Fresh Start and Versatility Brews Excitement on the Court
GEORGETOWN, Texas - The Southwestern men's basketball has a lot to be excited about as they open the 2011-12 season. With a roster stacked with young talent Head Coach Bill Raleigh has no shortage of weapons in his arsenal and that versatility will wreak havoc on opponents.
Leading the charge will be returning starters, senior Logan Hurley (pictured) and sophomore Michael Cantu. Both players started most of the games last season, averaging over 25 minutes a game. Hurley was the leading scorer for the Pirates last year, averaging 15.6 points per game while shooting 55.9% from the floor, 36.4% from three-point range. He was also second on the team in rebounds, pulling down 5.5 per game. Cantu ran the show from the point position and took a team high 107 free throws, shooting 76.6% from the line. He was first on the team in steals with 40 and second in assists with 49 and averaged 7.8 points per game while shooting 47.3% from the floor, 40.9% from long range.
"[Hurley and Cantu] are All-SCAC caliber players and are great leaders for this team that we can build around," said Coach Raleigh. "Cantu is quiet and efficient and leads by example while Hurley is our most explosive, dynamic player. His maturity and growth over these four years has made him one of the elite players in the SCAC. Those guys are going to lead us wherever we go."
Joining Cantu and Hurley on the perimeter is an energetic, talented group that have a wide range of experience under Coach Raleigh's direction. Any number can make an impact on any given night, spurring along the competitive nature of the team in practice.
"We have a large group of younger guys that played different minutes every night and contributed throughout the year," states Coach Raleigh. "They have gotten better with another year under their belt, so, we have a lot of options."
While the perimeter play is SU's strong suit to start the year, there is no doubt that the post players will be making a statement this season. "We are a work in progress in the post and will be thin to begin with, but there is potential there. We are waiting on one player to come back and if he does that will help, but if our sophomore steps up and with the nice surprise in the first year class, we will be all set."
Last season the Pirates' weakness was on the defensive end, a reality that Coach Raleigh has addressed since the final horn sounded last season.
"We have to defend and that has been a point of emphasis from day one. That is the message we gave to the kids coming out of last year and have reemphasized at the start of this year; you have to defend in order to compete."
"They have embraced that and after our first scrimmage I was very happy with how hard they competed. If they can keep that focus on playing hard every second they are out there then we have a chance."
The Pirates will have a chance to test their defense as they open the season on the road at Hardin Simmons University on November 15th who was second in the American Southwest Conference in scoring in 2010-11, averaging 80.4 points per game. SU then comes home for the first time to host the Southwestern Classic with Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and Schreiner University as opponents on November 18-19.
Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference action begins in December with four very winnable games for the Pirates, on the road to Colorado College and Hendrix and at home against Austin and Dallas.
"We need to establish how we are going to play early on," shares Coach Raleigh. "The first seven games are extremely difficult for this team and we are trying to manage that. Results are going to come. If we go out and compete and forge our identity then it will be a nice launching pad for us."
The faces on the court may be different each night for Southwestern with the versatility Coach Raleigh possesses, but the product will be the same. A tough-nosed, hard-working team that won't quit until the final buzzer sounds.
"When you play us you are going to be walking out of the gym exhausted because we went after you for the entire 40 minutes. If we can do that we will win a lot of games and put us in a position to do something special at the end of the year."