ISLANDERS VS. RICE
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 20 • 7 P.M.
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 plays its fourth consecutive home game, with regional foe Rice coming to the American Bank Center Wednesday for a 7 p.m. tip. The Islanders are off to their best start in the Willis Wilson era with a 3-2 mark on the year, having finished the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament with a 2-1 record.
The Islanders will host a food drive associated with Wednesday's contest - fans bringing two canned goods will receive a buy one, get one free coupon to the game.
• Juniors John Jordan and Hameed Ali each were named to the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina All-Tournament Team. Jordan scored 28 points and hit the winning shot against IPFW, while Ali had 12-plus points in every game, including 17 in the victory over Texas-Pan American.
• Freshman Jeff Beverly has become an offensive force, averaging 11.0 points per game thus far. He had a career-best 18 points against Tennessee Tech on Saturday.
• Senior Zane Knowles posted the second double-double of his career on Sunday against Texas-Pan American, scoring a career-best 13 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
• 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.
• 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 is the second meeting between the Islanders and Owls since the intercollegiate athletics program was restarted for the 1999-2000 season. Two years ago, A&M-Corpus Christi visited Houston and was knocked off by the Owls, 78-66. Then-freshman John Jordan had seven points, four assists and four steals for an Islanders squad that was missing several players.
Though the Islanders and Owls have met just once in program history, Rice is plenty familiar to the A&M-Corpus Christi coaching staff. Head Coach Willis Wilson played four years for the Owls and went on to coach there for 16 years at the helm of the program after five seasons as an assistant. He is the all-time winningest coach in the history of the Owls program. Associate Head Coach Marty Gross is also very familiar with Rice, as he was on Wilson's staff there for 15 seasons.
The Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament was a strong success, featuring six tremendously competitive games. The Islanders went 2-1 along with IPFW, while Texas-Pan American and Tennessee Tech went 1-2. With A&M-Corpus Christi having knocked off IPFW head-to-head, the Islanders were the unofficial tournament champions. John Jordan and Hameed Ali were both named to the All-Tournament Team, and were joined by Luis Jacobo (IPFW), Dwan Caldwell (TTU) and Javorn Farrell (UTPA).
With a 3-2 record on the season, the Islanders are out to their best start of the Willis Wilson era, and are already halfway to last season's win total. The last time A&M-Corpus Christi was 3-2 through the first five games of the season was in the 2009-10 campaign, when the Islanders won 17 games overall and went 10-6 in Southland play. The Islanders started that season 4-2 before losing four in a row.
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 this past weekend. In the opening game of the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Islanders Basketball Tournament, Jordan went off for a career-high 28 points, going 10-for-16 from the field. His final basket gave the Islanders a one-point lead with 4.2 seconds remaining en route to a 72-71 win. He added 18 points and nine boards against Tennessee Tech, then wrapped the weekend with just seven points, but dished out seven assists and snared six rebounds.
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. 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 320 career assists, he is 64.9 percent of the 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.
He posted his second double-double in the win over Texas-Pan American. The senior netted a career-high 13 points and coupled it with 12 rebounds to help the Islanders to a strong performance inside against the Broncs. He narrowly missed a double-double in the Tournament opener against IPFW, finishing with nine points and nine boards.
Knowles came to the Islanders after a year at Pearl River (Miss.) Community College and a season at Grambling.
Freshman Jeff Beverly joined the Islanders as a highly-touted prospect out of the Houston area known for his scoring ability. Though he had a slow start to his career with a pedestrian seven points and four rebounds against Huston-Tillotson, he made his presence known in the game against Iowa State.
Beverly went 5-for-11 from the field with eight rebounds – four offensive - one block, one steal and one assist, all with just one turnover in a career-high 31 minutes. But what was more of a shock to the Cyclones was likely Beverly's range. The 6-foot-6, 245 pounder stepped back and drilled 3-of-5 shots from beyond the arc.
He showed more of the same for his home fans last weekend. After a quiet night against IPFW, he set a new career high before halftime against Tennessee Tech, going 5-for-6 with 15 points in the opening stanza, finishing with 18. He added 12 against UTPA and is second on the team with his 11.0 average on the year.
Beverly averaged 22.3 points and 11 boards at Clear Springs High School, and was named first team all-state.
BACK ON TRACK
It was a tough offseason for Hameed Ali. The junior suffered an injury, had surgery and was unable to play basketball from April to October. That meant he was unable to play during the team's foreign tour in Italy, and the staff even considered redshirting him this season.
But the junior who started 29 games a season ago was not to be kept off the court. Ali had two decent performances the first two games of the season, as he got his feel for the game back, then exploded in the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament.
In the IPFW game, he scored 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but was overshadowed by the 28 points his backcourt mate John Jordan scored. Against Tennessee Tech, he scored 12 more points, including a three in the closing seconds to put the Islanders in reach, and took the last shot of the game, but his attempt to send the contest to overtime rimmed out. In the final game of the weekend, he went 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-4 from downtown to post 17 points to go along with four rebounds and four assists. With that surge, he is third on the team in scoring at 10.2 per game.
Ali is the second most experienced Islanders player (behind Jordan) with 1,555 career minutes and 45 career starts.
Though Knowles as been the ringleader, the Islanders as a whole have been very strong on the glass. They have outrebounded three of their five opponents, and despite a wide margin in shooting percentage, finished just one board behind Iowa State. Tennessee Tech posted a plus-two margin on the glass.
The season opener was the most notable statline, though, as the Islanders nabbed 53 rebounds to Huston-Tillotson's 33. 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.
Knowles leads the Islanders and is third in the Southland with 10.4 rebounds per game, while his 7.8 defensive boards are far and away tops in the league. John Jordan is second on the team and 16th in the Southland with 6.2 per game, while Joy Williamson has nabbed 5.0 each contest.