HOLIDAY INN DOWNTOWN MARINA ISLANDERS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT
FRIDAY, NOV. 15 • SATURDAY, NOV. 16 • SUNDAY, NOV. 17
CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS • AMERICAN BANK CENTER
RADIO: NEWSRADIO 1360 KKTX (YANNIS KOUTROUPIS)
THE OPENING TIP
The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi men's basketball team hosts three games in three days in the round-robin portion of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament this weekend at the American Bank Center. The Islanders will face IPFW Friday at 7:30 p.m., Tennessee Tech on Saturday at 5:30 and Texas-Pan American on Sunday at 3:30.
• Senior Zane Knowles had a monster night in the opener, posting his first career double-double with 12 points and 18 rebounds. The 18 caroms were the second-most in school history.
• Junior John Jordan was named Preseason First Team All-Southland Conference by the league's coaches.
• 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.
• Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher had a triumphant return to the court on Friday, going for 10 points, six rebounds and four steals. He missed all of last season after having double labrum surgery.
• Freshman Jeff Beverly had a tremendous night at Iowa State, with career highs in points (14) and rebounds (8).
• 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 ALL-TIME SERIES
This will be the first meeting between Tennessee Tech and the Islanders in program history, but A&M-Corpus Christi faced IPFW and Texas-Pan American on several occasions early in program lore. The Islanders are 4-2 against IPFW all-time and 11-5 against the Broncs.
The Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament is in its first year of existence, though Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has a long history of hosting multi-team events. From 2000-02, the school hosted the Koch Petroleum Islanders Classic, and from 2003-07, the team hosted the Flint Hills Resources Islanders Invitational. The Islanders went a combined 12-4 in those tournaments.
This year's tournament is slightly different, in that it is a true multi-team event, more commonly known as an "exempt tournament." Teams can take part in one such event per year, and in doing so are allowed to play a total of 31 games during the regular season rather than 29. As part of this event, the Islanders and UTPA faced Huston-Tillotson, while Tennessee Tech and IPFW faced IU-Kokomo.
A&M-Corpus Christi also took part in the Corpus Christi Challenge in 2004-05, though the city of Corpus Christi, rather than the Islanders themselves, were the host.
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 Islanders' season opener. The Houston native scored 21 points and added six rebounds and six assists in just 25 minutes of work. He struggled against Iowa State, though he was still able to put together 11 points, six rebounds and four assists to just two turnovers, but shot just 4-of-14 from the field and only mustered four free throw attempts - a stark contrast to his career-best 13 free throws made and 17 attempted against HTU.
The honor is no surprise when looking at the numbers that the 5-foot-10 Jordan put up last season and has amassed in his two-year career. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) despite the fact that the Islanders only shot 40.6 percent from the field. He was 12th in the league in scoring at 12.8 points per game.
Only two players in the nation – South Dakota State's Nate Wolters and Louisiana-Lafayette's Elfrid Payton – had better numbers than Jordan in points, assists and rebounds last year. (See chart below.) His 5.5 assists per game placed him 39th in Division I.
Jordan has already etched his name in the school record book. He broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 307 career assists, he is already half way to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.
Jordan is also someone who is rarely seen on the bench. He averaged a Southland-leading 36.6 minutes per game and is on pace to enter the career top 10 in minutes.
The Islanders' most physically notable player is without question senior Zane Knowles. The native of Nassau, Bahamas, stands 6-foot-10 and 240 pounds and is expected to be a force inside for the Islanders this year. He has improved significantly in the weight room, and his soft touch should help him be a scoring force inside.
He showed up in a big way in the season opener, scoring 12 points and snaring 18 rebounds for his first career double-double. The 18 rebounds matched the second-highest total in school history, and were the most for an Islander since Corey Lamkin grabbed 18 at Air Force on Jan. 21, 2004. It more than doubled his previous career high, as his prior best was eight boards vs. Lamar on Feb. 7, 2013.
A year ago, Knowles was just hitting his stride when an injury against UTSA sidelined him for five games. He got back into form late in the year, matching his career high with 12 points against Southeastern La. in the second-to-last home contest of the season. He averaged 9.3 points and 3.5 rebounds in the last four games of the year, shooting 17-for-26 (.655) in that span.
Knowles came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling.
Though Knowles was the ringleader, several other Islanders had strong games on the glass. Six players snared at least three boards and 12 of the 13 players who logged minutes had at least one rebound. The 53 rebounds for the team were the most by an Islanders squad since Ronnie Arrow's crew snared 53 against Longwood on Feb. 4, 2006. The plus-20 rebound margin was the highest for A&M-Corpus Christi in the Willis Wilson era. The Islanders followed that up with an impressive 39 rebounds - 14 on the offensive glass - at Iowa State.
GUESS WHO'S BACK
In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders will have a welcome face back in the fold that was missing last season. Redshirt sophomore Jake Kocher, who sat out 2012-13 after double labrum surgery, was back in the starting lineup on Friday night.
His return to the court was a triumphant one, as Kocher poured in 10 points to go along with a career-high six rebounds and four steals against HTU. He was 4-for-5 from the field in 20 minutes of action.
Kocher played in 29 games as a freshman, averaging 3.2 points, but the main attribute he provides for the team is a toughness and work ethic that goes well above the norm. He is also one of the team's top outside shooters – an attribute that the Islanders struggled in last year.
In 2011-12, he did most of his damage down the stretch, including a career-high 15 points in the season's penultimate game at UT Arlington. He averaged 4.6 points in 17.0 minutes over the season's final seven games. He is the city of Austin's all-time leading scorer from his days at St. Michael's Academy.