The Union University Bulldogs are looking to improve on a great season from a year ago. The Bulldogs earned a second place finish in the conference and earned their sixth trip to the NAIA National Tournament in seven seasons. The first object of business for the Union coaching staff was to replace six seniors lost from 2003-04, including two starters, one of which was an NAIA All-American. Head coach Ralph Turner and his assistant David Niven have added four players to bolster this season’s roster. However, seven returning players, including three starters, are back for Union which gives them a solid, young team to enter the 2004-05 year.

Only two seniors are on this year’s team. Bruno Martinessi and Michael Palmer are back to help lead this team far into the NAIA Nationals. Martinessi has played all four seasons for Union and has averaged 10.8 points and 6.3 rebounds over the past three seasons. Palmer joined Union as a sophomore and has provided the Bulldogs with size and athletic ability off the bench with 7.0 points and 4.8 rebounds in his previous two seasons.

Three juniors appear on 2004-05 roster, one returning player and two transfers. Matt Trammell (pictured right) is now playing his third season with Union. His shooting ability has increased his playing time as he has provided Union with 4.7 points per game and a career .364 (75-206) three point percentage. Transfers Corey Burkett and Rod Ross are two quality additions that will provide immediate impacts this season. Burkett, a 6-foot-3 guard, comes from Wallace State Community College where he averaged 22 points and seven rebounds. Ross, a 5-foot-11 guard, comes to Union from Shawnee Community College where he posted 15 points, six assists, and four rebounds per game.

The sophomore class for Union packs the biggest punch for Union as three of the four sophomores started at some point during last season. Ben Frederick (pictured left) is a returning honorable mention All-American while averaging 15.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. Marcus Cooper returns at the guard position after averaging 6.4 points, 3.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds as a freshman. Pierry Valmera, at 6-foot-8, scored 8.1 points and 5.4 rebounds as a freshman. Frederick, Cooper, and Valmera were each named to the TranSouth Conference All-Freshman Team. Chris Williams returns after walking on last season and playing in nine games for Union.

Two freshmen fill out the roster including Courtney Jones, a 6-5 forward from Newbern, Tennessee, and Jonathan Givens, a 5-11 walk-on from Memphis, Tennessee. Jones is following his father’s (Tony Jones 1979-83) footsteps by playing at Union. He averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds, and four assists per game as a senior in high school. Givens was an All-District as a senior at Germantown High School.

This team is young and extremely talented. However, they will be tested often not only in the tough TranSouth Conference but in the non-conference schedule. Union plays the defending NAIA National Champions, Mountain State University (W. Va.) in a home and home series. Also on the schedule are NAIA national powers, Georgetown (Ky.), Faulkner (Ala.), and McKendree (Ill.). Union has the opportunity to make a lot of noise and turn heads around the NAIA if they can successfully move through this schedule.

Union basketball looks, from the start, to be set for another run for a conference championship and a trip to the national tournament.


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