The Port Arthur News
Nobody can accuse Lamar University basketball coach Pat Knight of scheduling a cupcake to get his third season with the Cardinals off to a winning start.
Coming off a 3-28 season that was the worst in school history, LU jumps into the deep water by tipping off against Butler at 7 p.m. tonight in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Butler, of course, stunned the basketball world by reaching the NCAA championship game in both 2010 and 2011.
Much has changed since then for the Bulldogs, starting with head coach Brad Stevens having left during the summer to replace Doc Rivers at the end of the Boston Celtics bench. Brandon Miller, who was one of Stevens’ assistant on last season’s 27-9 Butler club, replaced him as head coach.
Lamar, which ended the disastrous 2012-13 season by losing its final eight games and 18 of the last 19, will feature three new starters, all of whom were playing at the junior college level last season. That trio includes 6-0 Nimrod Hilliard from Madison, Wis., 6-1 Anthony Holliday from Los Angeles and 6-5 Donovan Ross from Ridgeland, Miss.
Back from last season are 6-5 Rhon Mitchell, who averaged 10.3 ppg and 4.9 rpg, and 6-5 Amos Wilson, who averaged 8.9 ppg, and 4.7 rpg. Players from last year expected to contribute off the bench are 5-8 Keilan Blanks (6.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 1.8 apg) and 6-0 Donnell Minton (5.4 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 1.8 apg).
Butler, which has joined the Big East Conference, not only must adjust to a new coach. Gone are the Bulldogs top two players from last season — Rotnei Clark and Andrew Smith. Also absent is the team’s heralded returnee — Roosevelt Jones — who was lost to a season-ending wrist injury.
After playing at Butler, in a game being televised on FoxSports2, Lamar returns to Beaumont for its home opener Tuesday night against George Mason. The Cardinals then play their next four games away from the Montagne Center, starter Saturday, Nov. 16 as Washington State.
— Bob West