Redhawks carry mounting load into '09

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Many obstacles face the Southeast Missouri State men's basketball team, almost too many to overcome.

Junior center Calvin Williams said he sees why people might think that, but he vows that the Redhawks are determined to beat back the odds.

"It is tough [to stay positive], 'cause we have a lot going on in this program," Williams said. "We just have to basically suck it up.

"We're going to find the light."

The undermanned Redhawks (3-10, 0-2 Ohio Valley Conference) hope to begin finding the light on the road over the next three days.

Southeast resumes its OVC schedule today with a 7:30 p.m. tipoff at Tennessee Tech (6-5, 0-1).

The Redhawks then venture into Alabama for Monday's 7:30 p.m. game with Jacksonville State (7-3, 1-0).

"We just have to go down there [Tennessee Tech], compete and get a win," Southeast acting coach Zac Roman said.

The turmoil for the Redhawks began just before the start of practice in October when the program was rocked by allegations of NCAA violations and coach Scott Edgar was placed on administrative leave.

Roman was named acting coach in October, and Edgar was fired this week. But the coaching upheaval is only part of Southeast's troubles.

Southeast began the season with just nine available scholarship players, but junior guard Jimmy Drew has not yet seen any action because of a foot problem.

Junior wing Johnny Hill missed Wednesday's 70-69 home loss to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, which meant the Redhawks used only seven players.

With Drew sidelined indefinitely and Hill not expected back to practice until next week, the Redhawks again will have just seven players available for this road trip.

"We got to stay positive and keep believing," senior guard Kenard Moore said. "We have the tools to do it."

Roman said he appreciates the effort and toughness the Redhawks have displayed in the face of so much adversity.

"We're fighting, we're hanging in there," Roman said.

Of course, Roman knows a team is measured primarily by its record, and the Redhawks need to start picking up some wins so they don't fall into a big OVC hole early. But this road trip appears daunting.

Tennessee Tech is among the OVC's most talented squads, and Southeast has not fared well against the Eagles, losing 10 of the past 11 meetings.

The Eagles feature one of the OVC's premier big men in 6-foot-9 senior center Daniel Northern, who led the league in rebounding and blocked shots last season.

Northern is averaging 11.9 points, eight rebounds and 2.4 blocks. He is second in the OVC in rebounding and first in blocks.

But Northern has nothing on Williams, who is having a monster season.

Williams, a 6-9 junior, is sixth in the OVC in scoring (16.7), fourth in rebounding (7.3) and second in blocks (2.2).

Williams also is third in field-goal percentage (54.1) and 10th in free-throw percentage (75.9).

"Calvin is having a great season," Roman said. "That should be a very good matchup between him and Northern."

Tennessee Tech lost its conference opener at home to Jacksonville State, which has been the surprise of the league so far after finishing last a year ago.

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