The 2010-11 season signals a new era in East Central University men’s basketball.
Joe Redmond takes over as head coach of a program which returns only four players, including a pair of starters in seniors Dontae Figgs and Denarius Darby.
Redmond most recently served as an assistant at Division I North Carolina-Wilmington and helped guide the program from a 7-22 finish in 2006-07 to a 20-13 mark in 2007-08.
Previously, he spent six seasons at Division II Henderson State, three years as an assistant and the next three as head coach. He has a career head coaching record of 51-33. His first Reddies team went 23-7 and won the Gulf South West Division title and advanced to the NCAA South Regional.
As Redmond enters his initial season as the Tiger head coach, he’s been pleased with the team’s work ethic.
“I’ve been real pleased with the work ethic. If nothing else, we’re in good enough shape to win ball games,” Redmond said. “We don’t have one guy, night in and night out, that can carry us. Our biggest challenge is to perform as a unit. I think this team has the ability to win a few more games than they lose. If we can get on the same page, we can win a lot more games.”
ECU’s two most experienced players are Figgs and Darby.
The 6-foot, 3-inch Figgs, who played in just 19 games last season and started 11, averaged 10.3 points and 2.8 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the floor.
“Dontae is a real intriguing player. He’s been a pleasant surprise. He’s got the ability to be an explosive scorer,” said Redmond. “His athleticism enables him to play as a taller guard and will allow him to score out top more.”
The 6-2 Darby started 19 of the 22 games he played in for ECU in 2009-10 while averaging 9.7 points and 2.7 boards.
“He’s the type of athlete who is pretty good in the open court. He’s got quick feet and hands and has good lateral quickness,” Redmond said. “He’s starting to realize that he’s a pretty good on-the-ball defender. We’re going to challenge him with tough offensive assignments such as guarding the other team’s best scorer. He’s been working hard and we’re seeing him go from being an average shooter to becoming a good shooter who takes good shots.”
The team’s only other senior will be Antwone Snead, a 6-5 transfer from Division I Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne. Snead averaged 5.5 points and 6.6 rebounds there last season as he led that team on the boards 10 times and even had a double-double (11 points and 11 rebounds) against Gonzaga.
“I don’t know what position he’ll play, but that may be his best attribute. He can play any position. His basketball IQ is real solid. He understands the game of basketball and has a good feel for it,” said Redmond. “He brings a level of toughness and competitiveness.”
Redmond brings in a large junior class for the 2010-11 season with seven newcomers in 6-4 guard Eric Avant, 6-7 forward/center Darnell Davis, 6-3 guard Jamal Edwards, 6-6 forward Chris Lee, 6-0 guard Caprest Rhone, 6-1 guard Eric Hardyway and 6-8 center Charlton Wilson.
Avant transfers in from an NAIA Division II institution in Saint Mary College (Kan.), where he averaged 20 points and nine rebounds while being chosen as a unanimous First Team All-Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.
“He shoots the ball well and finishes at the basket. His size as a two-guard makes him hard to guard and he has the ability to rebound the basketball,” Redmond said. “We need to be able to put him in position to make shots and he could help us on the defensive boards.”
Davis comes to ECU from Aiken Technical College, where he averaged 9.6 points and 7.7 rebounds. He’s been battling a high ankle sprain, but has been practicing.
“He dropped about 25 pounds and has done a great job with his conditioning. When conference play rolls around I think he can be a double-double kind of player,” said Redmond. “His approach is business-like. When you have a big guy with that approach, it tends to get the other guys to follow. He’ll be able to draw two defenders and it could loosen things up for our other guys.”
Edwards transfers in from Lamar College and has been the biggest surprise, according to Redmond.
“I knew he was a pretty good player, but I see him being a solid role player and strong leader who will make those around him better basketball players. At 6-3 and 200, he can play the point, 2 or 3. He’s a very good point guard and gets teammates the ball in the right places.” Redmond said.
Lee, who transfers from Allen Community College (Kan.), is described by Redmond as a raw talent with limitless ability, after averaging 6.0 points and 7.0 boards.
“He has a lot of work to do to reach his potential, but he’s been coachable. He’s really an x-factor for us. If he figures things out, we could all of a sudden become a real good team,” said Redmond.
Rhone comes from Cowley County Community College (Kan.), where he scored 6.0 points and grabbed 4.0 rebounds a year ago.
“He can play multiple positions. I see him playing more at the 2 (guard), but he could play some point,” Redmond said. “His mindset is definitely a scorer, especially when he’s on a roll and taking good shots. He can also be a good defender on the ball.”
Hardyway averaged 5.0 points at Coffeyville Community College (Kan.) last season.
“Eric is a really exceptional point guard. His skills are on a very-high level and he has the ability to get the ball to an open teammate for open shots,” said Redmond. “He can control the tempo on both sides of the ball. He has that type of quickness. The guy knows basketball.”
Wilson sported 7.2 scoring and 4.1 rebounding averages at Sheridan College (Wyo.) last year and brings a big presence to the post area.
“He’s going to add depth to the post. He’s a very good basketball player and good post player. If he keeps working like he has, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. He knows how to put the ball in the basket,” Redmond said.
The Tigers welcome back a pair of sophomore guards in 6-4 Bobby McAdoo and 6-0 Jarrett Brandon.
McAdoo played in 23 of ECU’s 26 games last season and started seven as he averaged 5.7 points and 2.6 boards.
“He’s had a real good fall and is in excellent shape. His best basketball is ahead of him,” said Redmond. “He’s a great catch and shoot guy, just a really good shooter. He could play some small forward and even power forward because of his toughness and strength.”
Brandon, a walk-on, appeared in 23 games and started eight for the Tigers last year as he averaged 1.3 points and 2.7 rebounds.
“Brandon has been working very hard. He has seen some change in his conditioning and he’s starting to see benefits,” Redmond said. “He’s not only getting better but he’s making his teammates better.”
One freshman who is expected to make an immediate impact is 6-9 center Hayden Darst, out of Antlers High School, where he averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 boards.
“He’s the gem of the bunch. You normally don’t find a 6-9 player, who is an excellent student, when you enter the recruiting process late like I did,” Redmond said. “Freshmen are notoriously known for not being in good shape when they come in, but he’s been the opposite. He’s going to be a good player and if any banners are hung in the future, he’ll be a huge part of it.”
Four other players who could contribute in the future are 6-0 guards Patrick Bryan, Matthew Harding and Jake Rudd along with 6-5 forward Mike Rudd. Bryan transfers in from St. Gregory’s University while the Rudds are Ada High products.
“Patrick needs to add some strength, but he has point guard skills, sees the floor well and shoots pretty well. Jake can make outside shots. Mike has height on his side and Harding is a workhorse,” said Redmond.
ECU officially opens the 2010-11 season on Nov. 12 at home against Oklahoma Panhandle State at 8 p.m. inside the Kerr Center in Ada. ECU then hosts Texas A&M-International the next night on Nov. 13 at 8 o’clock.