In 2009, VSU’s men’s basketball team posted the best season in school history. The Blazers won 27 games—15 of which came in a row—and they earned the school’s first ever trip to the NCAA Division II Elite 8 in Springfield, Mass.
However, what happened last season doesn’t matter this season. After all, the Blazers return just three players, Christian Hunter, Kevin Harris and Billy McShepard, from the 2009 team.
Although only three players return from last season, Head Coach Mike Helfer is confident in the team that will take the court on Nov. 12 and 13, when VSU tips off their season when they host the Gulf South/Sunshine Challenge.
“It is a lot of new guys, but I have a lot of confidence in the guys we brought in,” Helfer said. “Hopefully we can get them blended together and get them to buy into the system as quickly as possible.”
For VSU, the first scheduled opponent will be St. Leo, which will be followed by a visit from Rollins College.
Following the two games to begin the season, VSU will host seven more games, including two which will be played as part of the Loop Pizza Grill Classic, before heading onto the road for the first time all season.
“We got lucky that way with the challenge being here,” Helfer said. “I think playing in front of our fans is always going to help but you still have to go out there and make plays.”
A matchup versus Clayton State University will highlight the home stand, as VSU narrowly escaped CSU with just a one-point victory when the teams met in Morrow, Ga. last November.
“Clayton (State) is a very good in-region, in-state matchup,” Helfer said. “They have a tremendous respect for their program and throughout the state.”
The Blazers’ first road contest doesn’t come until Dec. 14 when they visit the Statesmen of Delta State, which will be followed by four more road contest over the Winter break before heading home on Jan 16. to face Carver Bible College, who VSU beat 122-79 to begin last season.
Following their midseason warm-up with Carver Bible, VSU will open their conference schedule on Jan. 13 when they host the North Alabama Lions at the VSU Complex.
VSU will then take on the GSC East co-champions from 2009 in the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers on Jan 15. before traveling to Augusta, Ga. on the Jan. 17 for the highly anticipated contest with the Augusta State Jaguars, who were ranked No. 1 in 2009 when VSU knocked them off 81-75.
“It was a tremendous college basketball game last year and fortunately we were able to come out on the winning side,” Helfer said. “With us going up there, that is just good for basketball in the state of Georgia for our two programs to play each other.”
Following their highly anticipated game with Augusta State, VSU will finish the season with 10 straight conference games, which includes two games against NAIA Lambuth, who will act as a GSC school during basketball season.
“I would think that you’d give Alabama-Huntsville, at least on paper, the early nod,” Helfer said about the upcoming conference. “There are so many teams that have unproven players in this league that you hope they’re up to the challenge.”
The two-time defending GSC East Division Champions are nearly a lock to make the Gulf South Conference tournament this season, as VSU has not missed the tournament since the 2000-2001 season. This season the conference tournament will run from Mar. 3-6 and will be played in Southaven, Miss.
VSU opens training camp on Oct. 15.
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