“Win the Sunbelt Conference, make the NCAA Tournament”. The reoccurring theme in the Georgia State gym during their annual media day. The Panthers last year (20-13) finished second in the Sunbelt (12-6) during the regular season, getting knocked out of the confrence tournenment by thee(eventual winner) Troy Trojans, one game away from the final. The team seems eager to take the next step and right now thats the only thing they are worried about.
Head Coach Ron Hunter’s words seem to permeate throughout the whole team, “Win the Sunbelt Conference.” When asked about his chances in the NCAA tournament, coach eluded to the fact that the team couldn’t worry about March right now, they have to play the opponent(s) in front of them. The preseason coaches poll have them ranked second in the conference. “When we put on the uniform, its serious no matter who the opponent is,” stated Turner. Coach Turner is serious about keeping his team focused on the task at hand.
His players seemed to echo those words. While you will get the politically correct statements like “We wanna play defense and share the ball”, there were other things to look forward to in the 2017- 2018 season and other things to improve on.
The long range shooter of the bunch, Jeff Thomas is ready to step up this year. He shot .396 from three point range last season mostly coming off the bench. In their second exhibition game, a 100 -64 win over Lees-McRea College, his sharp shooting was on full display He knocked down five three pointers on his way to 25 points.
Asked about his game and how it has evovled from last year, Thomas: replied, “Ummm I think its my decision making, it took me a while last year to make my decisions, now my decision making is much more quicker and faster and I can see up the court.” He will be looked upon to provide leadership as well as the shooting to spread the floor
Sophomore guard D’Marcus Simonds has his eyes set on Sunbelt Player of the Year. In his first season, he was named freshman of the year. He averaged 13.4 points, 4.0 assists, and 2.0 rebounds per game with a .535 shooting percentage
In his first action of this season, he dropped 30 (11-19 from the field) on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a charity game for hurricane relief. When asked if he thought that would be (around) his average he replied (with a smile from ear to ear) “Yeah I would say so , yeah, yeah, I would say thats somewhere around my average this year”. He scored at will in the Panthers last exhibition game against Coker College. Simonds finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and eight assists. Earlier on Monday, he was named to the Lute Olsen National Player of the year watch. In three exhibition games, he’s averaging 26.6 points per game.
The team has a resounding mantra going into the season, “Win the Sunbelt”. The players look ready. Coach Hunter looks ready. It makes you wonder if the Sunbelt Conference is ready for them?