UNO heads into the 2014-15 season with a sense of beginning surrounding their basketball program.
This will be the team’s first opportunity to play in a postseason tournament since the arrival of men’s coach Mark Slessinger, who signed a six-year extension during the offseason to ensure his future on the Lakefront. The top eight teams in the Southland Conference make the postseason tournament and he believes that his team can find inspiration from having a tournament berth within reach for the first time since 2010.
“It’s exciting for our guys to have that opportunity to have that postseason goal to reach for this season,” Slessinger said.
The Privateers will be led by junior forward Kevin Hill, who averaged 16.3 points and 12.5 rebounds in the final four games of the 2013-14 season. The frontcourt loses last year’s leading scorer and rebounder in Cory Dixon, but Hill believes he and senior Terrance Syon can work together replace the production from last year’s team.
“Me and Terrence always talk about how it takes two. No one guy can do it by himself,” Hill said. “We talk about the things we need to do to compliment each other’s game.”
The backcourt loses seniors Isaac Mack and Tradarrius McPhearson, but gains a fifth-year senior in former Louisiana-Lafayette guard Kevin Brown. Brown averaged 5.5 points for the Ragin’ Cajuns last year, on a team that won the Sun Belt Conference tournament, as the backup to Orlando Magic guard Elfrid Payton.
Slessinger said Brown’s scoring ability and his versatility allows him to fit in immediately.
“(Brown) is such a dynamic scorer … He can play (point guard), he can play (shooting guard). He’s very dynamic and cerebral, as well,” Slessinger said. “He’s kind of a throwback guard.”
Christavious Gill and Nate Frye are two of the sophomore guards that return from last year’s team. Gill shot 35 percent from 3-point range while averaging 7.8 points per game and Frye averaged 3.5 points and 2.7 assists in 10.6 minutes per game.
“I think those young guys are doing great. Coming into the season last year, they had to grow up quick and this year they’ll have to grow up even quicker,” Hill said. “Having Kevin Brown and his experience is going to help those guys grow a lot with him going to the (NCAA) tournament last year.”
Brown also said that the more opportunities he will be given in the UNO offense will allow him to play like the player he truly believes he can be.
“The biggest thing for me was having a bigger role. I was limited playing next to Elfrid,” Brown said of the former Ehret High School standout. “Elfred is a great friend of mine and I learned a lot from him, so I kind of wanted to take some of the things I learned from him and bring them here.”
The UNO women’s team’s is coming into the year following its second winless season, but coach Keeshawn Davenport believes that an opportunity at a postseason berth will motivate her team, as well.
Our girls are very aware of their opportunity,” Davenport said. “As soon as they found out they would have that opportunity this year, their mental approach changed and they came up with our slogan for the year, ‘G2K’.
“G2K” stands for Grind to Katy, Texas which is where this year’s Southland Women’s Tournament will be held.
“They realize that if they want to get there, that they are going to have to grind,” Davenport said. “Nobody will give it to them, they will have to earn it.”
The Lady Privateers return both of their leading scorers from last year’s team in sophomore Octavia Wilson and junior Danielle Davis, who averaged 9.3 points and 8.4 points per game, respectively.