Ask Southern coach Morris Scott how his first five games went to begin his maiden season as Southern’s head coach.
He’ll respond a little something like this: Southern’s opening five games, all road losses, weren’t easy. Scott, who assumed the role from former coach Roman Banks, Southern’s current athletic director, wasn’t dealt the easiest hand to begin his opening season, either.
Entering his seventh season on Southern’s staff, Scott has had to wear his game-manager hat quite often as the program's new leader, attempting to figure which Jaguars can be relied on nightly other than senior star forward Jared Sam, who leads Southern in scoring.
The Jaguars are full of firsts. They have seven first-year players in Scott’s first season and are still searching for their first win.
“That’s the tough part,” Scott said. “Knowing how to manage those guys with the new guys. Knowing which buttons to push to get them to come on and how to know how to handle them. That’s the toughest part. As an assistant coach you just go with the flow of the head coach, kind of, and you try to get the most out of them as you can.
“But as the head coach, you’ve got wear a different hat. Know when to pull them, when to push and when to grab them and give them a hug at the same time.”
Scott’s first five games featured trips to Illinois, Marshall, Missouri State, top-ranked Duke and North Carolina Central. The Jaguars scored an average of 63 points per game and allowed 85.8 against squads from the country’s premier conferences.
“We got through it,” Scott said. “But it went well though, I thought. Because it gave us the chance to learn a lot about our team.”
When searching for more production from all, Southern's soon to return a few pieces from injury.
Aaron Ray, a 6-foot-3 two-way guard, missed Southern’s past two games with a mild concussion, Scott said. Ray, however, isn’t expected to play in Southern’s 7 p.m. game Wednesday against Tennessee-Martin.
“Our wing guy, that’s we’re kind of counting on to be a scorer and defensive guy for us at the same time,” Scott said of the junior Ray. “Not having him hurt the last couple of games.”
Mubashar Ali, Southern’s only 7-footer, is expected to return against UT-Martin after missing the Jaguars' Sunday loss to North Carolina Central with an illness (common cold).
“Nothing major,” he said.
Set for home opener
Tipoff for the Jaguars' home opener at the F.G. Clark Activity Center is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday against Tennessee-Martin. The visiting Skyhawks are expected to be one of the larger teams Southern will face this season, Scott said.
Behind a pair of projected 6-2 or 6-3 starting guards, UT-Martin has a frontcourt of three players all taller than 6-8, Scott said.
“We’ve had a chance to look at them a little bit,” Scott said. “They’re a really tough team. They play really hard. They’re really long. They’ll start probably one of the biggest front lines we’ll see all season.”