ISLANDERS (3-4) VS. CENTRAL MICHIGAN (3-3)
TUESDAY, NOV. 26 • 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 returns home for its sixth game in 12 days when it plays host to Central Michigan on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in the American Bank Center. The Islanders are looking to return to .500 after an 87-76 defeat at the hands of UTSA on Saturday.
• Junior Hameed Ali is now averaging 11.1 points per game after scoring a career-high 21 at UTSA on Saturday. Ali went 8-for-12 from the field and 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.
• Jelani Currie also had a huge game, mostly in the second half, at UTSA. He netted a career-best 15 points in just 11 minutes of play, becoming the first Islander since Scooby Johnson (3/11/07 vs. Northwestern State) to go 5-for-5 from the field or better.
• Jake Kocher had a strong game last time out, putting up 11 points in a career-high 25 minutes. The redshirt sophomore missed all of last season after double labrum surgery. Kocher added three assists and four steals against the Roadrunners.
• 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
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi won the only matchup it has ever taken part in against Central Michigan. The Islanders traveled to Mount Pleasant as part of the ESPN Bracketbusters event in Willis Wilson's first season, and A&M-Corpus Christi knocked off the Chippewas 49-47 despite not having a single scorer in double figures. Hameed Ali's three with 7:18 to play gave the Islanders a lead they would not relinquish against the Chippewas.
LAST TIME OUT
Keon Lewis scored a career-high 30 points to lead UTSA to an 87-76 victory over the Islanders in the Convocation Center. The Roadrunners hit nine of their first 13 shots from beyond the arc and shot 24-for-39 (.615) overall from the floor in the contest. The Islanders were led by Hameed Ali, who netted a career-high 21 points, while Jelani Currie (career-high 15) and Jake Kocher (11) also finished in double figures.
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. 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. He is now averaging 11.1 points per game on the year.
He had an off game against Rice, going 2-for-9, but came right back with a career-high 21 points at UTSA. Ali went 8-for-12 from the field, knocking down all three triples he took. He added four assists and four steals as well.
Ali is the second most experienced Islanders player (behind Jordan) with 1,603 career minutes and 48 career starts.
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 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. Jordan was second in the league in assists (5.5 per game) and 12th in the league with 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 were 39th in Division I.
Jordan broke the school record with 138 assists as a freshman, then bested his own mark with 159 as a sophomore. With 327 career assists, he over halfway to the school record of 493, held by Brian Evans.
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 at the Holiday Inn Downtown Marina Tournament. 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 14 against Rice, giving him three straight games in double figures.
Beverly averaged 22.3 points and 11 boards at Clear Springs High School, and was named first team all-state.
Amid the down games for several Islanders at UTSA was a standout performance for a player who had been struggling to get going. Sophomore Jelani Currie came off the bench on Saturday and went off, scoring a career-high 15 points in just 11 minutes of action.
The Albany, N.Y., native went 5-for-5 from the field and 2-for-2 from beyond the arc in the contest. He became the first player since Scooby Johnson (2007 vs. Northwestern State) to have a perfect night from the field with at least five attempts. He also was the Islanders' leading rebounder with six boards in the contest.
Currie had a quiet start last season, playing mostly in spot defense situations. But on Feb. 23, he burst out of the gate, going 6-for-8 from the field for a career-high 13 points against Cal State Fullerton. He added seven points the following game, against Nicholls, as 25 of his 32 points on the year came in the final five contests.
GUESS WHO'S BACK
In addition to the other newcomers, the Islanders 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 in the season opener.
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 went through a cold stretch, but rebounded against Texas-Pan American. Kocher was 3-for-4 from the field for seven points with three rebounds in 21 minutes. He was a key piece in the Islanders' comeback against Rice, scoring six points with two assists and two steals – giving him 10 swipes on the year. In the UTSA contest, he played a career-high 25 minutes, totaling 11 points, four rebounds, three assists and four steals.
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 above the norm. He is one of the team's top shooters – something the Islanders struggled with 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.