Barons rework lineup, add newcomers for upcoming season
By Terry Gaston
When a team like the Brewton-Parker College Barons basketball squad begins a new season after losing its dominant player to graduation, such a campaign is often seen as a rebuilding or reloading year.
In the Barons' case, 13th-year head coach Steve Barker is doing more reconfiguring in formulating his team for the challenge that lies ahead.
Barker is asking his players returning from a 17-14 year - those who last season were in more supporting roles to all-conference point guard Derrick Green - to step up and provide the scoring and rebounding production.
In addition to the returnees, Barker has two transfers who are looking to provide the Barons with a strong balance of offensive production and rebounding success.
Among the returning Barons is Ryan Parry, a 6-foot-7 sophomore post player from Tanawah, Australia, who Barker expects to improve on his averages of 4.8 points and 4.0 rebounds as a freshman.
"Parry is the most talented of the five starters and is capable of averaging double figures this year," Barker said.
Hector Solano, a 6-6 junior post from Miami, returns after he led the Barons in rebounding last season with 4.9 per game and averaged 7.2 points while shooting a team-best 58.5 percent from the floor.
"I also think he is capable of averaging double figures," Barker said of Solano's exhibited improvement.
On Parry and Solano's roles, Barker said: "I think both gained valuable experience, they played in every game and started a lot of them, and they worked hard in the weight room in the off-season. We will look to both of them for leadership and both have had great preseasons."
The point guard duties belong to Ben McGlynn, a 6-1 junior from Mooloolaba, Australia, who was Green's understudy the past two years.
"He now has to step into some big shoes, but I think he is ready and showed that in our two scrimmages," Barker said of McGlynn, who averaged 4.6 points while making 50 percent of his 3-point shots (24 of 48) and 86.2 percent of his free throws (25 of 29) as a sophomore. "He's a good shooter and a good ball-handler, and I look for him to have a really good year."
In using a three-guard system, Barker will look to McGlynn to step into the point guard spot vacated by Green, with the trio of returnees Derrick Hairston, Jarvis Smith and Josh Stuart rotating to fill the two wing guard positions.
Smith, a 6-0 junior from Atlanta, will come off the bench in the rotation. Smith returns after he made a team-high 62 3-point baskets (37.1 percent) last winter while scoring 239 points (8.0), tops among Baron returnees.
Stuart, a 6-3 senior from Ashland City, Tenn., returns with the best average among returnees at 8.3 points in 28 games that includes 81.1 percent free-throw success (43 made, tops among returnees). Stuart also had 63 assists, the best among the returning Barons.
Hairston, a 6-3 senior from Lithia Springs, looks to elevate his output from a 4.7-point scoring average.
"All three returning wing guards are capable of having big-number nights," Barker said of Hairston, Smith and Stuart. "All three are good 3-point shooters and are good defenders. We don't drop off at all when any two of the three are in the game."
Barker also points to Hairston and Stuart for an added element of experience as the last two remaining players who were on the Barons' 2000 NAIA National Tournament team.
Among newcomers, Barker points to a pair of transfers who he believes will give the Barons a lift.
Gabe Bubon is a 6-3 senior guard from Warren, Ohio, who played at Point Park College (Pa.). In 1999-2000, Bubon led the American Mideast Conference with 21 points per game but has been out of college since. "He is a big-time scorer," Barker said.
Toms Lokmanis, a 6-5 sophomore originally from Riga, Latvia, but lives in Canada, played one year at McMaster University in Ontario and can play beginning with the Barons' Christmas Shoot-Out on Dec. 13-14.
"He is very versatile, can play the post and wing positions, and he's the strongest player on the team," Barker said. "In 18 years of coaching, I have never had a player work as hard as he does."
Among his freshmen, Barker sees Scott Hitchens, at 6-9 the tallest Baron, as a possible immediate impact player with his big, wide frame that brings added strength in the low post. Hitchens is from Brisbane, Australia.
Bryan Jett, a 6-7 sophomore post from Atlanta, was the leader last year among the other returnees with averages of 5.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. Other returnees are Davy Akin, 6-0 senior guard from Atlanta; Leron Green, 6-4 junior post from Rochester, N.Y.; and Tre Hill, 5-11 sophomore guard from Waycross.
Two other newcomers are Michael Loubier, 6-2 junior guard from Silver Springs, Md.; and Barry Robinson, 5-11 guard from Augusta.
An additional newcomer, perhaps the most welcome one in Barker's mind, is assistant coach Peter Dees, a longtime coach who most recently was athletic director of the Montgomery County Schools.
"Hiring Peter Dees has enabled me to get some much-needed experience on the bench with me," Barker said of his first full-time assistant since Tommy Dalley also began coaching the Lady Barons three years ago. "He is constantly playing with ideas and suggestions, which I think every coach needs."
The Barons also look to quickly establish a decisive home-court advantage in their new home, the Student Activities Center.
"They have just a whole new attitude and outlook as far as the their work ethic is concerned," Barker said of the players' upbeat reaction to their new home. "With the new gym, the guys know they have to put a good product on the court. My attitude has changed, and I come to work with an added excitement."
With three teams ranked in the NAIA's preseason national ratings, Barker looks for another tough race in the Georgia-Alabama-Carolina Conference.
"This conference, I think, is the best in the NAIA and rightfully so, because four teams went to the national tournament last year," Barker said. "We were fifth last year and are picked to finish in fifth again, but I think we are better than that. Our schedule is tougher than last year and we will have to play hard every night. We're looking to have a very good year."