THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team heads north to face off with Big Ten foe Minnesota in its final contest of 2013 on Saturday, Dec. 28. It will be the final game before conference play opens on Thursday, Jan. 2. The game will be televised nationally on the Big Ten Network.
• After missing the CMU game due to injury, John Jordan has averaged 18.3 points, 5.4 assists and 5.8 rebounds in the last four games.
• Having missed the first nine games with an injury, Rashawn Thomas made his debut in a big way, posting a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds at Oklahoma. He added 10 points last time out against Cal State Northridge.
• Freshman forward Jeff Beverly matched his career best with 20 points against UTPB. The big man has scored in double figures seven times and is averaging 11.1 points per game.
• Five of the Islanders' nine losses have been by five points or fewer, including three by two points or fewer.
• 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.
• 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
Saturday's contest will be the first between the Islanders and Minnesota, though Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is 0-7 against the Big Ten all-time (most notably in the team's 2007 NCAA Tournament appearance - a 76-63 loss to Wisconsin.)
LAST TIME OUT
John Jordan's jumper at the buzzer rimmed out, as the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team lost a back-and-forth affair to Cal State Northridge, 67-66. Jordan had 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists in the loss. The Matadors placed four players in double figures, led by Josh Greene and Stephan Hicks, who each scored 18. Rashawn Thomas also finished in double figures for the Islanders.
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.
He showed his worthiness for that selection in the opening game of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament. Jordan went off for a career-high 28 points, going 10-for-16 from the field. His final basket gave the Islanders a one-point lead with 4.2 seconds remaining en route to a 72-71 win. He added 18 points and nine boards against Tennessee Tech.
He suffered an ankle injury earlier this year that forced him to miss the Central Michigan game. But he has returned with gusto, and is averaging 18.3 points, 5.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds over the last four contests. He has had 10+ points, 5+ boards and 5+ dimes in each of those contests. Included in the stretch is a 25-point outing against UTPB.
It's hard not to be impressed when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) and 12th in the league with 12.8 points per game. His 5.5 assists per game were 39th in Division I.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 349 career assists, he is over halfway to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.
A RESOUNDING DEBUT
Freshman Rashawn Thomas was one of the most electrifying players for the Islanders over the summer. During the team's trip to Italy, he had a double-double in each of the team's four games and was expected to make an immediate impact from the season opener on.
But the fates turned another direction for Thomas. The Oklahoma City native fractured his jaw on Nov. 7, the day before the Islanders' first game of the year against Huston-Tillotson. He missed the first nine games of the season.
On Dec. 3, Thomas was cleared by the doctor to return to the court, and the freshman had just one practice to get back up to speed before heading to Oklahoma to play in front of his friends and family from nearby Oklahoma City.
Any doubts about the 6-foot-7 forward being tentative were instantly alleviated. Thomas missed his first two shots, but converted his first career points at the 8:25 mark. By the time the dust had settled in the game, the freshman had 12 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals. He became the first Islander freshman with a double-double in his debut since Corey Lamkin had 16 points and 15 rebounds against Sul Ross State on Nov. 16, 2001.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior year at Southeast HS.
Thomas' classmate, fellow freshman Jeff Beverly, joined the Islanders as a highly-touted prospect out of the Houston area known for his scoring ability. Though he had a slow start to his career with a pedestrian seven points and four rebounds against Huston-Tillotson, he made his presence known in the game against Iowa State.
Beverly went 5-for-11 from the field with eight rebounds – four offensive - one block, one steal and one assist, all with just one turnover in a career-high 31 minutes. But what was more of a shock to the Cyclones was likely Beverly's range. The 6-foot-6, 245 pounder stepped back and drilled 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc.
He showed more of the same for his home fans at the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament. He set a new career high before halftime against Tennessee Tech, going 5-for-6 with 15 points in the opening stanza, finishing with 18.
He has had issues with foul trouble, but exploded for a career-high 20 in his return to his hometown of Houston on Nov. 30. He went 7-for-12 from the field and posted his fourth game this season that he was perfect from the stripe.
He struggled in the contest at Oklahoma, as foul trouble kept him to 22 minutes, but came back with 20 points against Texas-Permian Basin, matching his career high. The blemish, though, came at the free-throw line, where the normally reliable Beverly went just 4-for-8. He did hit both his three-point attempts, and is now 8-for-18 from beyond the arc on the season. He is averaging 11.1 points on the year.
Beverly averaged 22.3 points and 11 boards at Clear Springs High School, and was named first team all-state.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
During the Islanders' seven-game losing streak, the team has been reasonably consistent on offense. The team is averaging 66.7 points – exactly the same as the season average. The team has actually been more efficient from the field as of late, converting at a .442 clip from the floor, up from .434.
The major difference is on the defensive end, though. Over the first five games, opponents were averaging 63.8 points with 14.6 of those coming at the foul line. In the last seven, the opposition is averaging 74.7 points with 20.9 of those coming at the foul line. Likewise, the opposition is shooting .479 from the field in the last five, as opposed to .403 in the first five contests.
Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher was recently named a nominee for the 2014 Allstate National Association of Basketball Coaches Good Works Team. The award recognizes a select group of college basketball student-athletes who have made significant contributions to the greater good of their communities through volunteerism and civic service. A total of 118 players were nominated for the award, including 75 student-athletes from NCAA Division I.
Kocher has been extremely active in the community, both in Corpus Christi and his hometown of Austin. He has worked mainly with youngsters, volunteering with such organizations as the Boys & Girls Club, Boy Scouts, Ronald McDonald House and the Miracle League, and has spoken at several elementary and middle schools, serving as a role model for the youth of Corpus Christi.