The 2008-2009 Golden Basketball season is set to tip off on Monday afternoon with each team hosting exhibition games. The men’s team, led by Coach Mike Sutton, will tip off at 7:30 p.m. against Anderson at the Hooper Eblen Center.
The men return seven players, including five who saw action last season.
After losing three of the top five scorers from last year’s squad, Sutton must rely on numbers to gain an advantage.
“Hopefully we can replace what those [seniors] did with numbers,” Sutton said, “between our returning guys and new guys, I think we can.”
With the addition of three junior college transfers and five true freshmen, Tech will try to improve its 07-08 record of 13-19.
“We feel like they can contribute right away,” Sutton said.
Sutton looks to 6’9″ forward/center Daniel Northern to lead the team in his senior year.
“We need him to be a good leader as well as an outstanding player, which I think he’s capable of,” Sutton said.
Northern had a great junior campaign, leading the OVC in rebounds (9.0/game) and blocked shots (79).
He received three team honors last season including Best Defensive Player, Top Rebounder and the Blocked Shots awards.
“We’ll be deeper, a little quicker than we were last year,” Sutton said.
The team’s depth will come from having 10-11 players who can make an impact as opposed to only seven or eight last year.
“Last year was probably our second thinnest team in terms of depth,” he said. “We’re better when we have a bench and can rotate.”
The men will begin the season with a stretch of home games interrupted by a trip to Lipscomb University.
From November 22 to December 14, Tech will host a series of six home games before travelling to Tallahassee to take on Florida State then to Nashville to face Vanderbilt.
“I think this schedule toughens you up for the end of the year,” said Sutton, who hopes to make it back to the OVC tournament in March.
With a new court under their feet, the Golden Eagles hope to draw large crowds to home games.
“We’ve got a really nice place to play, and it’s a huge advantage when we have good crowd support,” Sutton said.
“It makes a big difference having student support,” he added.
“It helps us win,” he said. “People don’t like playing here”.
The men aren’t the only ones gearing up for the new season as the Tech Women’s team is just as eager.
The Golden Eagle women are coached by Amy Brown in her third year at the helm.
“I think this season is going to be a very good season,” Brown said.
Her squad returns four seniors: Blair Bowens, who led the team in three-point shooting last season, Allison Price who led the team in assists and steals, Meagan Lyons, who tied with Price for steals and Rachel Whittle, who continually improved over the course of the season.
“We’ve got some experience in our seniors, but we’ve also got a young team in that our juniors, sophomores, and freshmen haven’t had a lot of playing time,” Brown said, who is proud of the way her team has been working in the off season. “We’re working really hard,” she said. “We’re focused.”
The Golden Eagles are looking to find a new presence inside after losing Kristina Tyler last season to graduation.
Brown expects 6-0 Simone Rutledge and 6-3 Vivian Nwosu to do just that.
“[Rutledge] is going to bang you, she’s going to be intense,” said Brown.
Meanwhile, Nwosu has been adapting to the college game and Brown says she gets better and better every day.
Tech has a tough schedule ahead of them, facing such teams as Louisville, Georgia, Memphis, and Middle Tennessee State.
“If you don’t play those types of people, then you can’t expect to be ready for the conference season,” Brown said. “It’s good for us,” she added.
Brown said if she could give one reason for Tech students to come out and watch the games, it’s pride.
“When you go to school somewhere, whether you’re in athletics or not, there’s a sense of pride about where you go,” she said.
“It’s one where you don’t have to sit stiff in a classroom or study in the library,” she said,
“You can just let it go and have fun. For these student athletes, it’s just a big boost,” Brown said.
“They really thrive on the students coming to support them,” she added.
The women will also open their season with an exhibition game against Tusculum at 5:30 p.m. Monday at the Hooper Eblen Center.
Admission is free, as always, with a Tech ID. Brown concluded by saying, “We would love to see the just the pride of Tech in the student body of Tennessee Tech in the gym this winter.