Melbourne, Fla. | Clemente Center
Looking to quickly fill the void left by the graduation of two of the program's most prolific scorers, Rollins takes the lid off its 2018-19 season Friday at the South Region Tip-off Challenge in Melbourne. The Tars meet SIAC member Benedict in the opener and close the event facing Auburn-Montgomery of the Gulf South Conference on Saturday. Now two years removed from its run to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight, the Tars will rely on a mix of veterans and newcomers to shoulder the load. Rollins was 16-14 last season and was knocked out of the SSC tournament semifinals by eventual Elite Eight participate Barry…The Tars were swept in this event a year ago, hosting Clark-Atlanta and Morehouse on their home floor. Head Coach Tom Klusman starts his 39th year at the helm of the program and is on the cusp of history with a career record of 693-407.
Tracking the Tars:
Fifth-year senior Eric Castaneda will look to keep the momentum going off a standout junior campaign last year, putting up 11.7 points a game. He shot 46 percent from the field and 75 percent from the stripe last year and grabbed five rebounds a game. Connor Mckim returns to run the point for the third-straight season, averaging 11.3 points and 3.6 assists a game last season. Jakobi Bonner added 8.7 points a game while Parker Davis netted 3.5 a night. Transfers Chuchu Enechionyia (VMI/Lincoln Trail) and Trevor Recio (Queens Charlotte) will also factor into the Tars success this season. Rollins was in the middle of the SSC in both offense and defense a year ago, scoring 82.7 and allowing 81.5 points a game.
Tracking the Tigers:
A perennial favorite in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Benedict opens a new era with head coach Artis Maddox coaching his first game against the Tars. Previously leading Florida Memorial's squad, Maddox made the move to Columbia, SC this season and jump to NCAA Division II. The Tigers were 21-10 a year ago with just three returners on the 2018-19 squad. Point guard Davante Wiltshire played in 28 of Benedict's 31 games, averaging 14.4 minutes per game. He averaged 3.3 points and 1.75 assists per game. DeShawn Graham saw action in 16 games and averaged 3.1 points and hit half (7-of-14) of his 3-point attempts. Ricky Peterson also appeared in 16 games. Two players, Tyrease Mapp and Aaron Bryant, followed Maddox from Florida Memorial and will be big for the Tigers coming out of the gate.
Tracking the Warhawks:
AUM is in its third year of a transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II and competes as a provisional member of the Gulf South Conference. The Warhawks were picked to finish 12th out of 13 teams in the Gulf South Conference Preseason Poll after going 9-19 last season overall and 5-15 in the GSC. AUM lost five players to graduation and have 11 newcomers on the 2018-19 roster. Starters Kenneth Keith (7.8 ppg) and Darrion Taylor (9.2 ppg) are back to lead the Warhawks. FAU transfer Devorious Brown and Indian Hills CC transfer Tre Hansbrough add experience to the AUM roster this year. Carlos Bell and Mikel Davis, both of Marion Military Academy, were named GSC All-Newcomers in the preseason.
- Rollins is 39-24 in the modern era of men's basketball (1950) in season openers. Over the last 10-years, the Tars are 7-3 in lid-lifters, falling to Clark-Atlanta at home last season.
- The Tars have only met Benedict one other time in its history, beating the Tigers 88-79 in the first round of the 2004 NCAA Division II South Region Tournament. Chad Dirks led five Tars scoring in double figures with 16 points while Lex Brown added 14. Rollins went on to win the South Region and advance to its first NCAA Division II Elite Eight.
- Rollins and Auburn-Montgomery have never met in men's basketball.
- Head coach Tom Klusman is the 10th-winningest coach in Division II history and begins his 39th year leading his alma mater, looking to continue an era of success nearly unmatched in collegiate basketball. He comes into the season with a career record of 693-407 and is the fifth-winningest active coach in Division II. He trails Tampa's Richard Schmidt by one victory for the most in Sunshine State Conference history. Among all divisions, all-time, Klusman ranks 43rd in wins.
Rollins welcomes Ave Maria on Monday, November 12 for the season's home opener. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. inside Warden Arena. Fans can catch the action live on the Tars Sports Network at RollinsSports.com.com.