Whenever we can we like to get the perspective from the opposing team’s fan sites or beat writers. For UAB vs. Stephen F. Austin we are fortunate enough to have some questions answered from two of the Jacks’ fan driven sites — LumberjackFans.com and SFASawmill.com.
This will be the third meeting between the two teams with UAB holding the 2-0 series advantage over the Jacks. UAB won in 1996 at home under Murry Bartow and last season at home under Jerod Haase.
Our second Q&A will come from Matt with LumberjackFans.com.
1. Though it’s early in the season, are you starting to see differences in first year coach Kyle Keller’s philosophy or style than what was implemented under Brad Underwood?
Yes and no, and this answer really goes for the other answers as well. It’s really just hard to tell right now. We lost the majority of last years phenomenal team, only returning 17 percent of the offense. And a big portion of that is Ty Charles, who sat out all of the preseason with a shoulder injury and then broke a bone in his hand the very first game against Kentucky … so we don’t even have that scoring.
I think overall Keller will have a fairly similar system, definitely the same in your face type defensive philosophy. I think right now with so many new players who still haven’t had much practice/time with each other, it’s going to be hard to fully see what Coach Keller wants to do. New team – plus a ton of injuries (big and small) – is making his job very difficult right now. We’ve had a different starting lineup every game so far.
2. Who or whom has been the surprise of the season so for the Jacks?
I don’t know if you’d call him/them a surprise, but since they’re new I guess they’re a surprise to everyone. In terms of productivity, Ivan Canete, JUCO guard from Palm Beach State, has to be the biggest addition right now. Leading the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg, and arguably the best long range threat.
Next up to me is Kevon Harris, highly touted freshman out of Georgia (held offers from VCU and Ole Miss). I love his game so far, one of the “glue” type players who does it all. I think he’ll be fantastic player in this conference.
Leon Gilmore is probably the one we’ve been expecting the most from. Maybe not fair expectations, but he appeared on paper as the one that should be able to step up the quickest. He too has been hampered with a few small injuries.
3. Has this team began to create an identity offensively?
Honestly, not much. This past weekend we finally had a breakout game, even though it was against a really bad Centenary team. But it’s what we needed. We’ve been plagued with the turnover bug (still dead last in the nation at 22.3 turnovers per game), which just really destroys any chance of a real offensive identity. Especially, again, with all of the new stuff.
But you can see some bright spots when they don’t turn it over. We saw a 20-point second half deficit at ULM quickly erased because they didn’t turn the ball over and were able to get the three ball to fall.
Definitely seem to want to attack down low more, from the bigs and dribble penetration. Canete has been great getting to the free throw line, and TJ Holyfield is a SLC PoY type player (great 3-point shooter as well).
Best element to the season so far is free throw shooting. SFA ranks 10th in the nation at just under 80 percent.
4. Describe the home court advantage for Stephen F. Austin. Is there a rowdy student section?
You don’t get a 31-game home win streak by accident. SFA fans love their basketball team. We call our coliseum “The Sawmill,” for obvious reasons.
The student section, however, is actually not really the reason behind it. Surprisingly and unfortunately, the students don’t sit in one unified section. It’s something we’ve struggled with (and that I’ve had a huge issue with) for a long time.
It’s a fantastic place to watch basketball. December games are normally hard on attendance, but students are still on campus, so I hope they show up before finals next week.
5. Which UAB player or players do you think could give the Jacks trouble and why?
I think (William) Lee is an obvious first answer that comes to mind. Lee vs Holyfield will be a tremendous battle. TJ has a hard time staying out of foul trouble, which will be a huge piece to this game. We’ve got a 7-footer in Grujic who will come in and get a few minutes. And then limiting (Chris) Cokley as best as possible.
UAB hasn’t had a true road game yet (although KU in Kansas City is basically that), so hoping that helps. If we can limit turnovers, as well as get to the free throw line, then it should be a great game. We can’t put ourselves in a big hole like we have pretty much every half this year. Otherwise, the home win streak will be done. And for the UAB fans, all of our home games are on ESPN3, so you’ve got a solid broadcast.