Experience and depth are two key ingredients that Northeastern A&M Golden Norseman head coach Dustin Grover will work with heading into the 2007 season.
NEO starts the regular basketball season at 4 p.m. Saturday by hosting the Oklahoma Baptist University JV in the Student Activities Center.
The game was originally scheduled for Monday, but a scheduling conflict forced a change in dates.
"We're starting the season with seven sophomores," Grover said. "That gives us almost two experienced people at every position."
After winning the Eastern Division of the Bi-State Athletic Conference with a 6-2 record, the Golden Norsemen dropped a 77-72 decision to Western Oklahoma State College in the quarterfinals of the men's Division I Region II at Shawnee. The Norsemen were 16-15 in Grover's second season as head coach.
"We believe we have 10 guys that can all factor in on a nightly basis," Grover said. "One thing that we've established already is the roles each player must assume."
Grover said the player rotation will shift considerably the first couple of games.
"Even though I can't you who will start from game-to-game, I do know that our top eight is pretty well set in stone," he said. "Hopefully, by the seventh game we'll have a set starting lineup. Then, we'll have two or three guys that will sub in regularly."
Grover also thinks that a lack of size in the center position and developing chemistry with the sophomores could be deficiencies.
"We don't have a lot of height at center," Grover said. "Right now we can either go 6-8 or 6-5 in the post, depending on who we're playing. The concern here will be our ability to defend the other team's post player.
"Trying to get all these sophomores to mesh together is another concern," Grover said. "We've determined who will shoot, but we haven't determined how many times each guy will take a shot."
Battling for the starting point guard position are freshmen Brent Leduff (5-10 of Baton Rouge, La.) and Chase Elliott (6-2 of Bristow).
"Both of these guys have the ability and confidence to run our offense," Grover said. "Coach Barkley (assistant coach Justin Barkley) and I have the utmost confidence in both these guys."
Providing depth at the point are freshmen Jaren English (5-9 of Keller, Texas) and Sam Brown (6-2 of Little Rock, Ark.).
Returning at the shooting guard spot are sophomores Dominique Gaines and Delawn Armwood.
Gaines (6-2 of Muskogee) earned all Bi-State Conference and Region II first-team honors last year. He led the team in scoring with an 18.5 average while grabbing 4.1 rebounds per game with 84 assists and 43 steals.
Armwood (6-2 of Mount Olive, N.C.) transferred to NEO after one season at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. He averaged 4.2 points and 2.1 rebounds with 28 assists and 16 steals in 29 games as a freshman.
"Both these guys can really shoot from the perimeter," Grover said. "And they are both so talented that they could play either the 2 or 3 spot.
"We really have two positions where we'll be rotating four or five guys out of," Grover said. "The skills needed to play either position are virtually the same."
Freshmen Ross Moore (6-0 of Bartlesville) and Chaz Davis (6-2 of New York City) provide depth on the perimeter.
Veteran Reggie Mathis (6-3 of Jenks) returns to the 3 (small forward) spot. Mathis averaged 8.1 points and 3.5 rebounds last season.
"Reggie gives us experience on the wing," Grover said. "But, there are some other guys that will gain a lot of playing time there."
Freshmen Lionel Green (6-4 of New Orleans, La.) and Kierre Skerritt (6-4 of Tulsa Memorial) could see action at the 3.
After sitting out a year, sophomore Cicero Gonzaga (6-7 of Santa Luzia, Brazil) returns to the 4 (power forward) spot for the Golden Norse. Through 27 games in the 2005-06 season, Gonzaga averaged 9.7 points and 3.9 rebounds with 20 assists and 18 steals."
"Cicero has been one of our most consistent guys since day one," Grover said. "He's very athletic and very skilled."
Transfer Kenneth Clayton, Jr. (6-7 of Houston, Texas) should see considerable playing time either at the 4 spot or at center.
Last season in 30 games at Paris (Texas) Junior College, Clayton averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds per game.
"Kenneth is a finesse guy that can square up and shoot," Grover said. "He's got range from 20 feet in."
"If there is any difference between the 3 and the 4, it would be that we expect the three to handle the ball a little more to create a shot," Grover said. "We're going to take advantage of having some height at the 3 so we can play some of these guys in the post."
Anchoring the post position are sophomores Tulio Cobos and Bruno Neves.
Cobos (6-5 of Los Teques, Venezuela) averaged 14.2 points while leading the Norsemen with an 8.8 rebounding mark.
Neve (6-8 of Londrina, Brazil) was a medical redshirt last season after a rash of injuries.