Southern basketball roster evolving in wake of departures

The Southern men’s basketball program has a new assistant coach and a schedule for the upcoming season.

Soon the Jaguars hope to have something approaching a complete roster.

On Wednesday, Southern released its schedule and coach Roman Banks announced the hiring of former Nicholls State and Prairie View assistant Jethro Hillman. Banks also confirmed the departure of forwards Calvin Godfrey, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year last season, and Damien Goodwin. That duo would have been the Jaguars’ top inside players.

“That leaves us in a tough situation,” Banks said. “Right now we don’t really have an answer as it relates to anyone with any experience in the program at that position. We will fix that problem. We won’t complain about it.”

Godfrey, like all rising seniors at Southern, was free to transfer and become immediately eligible because of the NCAA postseason ban on the Jaguars’ athletic programs. Banks said he expected Godfrey to wind up at Memphis, which ESPN.com reported last week would be Godfrey’s new home. A Memphis spokesperson said he could not confirm Godfrey’s transfer there.

Banks said, “I’m not mad at (Godfrey); it’s disappointing this can happen to you.”

The postseason ban resulted from Southern’s inadequate reporting to the NCAA of student-athletes’ Academic Progress Rates. The university is in the process of compiling its data for the upcoming semester, which will yield updated long-term APR data that the NCAA will use in re-evaluating the Jaguars’ status. Banks said Southern should know its status for next season’s NCAA tournament “in six weeks or so.”

“We’re not going to let that be a crutch,” Banks said.

Banks said Goodwin was headed to South Carolina Upstate. As a rising sophomore, he will have to sit out the upcoming season unless the NCAA grants his request for a waiver due to the postseason ban.

As of Wednesday, the Jaguars had nine scholarship players, though Banks and his staff hope to bring in multiple recruits for the start of the fall semester Monday.

“We’re waiting to see who shows up,” Banks said.

Six of the returnees played last season: Trelun Banks (the coach’s son and the SWAC Freshman of the Year last year), Tre Lynch, Chris Hyder, Mike Harrell, Frank Snow and Cameron Monroe.

Keith Davis is a transfer from Texas A&M who sat out last season, Chris Thomas played at Glen Oaks and was a part-time student at Southern last season and Jared Sam is a freshman from Scotlandville.

“We’ll figure out what we need to do, how we need to play and we’ll get some guys better in our program,” Banks said. “We might change up our style of play to help out a little in the post.”

Banks said none of the coaches have taken vacation because they were engaged in “a continuous battle all summer long” to try to convince recruits to come to Southern despite the ban. He said the Jaguars missed out on their “first-tier guys,” but he added “we still think we can get a couple of pieces that can help right away.”

Southern played most of last season knowing the postseason ban was unlikely to be lifted and still won the SWAC regular-season title and finished 19-13. That led to Banks being named the conference Coach of the Year for the second time in his three seasons, including his first year, when Southern overcame a previous APR-induced ban to finish 17-14.

“In many ways I see it being more difficult than my first season when I took this job because I knew what I was getting into. This situation is unexpected,” Banks said.

“We won’t surprise anyone because the program is in a different state with the way people look at us. They won’t feel sorry for us and we won’t feel sorry for ourselves either.

“People think that we’re down, and it’s a true statement that we are down. We want to have a good down year. When it’s time to throw that ball up, we’re going to put a competitive team out there on that floor.”

Hillman replaced Ryan Price, who left earlier in the summer to take an assistant’s job at Prairie View. Morris Scott was promoted from assistant coach to associate head coach. Petey Cipriano and Rodney Kirschner remain assistants.

Southern opens its season Friday, Nov. 14, against Louisiana Tech in the F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Follow Les East on Twitter: @EastAdvocate.