Thousands of Spiders fans will fill the seats of the Robins Center this Friday night when the men’s basketball team takes the floor in their first game of the season, looking to improve on last season's disappointing record of 19-14.
Kendall Anthony leads the Spiders – the 5-foot-8-inch senior guard from Jackson, Tennessee, who has distinguished himself as a name worth mentioning in the college basketball world. Anthony made his presence known early at Richmond by winning the Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year, while averaging 13 points per game and appearing in all 32 games. At the end of last season, he was selected to the All-Atlantic 10 second team after averaging more than 15 points per game, which has earned him popularity and praise in the college basketball world.
Anthony has been named a preseason all-conference first-team member this season, making him the first Spider since Kevin Anderson in 2010 who has been given this distinction. He will need to continue his success this season in order to keep him his team competitive in a tough A-10.
Despite his importance, Anthony isn’t the only player the Spiders will need to put up big numbers this season. ShawnDre' Jones, who filled a void for the Spiders last season when Cedrick Lindsay’s season was ended by knee injuries, should see increased playing time this year.
Luke Winn of Sports Illustrated selected Jones as one of the nation’s breakout sophomore candidates for the 2014 season.
“Jones entered the rotation, and took shots at nearly the same rate and efficiency level as Lindsay, who had been averaging 18.3 points per game,” Winn wrote. “Kendall Anthony, a similarly undersized (at 5-8) and scoring-minded (26.7% of the team's possessions) combo guard, is a near-lock to be their leading scorer this season, but Jones could emerge as the No. 2.
“He's an even more accurate three-point (38.2%) and free-throw (87.8%) shooter than Anthony, and he seems to be the latest in Chris Mooney's line of underrated guard prospects at Richmond.”
Anthony and Jones will provide the numbers on offense, but the Spiders will rely on other players to lead their defense. The duo of 6-foot-9-inch Alonzo Nelson-Ododa and Trey Davis will highlight the defensive end of the floor for the Spiders this season.
Ododa led the team last year with 78 blocked shots and has the fourth most blocks in Richmond history with 140. He will be key to the Spiders’ defense, as he is a primary rebounder and was also able to score six points per game last year.
Davis was by far Richmond’s most active rebounder last season, grabbing 227 rebounds — the next highest total on the team is 187. Because both of Richmond’s guards are less than 6 feet tall, Davis will be seeing perhaps the most playing time of any Spider this season, as the team looks to take advantage his size and athleticism to improve on their ability to rebound.
The team also has a duo of dark horses who each have upside and could provide production on both offense and defense. These players are junior Deion Taylor and red-shirt sophomore T.J. Cline, both of who will try to establish roles in the Spiders’ rotation.
Taylor, at 6-foot-7-inches tall, is one of the more electrifying players on the Spiders’ roster because of his uncanny ability to take advantage of fast breaks with momentum-shifting dunks. He will need to improve his offensive numbers this season in order to be in the mix for a starting role.
Cline, a transfer from Niagara University and son of Basketball Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman, will have the most question marks surrounding him because he has yet to play for the Spiders in the tough A-10 conference. He received MAAC All-Rookie honors while at Niagara because of his 7.9 points per game and his unique ability as a tall forward to step behind the arc and make three-point shots.
Perhaps the most crucial player for Richmond this year is junior Terry Allen, whose all-around play could be what the Spiders need to make a deep conference tournament run. While Allen did not have any outstanding season statistics last year there were glimpses of the type of player he could be at the Atlantic 10 Tournament last season.
Against Duquesne University, in the first game of the conference tournament, Allen scored 27 points while grabbing seven rebounds and making four out of seven three-pointers to lead the Spiders to victory.
It will take solid play from Allen to keep the team multi-dimensional. He will have to stray from committing as many turnovers as he did last season, a team-high 1.7 per game, in order for the Spiders to run their offense effectively and create perimeter shots for Jones and Anthony.
The Atlantic 10 coaches predicted the Spiders would finish fifth in the conference this season after finishing in seventh place last year.
Richmond plays Radford University at 7:30 p.m. this Friday night in their season opener.
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