Men's hoops prepares to bring up-tempo to Bowman tomorrow night

Men's hoops prepares to bring up-tempo to Bowman tomorrow night

SAINT LEO, Fla. -- When announced as Saint Leo's new head men's basketball coach last June, Vince Alexander promised an exciting, up-tempo style of basketball would be in store for Lions fans in 2015-16.

"I believe they're ready for it," said Alexander of the seven returnees and eight newcomers who will take the floor Friday night, when Saint Leo hosts the University of North Alabama in the opening round of the Sunshine State Conference/Gulf South Conference Challenge Classic at the Marion Bowman Activities Center.

"They've been going at it since August with the individual workouts, and they're buying in," said Alexander.

"In three scrimmages, we've averaged over 100 points per game. That's pretty exciting basketball, and the guys really enjoyed it."

Running at that tempo requires a lot of bodies, so fans can expect to see 10 to 12 different players with big minutes in virtually every game as the Lions push the ball up the floor.

Spearheading Saint Leo offensively will be junior guard Marcus Dewberry, who was second on the team a year ago with 9.8 ppg to go with a team high 3.4 apg. In the Lions' final exhibition contest this fall at Valdosta State, Dewberry tallied 29 points on a 6-of-9 effort from the floor and 14-of-22 at the line, while dishing out a pair of assists. Senior guard Trey Griseck, who averaged 5.9 points in 2014-15, is another Lions returnee who will be counted upon to provide quality minutes in the backcourt. Griseck scored nine versus Valdosta and grabbed four rebounds.

Newcomers in the backcourt include sophomore Tyreece Brice, who transferred to Saint Leo from USC-Aiken; junior Ryan Burnett, a transfer from Division I Stony Brook University; and freshman Carter Belling, a newcomber from Kaukauna, Wis.

Joining Brice at forward will be another transfer joining Alexander from USC-Aiken, mobile 6-9 forward Caleb Stewart. Stewart, who netted 20 points and seven boards in the Valdosta State matchup and shot .500 (6-or-12) from the floor, gives the Lions more depth at the wing to go with 6-10 redshirt sophomore Trail Pierce. Pierce saw sparing minutes in 2014-15, but will have more of a role in the offense this season. He netted eight points in the scrimmage at Valdosta State.

Newcomer Lawrence Watt, out of Pasco County's Mitchell High School, will also see considerable playing time right away; the freshman swingman logged six points and five rebounds against the Blazers in preseason.

"Dewberry, Brice, and Stewart will play more minutes than I might want to have them play, at least initially," said Alexander. "We struggle a little without them on the floor. But defensively, we're solid with our top seven."

Depth at guard will come from junior transfer Austin Pickett, and returnees Gary Hector and Eli Blackman, while rookie D'Shea Williams from Tampa's Blake High School will bolster the Lions at forward.

In the post, the Lions will go with 6-10 big man Johnathan Child, who shot .667 FG% while adding 2.4 ppg, with newcomer Pete Okonkwo pushing for playing time.

Blending this mix of returnees, freshmen, transfer newcomers, and transfers who have played for Alexander in the past has not been without its challenges, but Alexander believes that his players are ready to tip the ball on Friday night and the effort will be apparent."

"We're a work in progress, but we're making good progress," stated Alexander.

"Look – every coach in the country wants to be better, but for where we are right now, we're not bad. We're really not far off, and with repetition and attitude we will accomplish what we want to accomplish, and that's being one of the top scoring teams to defend as well."

For more information on the Saint Leo men's basketball program, visit SaintLeoLions.com.  Fans can also stay up-to-date on the latest Lions news by following Saint Leo Athletics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.