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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)
COACH AND PROGRAM
After consecutive ninth-place finishes in the SWAC, it's back to basics at Texas Southern this season.
Head coach Ronnie Courtney built a reputation for hungry, athletic squads in his previous job at Fort Bend Willowridge High in Missouri City, Texas, where he coached future stars such as Oklahoma State's Ivan McFarland, Duke's Daniel Ewing and current Toronto Raptor T.J. Ford. And although he won the SWAC title in his second attempt back in 2003, Courtney's crew has been on the outside looking in at conference tournament time for two straight seasons.
"There are things that I did when I got here that we've gotten away from," Courtney said. "We're going back to those things. My mind-set right now is to let our guys use their athleticism, and I'm just going to turn them loose."
In two words, last year's Tigers were quick and sloppy. They were one of the most relentlessly up-tempo teams in the nation, averaging 76.3 possessions per 40 minutes (12th in Division I), but ended up running themselves into plenty of empty possessions. When they did get to the basket, they were effective -- ranking 12th in the nation in free-throw production, which is free throws made divided by field goals attempted, with 30.9 -- but the team shot itself in its very swift feet by turning the ball over 24.7 percent of the time. That was the 14th worst figure in the nation.
Although the Tigers lose the services of leading scorer and assist leader Sean Walker (13.6 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 2.9 apg) to graduation, the good news in Houston is that their best all-around player is returning. Chris Moore (12.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg) is a 6-8 senior forward who transferred in from Arkansas State before last season. Moore notched 10 double-doubles along the way, and Courtney thinks he's in for a big final year.
"You've got to understand, Chris is an incredible competitor," Courtney said. "He's been in the weight room a lot this summer, working tremendously hard, doing a lot of running. I think he's going to lead us in a way that encourages our younger players."
Another hard offseason worker has been Jacque Jones (8.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg). Because of the roster makeup last season, the 6-7 Jones was out of position as a power forward. Courtney thinks his junior forward will blossom as an oversize wing and become a star in the league.
"I think people are going to see a big difference in Jacque," Courtney said. "He's going to be a much greater scorer. I talked to his high school coach over the summer, and he said Jaque was coming in every day working on his shot, working on his ball-handling skills."