Thursday, October 19, 2006
Ten Days of A-Sun Basketball takes a closer look at the Gardner-Webb Runnin' Bulldogs. After two-straight winning seasons, Gardner-Webb will start anew in 2006-2007. Head coach Rick Scruggs enters the campaign with a roster unlike any he has seen during his previous 10 years with the Runnin' Bulldogs. A total of 10 newcomers, believed to be the largest recruiting class in the nation this season in terms of total numbers, will suit up for the Runnin' Bulldogs this season - a stark contrast to last year's ultra-experienced team that went 17-12 and posted the program's signature upset at Big Ten foe Minnesota last November.
SEASON PREVIEW - (Courtesy Gardner-Webb Media Relations)
Despite the youth, Gardner-Webb has improved its overall athleticism and depth, which should favor a quicker pace on the court when the season begins in mid-November. The cupboard isn't totally bare, as 6-foot-4, 220-pound wing Chris Gash returns for his senior campaign.
The Kingstown, N.C., native (Burns HS) averaged 10.0 ppg last season and accounts for 55 percent of Gardner-Webb's returning scoring and rebounding. Another returning player with extensive starting experience is shooting guard Ricky McPhee (6-1, 175, So.), who netted 21 points in his college debut - a near upset of North Carolina, and averaged 6.1 ppg as the team's designated sharpshooter for much of the season (45 three-pointers). Classmate Takayo Siddle (5-11, 180, So.), who played in 27 games last season as the top reserve at point guard, also has college starting experience under his belt. The fourth returning letterwinner is 6-foot-8, 210-pound big forward Clint Graham, who has played sparingly his first two seasons - but has the potential to earn minutes as a junior.
Gardner-Webb's recruiting class, ranked as high as No. 49 nationally by Hoop Scoop (Louisville, Ky.), is a solid mix of size and experience, with three members coming from the junior college ranks, one coming after a year of prep school and the other seven set to make their mark straight out of high school. The two highest-rated prospects, both of whom should challenge immediately for starting spots, are center Samba Fall (6-9, 215, So.-JC, Dakar, Senegal) and guard Jake Sims (6-5, 205, Jr.-JC, Augusta, Kan.). Fall, who spent his freshman season at Pepperdine and last year at Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College, is a noted shotblocker with an intimidating 7-foot-2 wingspan.
Sims, an All-Jayhawk Conference player last season at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College and the league's top-rated shooter, averaged 10.0 ppg and was one of the Wichita area's top players as a prep senior at Augusta (Kan.) High. An offer from Colorado State, along with interest from mid-major power Wichita State.
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