CUTHBERT, Ga. -- In their first season back after a 13 year absence, the Andrew College men's basketball program has landed in the NJCAA Region 17 Div. I Men's Basketball Championships. Their quarterfinal matchup will be in Rome, GA against the #1 seed- Georgia Highlands College. Tip-off is at 7:30 pm.
The Tigers are just eight deep, and consist of seven freshmen, so this year's team had modest goals, but high expectations, and they've exceeded both. The group had two separate GCAA Men's Basketball Div. I Players of the Week, a NJCAA Men's Basketball Div. I National Player of the Week, and has 3 players averaging double figures during the season.
"I'm so competitive and have been fortunate to have success everywhere I've been that maybe I set the expectations a little too high for such a young team and obviously a new program, but I thought we have done a good job of at least trying to meet those expectations so far," Tigers head coach Jamie Brooks said. "We have a solid core of guys and they've been good on the court and off the court as well and that is how we wanted to start this program."
The Tigers are led by freshman guard Ijon Owens, who averaged 18.3 points per game, on 45% shooting from the field, including 37% on 3-pt. attempts overall, good for 3rd place in the region. In GCAA conference play, Owens was even better, leading all regulars in the 16 conference matches at 20.7 ppg. He averaged a team-leading 3.9 assists per game (apg), and 4.9 rebounds per game (rpg). He had 12 games of 20 or more points and 1 game with more than 30 points, including his season-high of 31points against Central Ga. Tech on February 24. He was named the GCAA Men's Basketball Div. I Player of the Week for the 9th week of the season. He started all 27 games he played in this season.
Freshman guard Jalin Wimberly was also named the GCAA Men's Basketball Div. I Player of the Week in Week #12, primarily for his 50 point explosion against Gordon State on January 22nd. The NJCAA also recognized Wimberly, by naming him the NJCAA Men's Basketball Div. I National Player of the Week for the same time period. Wimberly averaged 15.3 ppg, good for 11th in the GCAA, pulled down a team-leading 6.4 rpg, and added 2.5 apg.
Freshman Dereck Lampkin rounds out the Tigers in double figure scorers coming in with 12.8 ppg, while adding 5.8 rpg, and 2.5 apg. Lampkin was one of just three players who played all 28 games, starting 23.
Freshman Marcus Kirkland, who also played in all 28 games, including 21 starts, shot 42% from the field on the way to 5.9 ppg, while adding 4.5 rpg and 1.5 apg, and freshman Jordan Wright , despite missing two weeks with an orbital eye injury, along with a concussion, came back to finish with 18 starts in 24 games, chipping in 4.6 ppg and 3.2 rpg.
Freshman Jahir Joyner was the 3rd player to play all 28 games, starting 16 and has been great all year on the defensive end, normally matching up with the other team's best offensive player. In addition, sophomore Javan McBurrows and freshman Paul Fitzgerald III have given solid minutes off the bench and have fit nicely into their roles.
"We made the conference tournament which we were not expected to do, so that is the first goal out of the way," Brooks said. "The next step is to win a game in the conference tournament and see what happens in the final four. Regardless, up to this point I am extremely proud of this group for fighting through adversity, being able to be coached hard, and ultimately playing hard night in and night out. It is a great foundation to build upon."