegg. But so far he has struggled in the American college game. He appeared in all 31 games last season and averaged 12.5 minutes, but he shot only 20 percent for the season (10-of-50). He was even worse from three (1-of-22).

"Liam has played a lot and will get some minutes," Alexander said. "He's a great kid, hard worker, skilled enough to really help us. He just hasn't had the production."

Willie Green is an intriguing prospect. The 6-6 sophomore forward transferred from Daytona State; Alexander said he's a "long, rangy four man who's the most athletic guy on our team."

Jermol Paul (3.3 ppg) is a 6-4 senior forward who provides some depth.

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH: D-
FRONTCOURT: D
INTANGIBLES: C

It's a good thing Alexander is familiar with the A-Sun, because the Hatters can use any advantage they can get this season. They're short on talent, short on depth, short on shooting and just plain short with only two players taller than 6-6.

Alexander will preach defense and he'll have to, because he simply doesn't have enough bodies to try to get up and down with any team in the A-Sun. The Hatters will have to scratch and claw for every victory, and they'll still be few and far between.
10-26-2011 04:22 PM
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