The end of the Golden Eagles 2015 season looked bleak.
With NCAA sanctions still hovering like a dark cloud, some of the players were not able to look forward to anything at the end of the season.
No postseason. No banners. No games after March 5, 2015.
But this year, it is different for the Golden Eagles.
“I don’t know if I could’ve gotten through the last two years without the support, effort and the character of the players,” said Head Coach Doc Sadler. “When the players came each and every day to work and to get better, that’s what really this is all about. That’s not what made the last two years go by fast, but help you get through all those things.”
On April 8 of this year, the NCAA handed down their sanctions on the Golden Eagle basketball program after the school already self-imposed a two- year postseason ban as well. Alsoa, Southern Miss received scholarship and recruiting violations as well as three years of probation.
But after that news was handed down, the Golden Eagles can start their season 0-0 in 2016 with a chance to make a run at the postseason.
“Now that we can play for a championship, it just means a lot more to us,” said senior guard Michael Ramey. “That’s gong to get everyone excited to start the season.”
The Golden Eagles have a roster of 17 players this season, up from the roster last season as some players have transferred out or redshirted and did not play.
Four seniors, Michael Ramey, Quinton Campbell, Raheem Watts and Khari Price will lead the team according to Doc Sadler, and they return not only leadership, but also players that can provide the intangibles necessary for the Golden Eagles to succeed in an era where Southern Miss is transitioning towards championship aspirations.
“The season and the success that we have is going to have a lot to do with the success of those [four] guys,” Sadler said. “As a coach, I couldn’t be more pleased with the preparation that they have put in to have a great year.”
Specifically for Ramey, who is a senior guard and had the best three-point shooting percentage in the NJCAA in 2014-2015 at a 59.3 percentage clip while at Seminole State College, took his time this summer to work on his overall offensive game and not just being a spot- up shooter.
“This summer, I just really tried to basically get in the best shape I could get in so I can be able to run all day,” Ramey said. “I worked on getting my shot off faster. Being able to shoot off the dribble and off the move better and really just working on my all-around game.”
Senior forward Raheem Watts is another player who also used his summer to get better and also commended his team on the chemistry and their goals for
“Definitely, the mindset of all the guys,” Watts said. “We’ve just got to continue to do good things. Last year was very tough for us. We’re trying to be the best defense in the league this year.”
All four seniors were transfers into the program last year and they started most of the games as Southern Miss players over the course of the year, en route to winning eight games. But, they have much bigger aspirations for this season.
“I don’t have any idea on how many games we’re going to win,” Sadler said. “We’re going to compete each and every night. If you do that and stick with it, we’ll win our share of games.”
The Golden Eagles surely will not be undefeated but will win their fair share of games.
One other thing is also for certain — they can have realistic aspirations.
“What an exciting time, it really is,” Sadler said. “For a lot of reasons, [I’m] as excited as I’ve been in a long time. Everybody wants to play for a championship and now we have that opportunity.”
The Golden Eagles will play their first exhibition game on Thursday as they host Mississippi College at Reed Green Coliseum. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.