Fresh off of a surprising season that saw it get a win away from the NCAA tournament, the Georgia Southern men’s basketball team is taking its act outside the country.
On Friday, the team will fly to Costa Rica. In the three days following, the Eagles will take on the Costa Rican national squad, the U23 national team and another national select squad.
“It’s a fun and unique opportunity,” GSU coach Mark Byington said. “We have some guys who had to do some scrambling to get their passports, but we’re all looking forward to the trip and for a chance to compete against international teams.”
The trip comes on the tails of a full load of summer workouts. The NCAA allows each team 10 full practices during the summer, and the Eagles — who return just four players with game action from last season — used up every minute.
Byington said the team has been coming together well during practice and that the trip to Costa Rica should further help build chemistry.
Team-building also is being done by the Eagles’ veterans even though most are still underclassmen.
“I feel a little bit for the new guys,” sophomore guard Jake Allsmiller said. “We’ve definitely been going at it a little harder in practice this summer. We know we’re going to be a young team this season, but we’re ready for that challenge.”
Allsmiller added that the trip will serve as good preparation for the still-green Eagles, as nearly every player on the Costa Rican teams will be older, including some with professional experience.
Aside from playing outside of their comfort zone, the Eagles also will have to change their strategy a bit. All three games will be played by FIBA rules — the same used in the Olympics.
“We’re only going to have a 24-second shot clock,” Byington said. “So we’ll need to keep the pace high. The three-point line is also a few inches farther back. I think that’s all right. We want to play with a lot of energy this season and I think this will help.”
Following the trio of games, the Eagles will get a chance to tour their destination Tuesday before returning to the United States and preparing for the beginning of the fall classes. Later in the semester, practices will resume as Georgia Southern builds toward the 2015-16 season tip-off in November, which features a date with defending national-champion Duke.
“We need to use these games as a chance to get ready for what’s coming,” Allsmiller said. “We play in a tough conference, and we’ve got trips to places like Duke on the schedule.
“This definitely isn’t like high school anymore.”
Ellison named to Manning Award watch list
NEW ORLEANS — Georgia Southern quarterback Kevin Ellison has been named to the Manning Award watch list, announced Thursday by the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
The list includes 30 of the top quarterbacks in the nation heading into the 2015 season. The winner will again be selected by a voting panel, which includes national media and each of the Mannings, after the bowls.
The Manning Award was created by the Allstate Sugar Bowl in honor of the college-football accomplishments of Archie, Peyton and Eli Manning. It is the only quarterback award that includes the candidates’ bowl performances in its balloting.
A second-team All-Sun Belt selection a season ago, Ellison, who was twice named the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week, registered 1,096 rushing yards to go along with 1,001 passing yards.
He rushed for a season-high 159 yards at New Mexico State and rushed for 151 yards against Appalachian State. He totaled 300 yards (184 passing, 116 rushing) at North Carolina State and had 271 (164 passing, 107 rushing) at Georgia Tech.
He enters his junior campaign seeking to become the sixth Eagle to rush (1,982) and pass (1,757) for more than 2,000 career yards.
Inclusion on the watch list is not necessary for the quarterbacks to be selected for the honor. Midseason additions to the Watch List will be announced Wednesday, Oct. 14. The list of 10 finalists will be released Wednesday, Nov. 25.
The winner will be announced Wednesday, Jan. 13.
In addition to the Manning Award’s yearly honor, each week during the regular season, eight quarterbacks are recognized as Manning Quarterbacks of the Week. Sixty-two players from 58 schools were honored during the 2014 season.