ISLANDERS VS. HUSTON-TILLOTSON
FRIDAY, NOV. 8 • 7:30 P.M.
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • DUGAN WELLNESS CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team opens its third season of the Willis Wilson era with a matchup against NAIA Huston-Tillotson on Friday, Nov. 8, at the Dugan Wellness Center. The contest is the first of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament, which runs through Nov. 17.
• Junior John Jordan was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches. Last season, Jordan averaged 12.8 PPG, 5.5 APG and 4.8 RPG, totals eclipsed by only two players in the nation.
• The Islanders took part in a 10-day, four-game tour of Italy in August, a trip that allowed them 10 extra days of practice prior to the tour.
• Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher returns to the court exactly 20 months after his last collegiate contest. He missed all of last season after having double labrum surgery.
• The Islanders are 12-2 all-time in season openers, including a 10-1 mark in season-opening games at home.
• A&M-Corpus Christi is 3-0 against Huston-Tillotson in program history, with the last game played in December 2006.
• Though Coach Wilson has his most experienced team with the Islanders, only five players have more than one year of Division I playing experience (Ali, Knowles, Jordan, Douvier, King).
THE ALL-TIME SERIES
The Islanders and Huston-Tillotson meet for the fourth time since the Islanders moved to Division I in 1999-2000. The Islanders and Rams played three times in a span of 22 months in 2005 and 2006. The closest contest in that span was a 28-point victory in December 2006.
THE GREAT DISTRIBUTOR
John Jordan is only a junior for the Islanders basketball team, but he's the most experienced player on the roster and one of the favorites for Southland Conference Player of the Year. The Houston native was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches.
The honor is no surprise when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season and has amassed in his two-year career. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) despite the fact that the Islanders only shot 40.6 percent from the field. He was 12th in the league in scoring at 12.8 points per game, and he finished just outside the Southland's top 15 with his 4.8 rebounds per game.
Only two players in the nation – South Dakota State's Nate Wolters and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton – had better numbers than Jordan in points, assists and rebounds last year. (See chart below.) His 5.5 assists per game placed him 39th in Division I.
Jordan has already etched his name in the school record book. He broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 297 career assists, he is already half way to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.
Jordan is also someone who is rarely seen on the bench. He averaged a Southland-leading 36.6 minutes per game, an average that put him 28th in the nation in that category. He is on pace to enter the career top 10 in minutes later this month.
GUESS WHO'S BACK
In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders will have a welcome face back in the fold that was missing last season. Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher, who sat out 2012-13 after double labrum surgery, is expected to be back in the starting lineup on Friday night.
Kocher played in 29 games as a freshman, averaging 3.2 points, but the main attribute he provides for the team is a toughness and work ethic that goes well above the norm. He is also one of the team's top outside shooters – an attribute that the Islanders struggled in last year.
In 2011-12, he did most of his damage down the stretch, including a career-high 15 points in the season's penultimate game at UT Arlington. He averaged 4.6 points in 17.0 minutes over the season's final seven games.
LONG IN THE TOOTH?
Though this is the most experienced team Willis Wilson has had in his three years at the Island University, A&M-Corpus Christi is still a youthful squad. Only five players – Hameed Ali, Zane Knowles, John Jordan, Bryce Douvier and James King – have more than one year of Division I basketball playing experience, and Douvier will be sitting out this year due to transfer regulations.
Ali, Jordan and King are the veterans of the group, as they (along with Kocher) are the only players in their third year at the University under Coach Wilson's leadership. Ali has played in 59 games for the Islanders, while King has registered 33.
Ali was the only player on the team to start all 29 games a year ago, and he flourished, averaging 7.5 points and totaling 42 steals on the year. King was the team's top three-point shooter a year ago, going 9-for-25 from downtown, in addition to providing strong leadership. The former walk-on was awarded a scholarship prior to this year.
PRIDE AND JOY
After being one of just five upperclassmen on the roster a year ago, Joy Williamson enters his second year as an Islander as one of just two seniors on the squad in 2013-14. The Oklahoma City native finished third on the Islanders in scoring a year ago, netting 8.3 points per game.
He posted 12 games of double-figure scoring in 2012-13, with all of those consisting of between 10 and 15 points. His career high of 15 came against Central Arkansas and was matched in the Homecoming contest with McNeese. He was also one of the strongest defensive players on the team, posting 34 steals on the year, a total which placed him third behind Hameed Ali and John Jordan.
The Islanders' most physically notable player is without question senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and is expected to be a force inside for the Islanders this year. He has improved significantly in the weight room, and his soft touch around the basket should help him be a scoring force inside.
A year ago, Knowles was just hitting his stride when an injury against UTSA sidelined him for the next five games. He got back into form later in the year, and matched his career high with 12 points against Southeastern Louisiana in the second-to-last home contest of the season. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games of the year, shooting 17-for-26 (.655) in that span.
Knowles came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling.