From the Hardwood

The end of an extremely trying season for ULM seemed as if it couldn't happen
soon enough.
The struggling Warhawks gave it a fight, but in the end, it wasn't enough, as
ULM dropped its opening-round game of the Sun Belt tournament with a 66-50 loss
to Western Kentucky. The Warhawks got within four points late, but WKU
used a 12-0 run to close the game, putting a stop to a dismal 7-24 debut season
for former ULM player and current coach Keith Richard.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game. I thought the game was much like our
season, a carbon copy of our season in terms of did a lot of good things not
enough over and over throughout the year, and I think tonight was no different,"
Richard said. "I thought we had things right where we needed to have them like
we've had so many times, just not enough to make it happen. I thought Western
Kentucky's the two all-league players flexed their muscles in the second half;
that certainly helped them."
Richard inherited one of the more difficult rebuilding projects in the Sun
Belt this season, and he was forced to basically recruit an entire roster for
the 2010-11 season after his spring hiring.
ULM returned just a handful of players with Division I basketball experience,
and the lack of overall depth showed.
Richard has stated all along that he's in it for the long haul, as he's
committed to restoring order to his alma mater both on the court and in the
classroom. With the pains of a first-year gauntlet now in the past, the
first-year coach can continue working to rebuild the program.
Junior G Fred Brown, a former Kansas State player, proved to be a
bit of a building block for the Warhawks this season, and he'll take his 13.8
points per game into next season as the team's unquestioned leader. An effective
deep shooter, Brown should be poised for a breakout year next season.
Junior G Hugh Mingo provided a nice surprise for coach Keith Richard
this season, becoming one of the team's most called upon players overall. On an
inconsistent club, Mingo finished eighth in the Sun Belt in minutes played at
just over 33 per game. He'll be relied upon heavily once again next season.
Final Record: 7-24, 2-14, sixth in Sun Belt Conference West
2010-11 Season Recap: The inexperienced and rebuilding Warhawks
started the season at 2-7 against a relatively weak non-conference schedule and
never really recovered. ULM didn't record its first Sun Belt win of the season
until Jan. 15 against South Alabama, and then it didn't win again over its next
nine games.
The highlight of the year came on Feb. 19 at North Texas, when the struggling
Warhawks stunned defending Sun Belt champion North Texas by seven on the road.
Quote To Note: "I think the younger guys are going to be all right
next year. They need to figure out what all we did wrong this year. We've got
room for improvement. They are hanging their heads enough, so that's a good
thing, so they use that early. That way they can mature and grow, but I think
they will be all right."-Senior F Lawrence Gilbert, after the team's loss to
Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt tournament.
The Good News: It can't get any worse for ULM. Coach Keith Richard
entered the season expecting a struggle, and that's exactly what he got. But
Richard brings stability to the program as a former player and a person who is
dedicated to building the program from the ground up. The Warhawks were simply
outmanned this season, and that should change once Richard works an entire
recruiting season for 2011-12. It'll be a long road, but rock bottom has been
hit-and things can't get any lower.
The Bad News: ULM still has a long, long way to go on and off the
court within its men's basketball program. The Warhawks were sanctioned by the
NCAA for a poor academic record in 2007, and they still seem to be recovering.
On the floor, ULM has to find a way to convince new players to enter a program
that seems to be at a low point.
Key Returnees:
Fred Brown and
Hugh Mingo will be the glue for the entire roster in 2011-12. Brown was the
team's leading scorer this season at just under 14 points per game, and he has
the overall ability to be one of the top scorers in the entire Sun Belt. Mingo
was a very steady player offensively, averaging nearly eight points per game,
and he proved to be a solid defender for a team that lacked defensive
togetherness for most of the year. Look for freshmen guard
R.J. McCray and forward
Steven McClellan to play bigger roles next season. McCray averaged
just three points a game in his first season with the Warhawks, but the
Arlington, Texas native will be the third highest field goal shooter returning.
The highest shooting percentage belongs to McClellan, with 51%. In
addition to his hot hand from the floor, McClellan was the leading shot blocker
for the Warhawks this season.
Player Notes
Senior F Lawrence Gilbert ended his final season as the Sun Belt's
third-best free-throw shooter, hitting at 85 percent.
Senior F Tommie Sykes was one of the most active offensive
rebounders in the Sun Belt this season, collecting 92 offensive boards in 30
games, third best in the league.