Future looks bright for Southeast men's basketball
A combination of postseason awards, overall trends, and incoming talent has Southeast men's basketball coach Rick Ray feeling optimistic after seeing his third Redhawks team finish 14-17 overall and 8-10 in the Ohio Valley Conference.
“The future is bright for our upcoming team,” Ray said. “Since I do not see any other team returning more talent than us.”
Sophomore guard Denzel Mahoney is a major source of optimism after finishing his second season as first team All-OVC. A year after being named second team All-OVC and OVC Freshman of the Year, Mahoney averaged 19.3 points per game, 5.1 rebounds, and led the team in free-throw percentage of 83.5 percent. He was one of 10 players selected first team All-District by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
Freshman guard Ledarrius Brewer was named to the OVC All-Newcomer team after averaging 14.5 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, 16 blocks and 29 steals. He also led the team in 3-point field goals made.
Sophomore guard Skyler Hogan also received a spot on the All-Newcomer team.
Redshirt freshman guard Ray Kowalski finished third in 3-point field goal percentage in OVC play. He averaged 4.9 points per game this season.
After completing his third season with Southeast, Ray has been able to improve their standings within the conference for field goal percentages. This past season, Southeast led the OVC in 3-point field goal percentage at 39.2 percent. Brewer established a new single-season record for Southeast with 64 3-pointers made. Freshman forward Justin Carpenter was ranked ninth in the OVC in overall field-goal percentage and Brewer was 16th. Overall, Southeast improved to third in field-goal percentage in the OVC after finishing 12th in the category in the 2016-17 season.
Southeast will be losing two seniors next year, Milos Vranes and Daniel Simmons, but already have signed a couple recruits for the upcoming season. The incoming class includes Alex Caldwell, a Class 4 all-state guard from Wilson High School in South Carolina, who signed in November. Caldwell, who just finished his senior year, was an ESPN top-30 guard after a junior just averaging 14 points, nine assists, five rebounds and 2.5 steals per game.
Along with Caldwell, Ray had freshman Nygal Russell joined the program midseason. In his senior year at Chris Walker Academy in Houston, Texas, Russell averaged 12 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals en route to all-region honors. Ray believes he will help improve their defensive game. Russell recently averaged 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and 2.4 steals per game at the ASPIRE Basketball Academy in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I am looking forward to seeing the maturation of the whole team next season,” Ray said.
In the meantime, the men’s team have focused goals for each part of the game. On the offensive side, Ray wants them to ultimately take care of the ball. He wants them to be able to share, finish at the rim and make open 3-point baskets. On the defensive end, Ray’s biggest goal is to keep his men competitive. He describes his plan of action in five steps,
“First is to stay in front of your man at all times, then you want to constantly be talking to your other teammates and keep activity on the ball,” Ray said. “The most important is to be ready to help and already be in position to get a solid rebound.”
As Ray puts another season in the books, it is obvious that he is already planning for next year and getting his team ready to compete in the OVC.