THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team opens its eighth season of Southland Conference basketball with a contest at Central Arkansas on Thursday night. The Islanders are looking to snap an eight-game losing streak in the matchup.
• After missing the CMU game due to injury, John Jordan has averaged 15.6 points, 5.0 assists and 6.4 rebounds in the last five 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 eight points, two blocks and three steals at Minnesota.
• Freshman forward Jeff Beverly matched his career best with 20 points against UTPB. The big man has scored in double figures eight times and is averaging 11.0 points per game.
• Five of the Islanders' 10 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 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 15.6 points, 5.0 assists and 6.8 rebounds over the last five contests. He has had 10+ points, 5+ boards and 5+ dimes in four of the last five games. 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 350 career assists, he is now second in school history and closing on Brian Evans' 493.
A JAW-DROPPING START
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.
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.
He has had some struggles with foul trouble, but his last two contests have been strong nonetheless. He had 10 points against Northridge, then posted eight points to go with two blocks and three steals at Minnesota.
Thomas was a McDonald's All-America nominee and was named City Player of the Year his senior season 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-21 from beyond the arc on the season. He is averaging 11.0 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 63.9 points – just a shade off the season average of 64.9. The team has actually been more efficient from the field as of late, converting at a .432 clip, up from .430.
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 eight, the opposition is averaging 73.5 points with 19.8 of those coming at the foul line. Likewise, the opposition is shooting .464 from the field in the last five, as opposed to .403 in the first five contests.
The Minnesota contest, though, was the exception to that trend. The Islanders played strong defense - holding the Gophers to 37.3 percent from the field - but couldn't convert on the offensive end, scoring a season-low 44 points. A&M-Corpus Christi was just 1-for-15 from downtown.
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 sat out the season opener, but returned to the floor at ISU with a mixed bag, scoring three points and pulling in four rebounds.
Though he was overshadowed by Jordan's stellar play, Williamson had an outstanding game against IPFW. The senior went 5-for-9 from the floor, scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds, four on the offensive end. He struggled to score the remainder of the weekend, but had a strong all-around game against Texas-Pan American, dishing out five assists and nabbing five rebounds. Still, his scoring had slackened, and he didn't even record an official shot against CMU.
Then, at Houston, he got off the schneid with a shot that was called for a goaltend, awarding him a bucket. Later in the first half, he knocked down a three pointer that banked off the glass and in. These two shots seemed to boost the senior's confidence, though, as he continued his strong play into the second half. He finished with a career-high 18 points on 5-of-6 shooting to go along with a 6-of-7 performance at the free-throw line. He has scored 20 points over the last three games.
The native of Oklahoma City played two years at Redlands Community College under current Islanders assistant coach Yaphett King.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has been surprisingly efficient in converting three-point plays this year. The Islanders are 14-for-19 (.737) at the line after being awarded a basket and a foul, far better than their overall mark at the stripe (.682). Both John Jordan (5-for-5) and Joy Williamson (5-for-5) have seen multiple instances of perfection when finishing a three-point play. Against Minnesota, the Islanders had their greatest struggles this year in that situation, converting just once in three tries.