By Ethan Smith, Sports Editor
Georgia Southern’s two major sports teams, the GSU football team and the GSU basketball team, each had very opposite years in terms of success. With both of their seasons officially ending last week, I wanted to take time and review what has been a unique year for both GSU football and basketball.
The GSU football team, to be honest, throughout the year, played well below their usual level of expertise. I remember interviewing numerous people at Fan Fest last September and being amazed at the optimism of both the players and head coach Tyson Summers. Yet, that optimism went out the window ‘real quick’.
Georgia Southern had its worst start in 76 years (attained a 2-8 record in 1941) as they lost a record-breaking, consecutive, nine games, which eventually led to Tyson Summers’ to be released from the team. Interim head coach Chad Lunsford did make the future a little hopeful as the Eagles were able to defeat both South Alabama and Louisiana to win two of their final three games. They finished the season 2-10, which is technically their worst record in team history, but with the way they finished the season, the Eagles recovered.
The Eagles ranked first in terms of Sun Belt recruiting and 88th nationally, both drastic increases to their recruiting from a year ago. The Eagles hope that their top recruits, the likes of Quin Williams, Andrew Cunningham, Aaron Dowdell and Najee Thompson, can put the Eagles back on track in 2018.
Basketball this year for GSU detailed a different story. The Eagles defeated the ACC’s Wake Forest early on to start the season on a seven-game win streak. In terms of how they managed in the Sun Belt Conference, they finished third with an 11-7 record but were knocked out in the semifinals by Georgia State in the Sun Belt tournament. Overall, the Eagles had a solid season but sadly couldn’t get it done in the postseason.
The Eagles are losing valuable seniors this year. G Mike Hughes, who averaged 11.1 points per game over his four-year career. G BJ Gladden only played with the Eagles for two seasons and was a solid bench player. F Jake Allsmiller, who finished second all-time in three-pointers made at Georgia Southern will be greatly missed. F Coye Simmons and G Tione Jones were also very important to GSU’s success, and they will also be missed as they depart onto their careers. In terms of other players, G Tookie Brown was once again named first-team All-Sun Belt for the third straight year and G Ike Smith eclipsed 1,000 points on his career.
In terms of the future, Tookie Brown, Ike Smith and Montae Glenn will all be seniors next season, so the loss of important seniors will be replaced by another very solid group of seniors. If terms of recruiting, Georgia Southern hasn’t done much yet, but basketball recruiting is more prominent in the summer. The class of seniors that left GSU this year set the program up for success, and I believe Tookie Brown and company will continue that success when the 2018-2019 season rolls around.
Both GSU football and basketball have bright futures ahead of them. Chad Lunsford and Mark Byington have set these teams up to be ready for the near future, and only time will time if each team will achieve greater success. For now, GSU baseball and other sports are in action, so support GSU and all their sports as much as you can. Go Eagles!