SAINT LEO, Fla. – It’s a brand new season for the Saint Leo men’s basketball team as they march into the 2010-11 season, and this year it will take an entire team effort for the Lions to climb the mighty ranks of the established programs in the Sunshine State Conference.
New-look may not be the right term to use when describing this year’s team, but déjà-vu may be more appropriate. Rejoining the team after a season away from the sport is senior Quentin Cullop as he brings his 15.3 points per game average and 37 percent three-point accuracy back into the lineup.
Second on the team in scoring during 2008, his junior year, Cullop’s addition will hopefully offset the loss of Jordan Prais, the Lions all-time scoring and rebounding leader. With his graduation last May, the Lakeland, Fla. native took 18.6 points and 8.6 rebounds per game with him into the semi-professional ranks, leaving the Lions with big shoes to fill.
Head coach Mike Madagan, beginning his 10th year as the Lions’ leader, retains most of his senior-laden perimeter players, including Matthew Salay, Jeremy Jackson and Daniel Oliver to guide Saint Leo’s transition game. Jamal Thompson returns to the court after a shortened junior year where the Tampa native battled knee injuries for most of the season. Despite that, he still managed to see 12 games and average 7.3 points per game.
Relying on perimeter play now more than ever, this year sees the Lions suit up nine players listed as guards on the roster, most of them returning players, meaning more than half of the team will hope to contribute from behind the arc, or use their speed to add the impact of a transition game into the Saint Leo strategy. Only newcomers Nate Johnson and Alex Stewart have been added to help the Lions’ backcourt presence.
The biggest change for Saint Leo comes under the basket; where consistent height, quickness and solid ball-handling will hopefully combine to add an aspect to the game plan that has been missing for some time.
Veterans Walter Perkins and Saladeem Dewberry will lead the beefed up group playing at the four as both look to improve the scoring output and defensive presence into the top half of the stat sheet. Joining the two seniors include returners Allen Young and Matt Kendrick, who both showed bright moments last season, with young playing in 21 games and Kendrick blocking 64 shots, but both look to contribute more to the Saint Leo lineup this year.
New to the post position are freshman Spenser Mitchell and Anthony Mason who hope to bring their skill, both as highly touted recruits on successful high school teams, to into the Lions lineup.
The Lions will open the season in Valdosta, Ga. when they take on Valdosta State University on Friday, November 12th.