I’ve decided to let the offseason breathe a little bit, but a lot has happened in the last few days that directly and indirectly affect Winthrop hoops, so I figured I would run some of those items down…
Coach Prosser Named Head Coach at Western Carolina
I don’t have an archive of it now, but I promise that I once made the declaration on WinthropFans.com that Mark Prosser would be the one to move on from Winthrop to a head coach position before Pat Kelsey did. Now I guess we can argue semantics about whether Kelsey’s UMass episode last season counts, but either way, Mark Prosser was named the head coach of Western Carolina today. Prosser spent six years as Kelsey’s right hand man on the bench for WU, and it will be interesting to see how Kelsey decides to fill the vacancy on the staff. As Bret McCormick mentions in the Herald’s article about Prosser’s departure, Kelsey and Prosser have very different personalities/demeanors that complemented each other well on the staff. I won’t even begin to speculate on who will be brought in to complete the staff at this point…the options are nearly endless.
Chris Mack Accepts the Louisville Job….Creates a Vacancy at Xavier
The biggest national story in the sport of college basketball today is that Chris Mack is taking his talents to the KFC Yum! Center, and leaving a vacancy at Xavier that sees Pat Kelsey’s name on most people’s lists of likely candidates to take the job. Do Winthrop fans need to worry about Kelsey leaving? I’d think that if Xavier offered him the job, he would definitely take it. But will he be their first choice? I’m thinking that the job will be Travis Steele’s (the current Associate Head Coach at Xavier) to lose at this point, with Kelsey and Thad Matta as the next tier of guys they’ll look at. If the Musketeers open their search outside the Xavier family, then a few other names will definitely pop up, including Mark Schmidt from St. Bonaventure among others. One thing I’ve seen is some people trying to connect dots about Kelsey backing out of the UMass job for this opportunity that now possibly presents itself to him. I still don’t know what caused him to change his mind at UMass, but the Xavier theory never made sense to me. Nothing would have stopped him from leaving UMass to take the Xavier job once it opened up, so why would he burn bridges and harm his reputation by backing out last minute just to be able to do something that he could do from Amherst anyway (at a higher salary while he waits for the Chris Mack domino to fall)?
WU Lands First Commitment for Class of 2018
Right around the time the Big South Tournament started, Winthrop got a verbal commitment from Michael Anumba, a 6’4″ native of Italy who currently plays for the Manchester Magic in England. He fits the Pat Kelsey mold of being a versatile combo guard/wing and seems to have good size/athleticism, gets praised for his defensive ability, and was labeled as the top prospect at Luol Deng’s Camp in London this past summer. In this current season for the Magic, Anumba is averaging 12.8 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, and 1.2 spg. Anumba essentially takes Anders Broman’s roster spot, which gives WU a strong corps of guards going into next season, with Bjorn Broman, Adam Pickett, Kyle Zunic, and Charles Falden all coming back, along with Nych Smith (assuming he gets cleared to play again) and Keondre Schumacher (who redshirted this past season). Assuming nothing else on the roster changes (though most of the time, something does change in April/May), then that leaves only one open roster spot unaccounted for, which is to replace the graduating Xavier Cooks. You’d have to assume that WU will look for a guy with some size as the Eagles are a little thin on the roster in that area. The spring signing period starts on April 11, so hopefully we’ll see Anumba sign at that time, and possibly a second player to fill the roster.
Notes From Around the League
-I don’t believe I talked about it on this blog at all, but during this past season, the Big South announced that USC Upstate and Hampton will be joining the league, beginning with the 2018-19 season. Hampton will be bringing a team that finished tied for first in the MEAC and will likely return most of its roster, along with a good veteran coach in Ed “Buck” Joyner. On the other end of the spectrum, Upstate is coming off a very rough season, has already seen a few players leave the program this offseason, and the school is currently looking for both a new AD and head basketball coach after firing both at the end of the season. The head coaching search is almost at a month now, with no news yet about who will be leading the Spartans into the Big South.
-There’s another current head coach vacancy in the league as Nick McDevitt recently left UNC Asheville to take the Middle Tennessee job. The Bulldogs will be looking for a new coach to lead a team that could have a lot of good talent coming back, led by MaCio Teague and Jonathan Baehre. Former assistant Brett Carey and current assistant Sean Dixon seem to be logical fits for the job.
-Two other vacancies in the Big South have been recently filled, with Tubby Smith being named the new High Point coach (replacing Scott Cherry), and Griff Aldrich being named the new Longwood coach (replacing Jayson Gee). Smith’s history/accomplishments are well known from his past stops at Tulsa, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Texas Tech, and Memphis. Aldrich is a little more of an outside-the-box hire, coming from UMBC, but spending much of his recent past away from the sport of basketball, in the business and legal fields.
-If you clicked on the Tubby Smith link above, you’ll also see that High Point is moving forward with a new arena that is scheduled to open in 2020. Liberty has also recently announced a plan for a new arena, to be built adjacent to the Vines Center, to give the Flames a smaller venue to play most of their games. That should also open in 2020, though there’s always the chance that Liberty may no longer be in the Big South at that point.