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Those who left joined USI men’s basketball this offseason

EVANSVILLE — The University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball team is aiming for a bounce-back season as they enter their third year as a Division I program.

After playing in the College Basketball Invitational their first year, the Screaming Eagles struggled in their second. They finished 8-24 overall and lost in the first round of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament. It was their worst record in 49 years.

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USI now has a mostly new roster for the upcoming season, as one player graduated and seven others entered the transfer portal. While coach Stan Gouard has seen some growing pains as his team comes together, he is happy with the direction they are heading.

“We have a group of guys with great attitudes,” Gouard said. “They understand the mission of trying to compete for an OVC championship, and I think that’s a start. The moment guys here doubt what you’re trying to do is the moment you start to struggle. And I didn’t do that. I’ve seen some doubt in anyone’s mind right now.”

Here are USI’s departures from last season

  • Jeremiah Hernandez, transferred to Ball State (17.1 ppg, 3.0 rpg, started 20 games)
  • AJ Smith, transferred to James Madison (12.6 ppg, 8.9 rpg, started 22 games)
  • Jordan Tillmon, transferred to Prairie View A&M (8.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg in seven games)
  • Kiyron Powell, transferred to Western Illinois (5.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 22 blocks)
  • Nolan Causwell, graduate (3.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
  • Javius ​​Moore, undrafted (3.5 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
  • Yarin Hasson, non-binding (played only 27 minutes)
  • Xavier McCord, transferred to UT Tyler (did not play)

New faces on the West Side

Gouard said that everyone has persevered all summer so far and that every new transfer brings something with it:

  • Stephen Olowoniyi, a 6-foot-10 sophomore from Virginia Military Institute, is athletic around the rim.
  • Junior 6-3 guard Jared Washington recorded a season-high 585 points as the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Player of the Year at Weatherford.
  • Junior 6-foot-1 guard Braxton Jones averaged 18.9 points at Garden City Community College.
  • Damoni Harrison, a 6-5 junior, scored in double figures at Tallahassee CC.
  • Sam Kodi, a 6-3 junior, posted 7.3 assists per game at West Texas College.
  • Jayland Randall, a 6-5 junior guard, played two seasons at Alabama A&M and averaged 7.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 33 games.
  • Both new bigs are dealing with injuries: Alex Horiuk, a 7-foot center, a junior transfer from UT Rio Grande Valley, and 6-8 junior Jadyn Shider of Northwest Florida State College.

“Once we get our big guys back in rotation, we can do some more things,” Gouard said. “We are currently stuck with a lot of surveillance work.”

USI also has three local freshmen competing: Luke Davis, Josiah Dunham and Cayden Gehlhausen.

Dunham was a standout at Evansville Christian, scoring 2,373 career points (18th all-time in Indiana) and earning C&P All-Metro Player of the Year honors. Davis, also from ECS, was one of Class A’s top rebounders with nine boards per game, while Gehlhausen averaged 15 points per game at North, good for eighth in the Southern Indiana Athletic Conference.

Gouard said he can tell the freshmen have been well coached. He especially praised Dunham for already living like “a second-semester freshman.”

“He just has an IQ that is unique and that we had here in just a few years,” Gouard said. “His work ethic is unreal, but he came in from Day 1 and hit the ground running. He’s one of the first guys to come here along with Jack Mielke and the last to leave. Once he starts playing and gets a clock, I think he will be very productive for us.”

USI still prides itself as a player-led basketball team. It has seven returners, including Mielke, last winter’s third top scorer, and Jack Campion, another multi-year starter.

The Eagles aim to find more vocal leaders and improve the defense. They ranked last in the OVC in the category after allowing 74.4 points per game. Players holding each other accountable and continuing to build team culture are two more important goals USI wants to achieve.

“A lot of the little things we harped on last year didn’t quite get done,” Gouard said. “And we’re trying to make sure that we go into this summer and start working on those things from Day 1.”