Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MATURING BRONCOS READY TO TAKE NEXT STEP IN REBUILDING EFFORT

FSU eager to translate home success to the road

FAYETTEVILLE, NC – Rested and healthy, the Fayetteville State Broncos are eager to get back onto the hardwood.

They are also eager to establish a winning attitude on the road.

As the Broncos played their first season under new coach Alphonza Kee in 2009-10, they encountered the typical growing pains rebuilding programs face. While Fayetteville State was competent in the friendly confines of Felton J. Capel Arena – the Broncos were 7-8 at home last season – it struggled on the road, finishing 1-10 away from Fayetteville and winless in CIAA play in opponents’ gyms.

Kee is bent on fixing that problem, and believes the team can make its initial steps toward rectifying the issue as it embarks on a holiday tournament at Florida Tech in Melbourne, FL. The Broncos will play twice this weekend, against tournament hosts Florida Tech at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and then at 2 p.m. against Barry on Saturday.

“It’s a building process, and the next step for our program is winning on the road,” says Kee. “Last year we won games at home but only won one game on the road. We’ll be on the road for a while now, and it will let us know how we’ve matured.”

The Broncos will get a heavy dose of life away from home – they will play their next six games on the road, including a Dec. 4 game at East Carolina – before returning to Capel Arena on Jan. 6 to face CIAA foe Bowie State. After that, though, Fayetteville State will then play three of its next four games away from home as well.

But there is reason to be optimistic about the Broncos’ chances of exorcising their road demons of a year ago. The team is vastly different than the one from last year, which has been evident in the two victories to open the season. After outplaying Barber-Scotia in the season opener, the Broncos rallied from a 10-point second half deficit against St. Andrews, using a 31-12 run in the final 12 minutes to win handily, 83-73.

It was a victory that perhaps the Broncos of last season may not have picked up, and one that overcame some offensive issues that were prevalent because of injuries to two starters before the game.

“We’ve established that we have a system that the guys are believing in,” Kee says. “We have a myriad of people playing together for one cause. Guys have played together and stepped up. I think they believe if they do it together, they have a chance to be successful.

“We have more depth and we have more belief in our vision to defend,” adds Kee. “We’re not going to allow our shooting, or any lack thereof, affect our effort. I saw maturity in playing through offensive adversity and continuing with defensive intensity.”

The Broncos have not played since Nov. 15, but have welcomed the time off to deal with minor injuries to leading returning scorer Ariel Robinson (Sr., Coral Springs, FL) and Devin Thompson (Fr., Fayetteville, NC). Both players will return this weekend, adding scoring and moderate size to a team that has rebounded well in the early going this season thanks to junior college transfers Sidney Evans (Jr., Durham, NC) and John Herrington (Jr., Jacksonville, NC). Jarmel Baxter (Jr., Davidson, NC) has been the team’s key offensive threat, shooting 47 percent from 3-point range on his way to averaging 20.5 ppg in the third first two games.

“(The break has) been good because we’ve had guys injured,” Kee says. “We’ve had a few bumps and bruises that needed to get healed. I think rest and a chance to sharpen up will overtake the possibility of being rusty.”

And the Broncos will need to be sharp if they are to begin their lengthy road trip with wins. Florida Tech (4-1), while picked to finish sixth in the Sunshine State Conference, returns four regular starters from its 2009-10 squad. The Panthers are led by Justin Sedlak, who has had a standout career for the Panthers in which he has amassed 1,317 points and 618 rebounds, leading the team in both categories both as a sophomore and junior. His individual honors include being a two-time all-conference and two-time All-South Region player, and leading the team to an impressive 20-8 record during his sophomore campaign.

“Florida Tech is a very good program,” Kee says of the Panthers, who played an exhibition game against No. 9 Florida. “They’re very balanced, very well-coached and they’ve had success. They’re very complete, balanced and an NCAA-bound basketball team.”

Barry, meanwhile, is 0-3 and is coming off an 83-75 overtime loss to Winona State.

“Barry historically has had a great system, excellent coaching and plays hard,” says Kee.

While the Broncos certainly have specific goals in mind as they begin their first road trip of the young season, Kee says the team will return to Fayetteville after the weekend with a stronger identity.

“It’ll be good for bonding,” says Kee. “We talk about our circle, that we’re a family, and I think being away and spending the holiday together will give us a chance to bond as a family. Also, being that far away, we’ll have no one but ourselves while we’re competing.”

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