STATESBORO, Ga. (WTOC) - There’s a lot of new around the Georgia Southern men’s basketball program.
New coach. New assistants. Plenty of new players.
The Eagles will be one of the nation’s newest teams in 2020-2021, returning just five lettermen from last year’s squad. They’ll have to replace 79.1 percent of scoring from the 2019 team, the 10th most in the country.
New head coach Brian Burg admits this offseason, with COVID-19 protocols in place to mitigate the spread of the virus, made it a challenge to find a way for his team to come together. He says it will take some time for this team to find itself, but is encouraged by how far the Eagles have already come.
“They’re going to have to understand brand new offensive concepts as well as defensive concepts, and then playing with brand new teammates,” Burg says. “But we’ve worked hard this preseason, trying to get a chance to gel. We had a great team retreat and I think that set the foundation for the season.”
Joining the Eagles this season are seven transfers, all eligible to play this season. It will be a much-different looking squad on the floor when the season tips off Wednesday.
Southern says they’ve come together to make sure they’re ready to put on a show.
“It’s a lot of dudes from a lot of different backgrounds, so learning about each other and becoming a tight knit family really has helped us bond together,” says sophomore guard/forward David Viti. “I think it’s going to make for a successful season.”
“They’re excited to get together. they’re excited to play, to compete. I think they’re going to bring it every single night,” Burg says. “That’s what we’re preaching on a day to day basis: the details and playing together in an unselfish brand of basketball. These guys are ready to play.”
A season starting later than normal has everyone on this team, newcomers and returners, itching for tip off Wednesday.
But it’s a special kind of desire for those who wore blue and white last season.
Southern’s last contest was on March 11, a 19-point drubbing of Georgia State in Atlanta in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament quarterfinals. The Eagles believed they were playing their best basketball, and just two wins away from a conference championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament.
One day later, the Sun Belt canceled the remainder of the tournament as the COVID-19 pandemic began.
That sudden end to a promising season and extended wait for the start of this year has left the returning Eagles ready to get to tip off Wednesday.
“It’s been since March and it didn’t end how it was supposed to,” says junior guard Elijah McCadden. “Just anxiousness ready to play and a lot of excitement from the team.”
“The last time that we stepped off that court after beating Georgia State, we were pretty excited,” Viti says. “To get that taken away kind of hurt, but [Wednesday] it’s going to feel pretty good.”
The Eagles tip off the 2020-2021 season Wednesday afternoon at 1:00 p.m., hosting NAIA opponent Florida National. Fan capacity at Hanner Fieldhouse will be limited to 25% and face coverings will be required for all fans.