#136 Norfolk State Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview

Norfolk State Spartans

2013-2014 Overall Rank: #136
Conference Rank: #1 MEAC
#136 Norfolk State Men's Basketball 2013-2014 Preview
Norfolk State Team Page


Norfolk State had the usual tough road trip to begin the 2012-2013 campaign, playing just two games at home in November and December. But once conference play began, the Spartans took off. They ran through 16 conference games without a loss. This was not just a team that could pull off another upset in March, they were expected to keep things close and give some one or two seed a very hard time. Yet, Norfolk State never got the chance. They fell to Bethune-Cookman in the MEAC tournament and were relegated to the NIT, where they lost their opener at Virginia. The campaign may have ended in disappointment, but it was a great year for NSU and four starters are back. But not returning is Coach Anthony Evans, who took the Florida International job.

2012-13 Record: 21-12, 16-0
2012-13 Postseason: NIT
Coach: Robert Jones
Coach Record: 0-0 at Norfolk State, 0-0 overall

Who’s Out:
Rob Johnson is the lone starter lost. He ranked third on the team in both scoring, at 9.6, and rebounds, with 5.1 per contest. Johnson was never the best interior scorer on the team, but he could stretch out the defense with his outside shooting ability and that is a skill that new Coach Robert Jones may miss. A.J. Rogers, Quasim Pugh and Kris Brown are the only other losses. Brown, a walk-on, made a contribution mostly off of the bench. He did average about 20 minutes per game, so his absence will be noticed. He was a decent enough outside shooter to provide an occasional offensive spark.

Who’s In:
There will be a freshman or two brought in to fill in the roster, but Coach Jones already has his two replacements for Johnson and Jones. Grant Hefeng, a 6-8 transfer from Fresno State, could step right into the starting role vacated by Johnson at the power forward position. He rarely played with the Bulldogs, but the Shenzhen, China native has a pretty polished offensive game and is a decent rebounder. With a little more bulk added to his frame, Hefeng could be extremely effective on the glass. Sajae Pryor, a junior college transfer, will likely provide much of the depth on the perimeter. Pryor is a good scorer from everywhere on the floor and if he can parlay his success at the junior college level into production at the Division I level, Norfolk State will be absolutely loaded on the perimeter.

Who to Watch:
Pryor would be a starter on most teams in the MEAC, but that is not the case at Norfolk State. Pendarvis Williams, Jamel Fuentes and Malcolm Hawkins have the starting backcourt all locked up. Williams is the only remaining starter from the team that beat Missouri in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. He emerged as the leader of the team last season, averaging 14.3 points and 4.5 rebounds. The 6-6 senior is one of the most dynamic scorers in the conference. There are not many players who can cover him effectively without some help. Williams connected on 40.6 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and has little trouble shooting over most defenders. If he cannot shoot over them, he will simply dribble around them and use his size and speed to finish around the basket. Fuentes is another experienced senior and makes this team tick. He averaged 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals as a junior and should be in for another fine season. Fuentes does need to keep the turnovers down and he is not a threat at all to score. With any improvement in either of those departments, Fuentes would lead an offense that would be very tough to stop. Malcolm Hawkins transferred in from Delaware and made a big splash right away. He was second to Williams in scoring and three-point field-goals. Hawkins may not be anywhere near as efficient as his wing counterpart, but at 6-5, he is another big guard in a conference that does not always have big guards. Marese Phelps and Kievyn Lila-St. Rose, who bring the backcourt senior count to five, will join Pryor on the bench as the main backups for Williams, Fuentes and Hawkins.

Final Projection:
The Spartans may not end up 16-0 again, but this team could actually be better than they were last year. That will all depend on how well the team can replace Johnson in the frontcourt. Rashid Gaston proved to be an invaluable reserve forward as a freshman. He did not start a single game, but he averaged 8.3 points and a team high 6.3 rebounds. Gaston is more than ready to step into the starting power forward spot beside center Brandon Goode, but the depth in the frontcourt will have to come from Hefeng and he is relatively unproven. Goode, a seven-foot, senior is a major presence on the defensive end. He swatted away two shots per contest last season and grabbed 5.3 rebounds. Goode is a decent scorer, but this is not a team that needs to work the ball through their big man and Goode is not much of a passer anyway. As long as Williams and Hawkins are on the floor, they can do enough scoring to get Norfolk State back to the NCAA Tournament.

Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA

Projected Starting Five:
Jamel Fuentes, Senior, Guard, 4.9 points per game
Malcolm Hawkins, Senior, Guard, 11.4 points per game
Pendarvis Williams, Senior, Guard, 14.3 points per game
Rashid Gaston, Sophomore, Forward, 8.3 points per game
Brandon Goode, Senior, Center, 7.7 points per game

By the Numbers:
Scoring Offense: 66.3 (201st in nation, 4th in conference)
Scoring Defense: 65.5 (142, 8)
Field-Goal Percentage: 41.6 (258, 5)
Field-Goal Defense: 40.3 (57, 5)
Three-Point Field Goals Per Game: 5.2 (273, 7)  
Three-Point Field-Goal Percentage: 32.5 (225, 2)
Free-Throw Percentage: 64.6 (303, 8)
Rebound Margin: -1.5 (240, 10)
Assists Per Game: 11.9 (238, 5)
Turnovers Per Game: 14.6 (270, 4)


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