The North Greenville men’s basketball team weathered a fierce maelstrom last year and Coach Chad Lister’s Crusaders were tossed and buffeted like a ship with no sails.
However, according to Lister, “We’ve come through the storm and are now ready for a fresh start.” The Crusaders, 7-20 a year ago,
battled injuries and player adversity, but Lister says that’s past and the team is ready to focus on a new
That fresh start will begin with what Coach Lister admits is “as young as any team can possibly be.” The
Crusaders will have ten new faces on the roster, including six freshmen, three redshirt freshmen, and a transfer. The team has only one senior in Nathan Wilson (6-7 220 F Sydney, Australia), who transferred a year from North Platte CC). Wilson averaged eight points and 5.7 rebounds per game last season, and he will team with junior Kyler Vitko (6-6 215 F, Alpharetta, GA) as the two experienced members of the squad. Vitko also averaged eight points a game and grabbed five rebounds.
Four sophomores also return for NGU this season. Leading the way is Tyler Mains (6-1 180 G, Butler, KY 5.2/3.5), Kyler Booher (6-2 185 F, Covington, OH, 4.0/2.0), and Zach Babbitt (6-5 205 F, Greenville, SC, 3.5/2.9).
“Our freshmen have a unique opportunity to compete for playing time right away,” Lister noted. “That makes me a little nervous as a coach, but these guys will not be intimidated; they are ready to play and that will help us get back on track.” The redshirt freshmen include Paul Harrison (6-8 265 F, Alpharetta, GA), Tait Oliver (6-2 170 G, Wahalla, SC), and Jason Wray (6-2 170 G, Fayetteville, NC). Other freshmen on the youthful Crusader roster include Luke Lattimer (6-4 190 F, South Bend, IN), Jonathan Bozymowski (6-6 190 F, Piedmont, SC), T.J. Resper (5-9 160 G Charlotte, NC), Zack Shields (6-3 175 G, Mount Eden, KY), Steven Bell (6-6 190 F, Columbia, SC), and Jeremy Eidson (6-9 245 C, Greenwood, SC).
“I know potential is a completely overused word, but that’s really what we have to build this team upon,” Lister added. “We had to work through some adversity last year, but this group doesn’t know anything about last year. We have a fresh start and a new opportunity to build something at NGU. We return a good nucleus that will lead the young players into another season.”
“Our goal this year is to get our win total back to where it was two years ago (16 wins),” Lister pointed out. “This team will be able to rebound the ball, and for the first time since I’ve been here, we’ll be able to push the ball into the paint. In our pre-season workouts, Paul Harrison and Kyler Vitko have been able to score down on the block. We’ve always been a perimeter oriented team, but this year, we’ll be able to pound it inside a bit.”
Lister noted that that Crusaders’ perimeter game has been impressive in early workouts and he’s added speed at that spot as well. “We will work hard to get more transition baskets and a few extra off of turnovers this season. Tyler Mains will be our primary point guard, but T.J. Resper and Jason Wray will also vie for playing time. Resper is a ball of fire and teams will have a hard time guarding him.”
“Our perimeter game should be solid this year as well,” Lister went on to note. “Zack Shields can really shoot it and he has improved his jump shot a lot since he arrived at NGU. Nathan Wilson played a lot at post last year, but he will create matchup problems because he is a good outside shooter.” Other players who are expected to see plenty of floor time include Luke Lattimer and Tate Oliver.
As far as post-season aspirations, Lister noted that he feels his team can win high double figures and make a run at the NCCAA post-season. He’s realistic when it comes to his chances in the NCAA Division II playoffs. “We’re an independent, and we’d have to have a pretty impressive season to get a chance,” he said. “However, I expect us to improve a lot this year and our fans will see a lot of heart and intensity every night.
The 2008-2009 Crusaders will see their first action Thursday, Nov. 6 with an exhibition game at Kennesaw State in Atlanta. After a Division I road exhibition matchup with Winthrop on Friday, Nov. 15, NGU will opens its regular season Tuesday, Nov. 18 at home against Limestone College at 7:00 p.m.
The storm is over and Coach Chad Lister and the Crusaders have set sail toward a winning season and a berth in the post-season. Victory Land ho!