The Union University Bulldogs have entered the 2003-04 season with renewed expectations. Last season, the Bulldogs experienced a season in which they missed the NAIA National Tournament for the first time after making five straight. The Bulldogs have added some key recruits to fills voids that Union had to manage without a season ago. Union has three new faces, all freshmen, to complement the 10 returning players. With just the three additions, Union now has all voids filled and players are now playing their natural positions. Expectations for this team couldn’t be higher. With six seniors on this squad, there is a lot of experience from national tournament games and all six seniors were a part of the TranSouth Conference Champion team of 2002.
The senior class has six members that will all be used at times this season and some to be called on for major contributions. Point guard, Zach Wiggs is back after missing all of last season following knee surgery. Even after his surgery, he remains one of the fastest players on the squad. Chima Abakwue, also a guard, has led the Bulldogs for three seasons with his exceptional three-point shooting. He will set new school records in every three-point category by the year’s end. Abakwue led the conference in three pointers made as a freshman and sophomore, and was second last season. He led Union with 13.5 points per game. Will Harris has been a starting guard for Union since coming to Union as a freshman. He too can be a threat from behind the arc and also is the best passer on the Bulldog squad. Guard Mike Simpson averaged 17.8 minutes last season off the bench and provided quality time at the point guard position. Jonathan Kee and Andrew Gamble are both former walk-ons that are wrapping up their careers this season. Kee joined the team as a freshman and has become a great leader on this team and can also shoot the three as well as anyone. Gamble transferred in as a sophomore and can be used either outside or inside.
Two juniors will also be key contributors this season for the Bulldogs. Bruno Martinessi has been a starter for Union since coming as freshman. He led Union last season with 6.1 rebounds per game and was second in scoring with 12.2 points per game. Martinessi was the only player last season to start all 32 games for the Bulldogs. After transferring to Union last season, Michael Palmer started 22 games and was third with 5.5 rebounds per game. Mostly used in the post, Palmer also proved he could step out on the perimeter and knock down the outside shot.
The lone sophomore is shooting guard Matt Trammell. Trammell proved as a freshman that he could be a major threat from behind the arc. He made 34 threes, fourth on the team, and was second on the team with a .400 percentage.
Union’s freshman class has four very special players that will no doubt provide much of the offensive punch for the Bulldogs this season. Led by centers Pierry Valmera and Ben Frederick, Union’s post play will be vastly deeper and more improved from a year ago. Valmera red-shirted last season to build strength and likely will start this season at the post for Union. Frederick graduated high school at Christmas, and like Valmera, worked out and practiced with the team last spring. Both players gained valuable strength and a knowledge of the college game that will be a tremendous asset for each of them during their freshman seasons. Marcus Cooper transfers in to Union from Vincennes University were he sat out last season with an injury. He will likely start for Union as one of the guard positions and provides great speed both on offense and defense for the Bulldogs. Chris Williams is a very athletic walk-on that will gain opportunities to contribute as he grows physical and mentally on the court.
This team only has a small number of new additions from last season. However, these key additions have completed a very balanced team that has depth at the guard position, has multiple three-point threats, and has four athletic post players that can all create scoring opportunities from down low.