Griffon basketball sacrifices experience for talent
By Kyle Inman
February 18, 2013
After a 9-17 season that was full of single-digit losses last year, coach Tom Smith knew he needed to add more talent in order to pull away late in tight MIAA games.
Smith added an influx of new players and believes the versatility of his new post players could be the strength of this year’s team.
Junior college transfers 6-foot-5-inch Alfreeman Flowers, 6-foot-8-inch Dzenan Mrkaljevic and 6-foot-7-inch Cedric Clinkscales give the Griffons a revamped group of post players. Smith considered last year’s big men very one-dimensional and believes that Flowers and Mrkaljevic can score on the block or step out and create points from the perimeter.
“I’ve always liked inside guys who can go to the perimeter and create matchup problems,” Smith said. “That’s something that I’ve been looking for the last couple of years and haven’t found.”
The Griffons also feature a deep guard rotation that features returning players James Harris, Dylan Frantz, Reed Mells and newcomer Adarius Fulton.
Harris averaged 11.6 points per game last season as a junior while Mells averaged 5.5 as a true freshman. Shooting guard Frantz provided hustle and very good defense before being sidelined for the last part of the season with a thumb injury. Fulton has stepped in as the starting point guard, which gives Harris and Mells and chance to come in and provide instant firepower off the bench.
“Taking Reed and James and bringing them off the bench right now is probably a good sign,” Smith said. “It just shows that we are a little deeper at the guard position than we were last year and allows them to concentrate more on scoring.”
The small forward position features returning sharp shooter Alex Tuluka-Mfumupembe with depth from strong athletes Tevin Harris and Kalvin Balque.
The Griffons were picked No. 12 in the preseason MIAA coaches poll and No. 13 by the media, but are confident in their ability to far exceed the expectations.
“I think we are top three,” James said. “I just think our chemistry is way better. It’s not a one man team, it’s five people playing as a team.”
“I don’t think winning is going to be a surprise, because I’m expecting to win,” Mells said. ”If you think the Griffons are going to be bad this year, then you will be surprised, but I won’t be surprised.”
Flowers believes that the physicality of the MIAA conference plays to the strengths of the current team.
“I heard it’s a very physical conference and we are a very physical team,” Flowers said. “We are playing each other tough so it’s second nature come game time.”
One thing that concerns Smith is the lack of experience at this level with the newcomers. He doesn’t want his players to underestimate the conference strength.
“The good thing is that we have more talent,” Smith said. “One bad thing is they haven’t gone through the MIAA, and through the caliber of competition, they will see at Division II. So many times kids find out that the athleticism at DII is pretty good.”
As a senior leader, James is trying to prepare his team for the close fought battles to come.
“It’s a very physical conference and you can’t play by the refs,” James said. “Play for your team, sometimes the refs don’t be on your side. We have to compete for the full 40 minutes.”
The Griffons are 1-1 in two exhibition games this season. The first coming in a tightly contested loss to Division I Missouri State 81-67 while the win came by way of a 112-73 game against Livin’ the Dream.
“Everybody on this team can play ball,” Flowers said. “If there’s someone who needs to come out, we have the players that can come in and put the ball in the hole.”