The 2007-08 season for the Union University men’s basketball team will have a much different look that the last season’s squad. Union graduated five players, including 56 of the team’s 83 points per game last season. Several newcomers will get the opportunity to play and contribute immediately along with the five returners that helped Union advanced to their second NAIA National Tournament Elite Eight in the program’s history.
Union graduate five players that started at some point last season, including Mack Bealim, Deywane Lee, Ben Frederick, and Pierry Valmera, all of which earned NAIA All-American honors during their career.
Ryan Merriman is the team’s lone senior. He averaged three points per game and made 21 three pointers for the team and was a key player in Union run to the NAIA quarterfinals.
The returning junior class is made up of Brian Lake and Tony Brown. Lake finished third on the team in scoring with 12.6 points per game and 7.6 rebounds per game, which was good for second. He also led the team with 62 made three pointers for 35-percent. Brown returns to the squad after missing the final nine games of the season. Brown posted 11.2 points and 4.0 assists per game.
Tacuma Alexander and Brandon Lay return as sophomores. Alexander didn’t see much playing time early in the season, however, due to a depleted roster, he started the final 17 games of the year. For his efforts, he earned TranSouth All-Freshman honors and proved to be a very valuable guard for the Bulldogs. Lay joined the team in late February and has worked hard to earn his spot on this year’s team.
The newcomers will come in with a lot on their shoulders. Leading the way is junior college All-American Matt Neaville. Neaville, a junior this season, set the junior college record with 17 made three pointers in a game and was fourth in the nation last season with 26 points per game. Sophomore Keith Tollivar earned his spot this season as a walk-on after working out with the team last season in valuable practice time. Three new freshmen will also look to make an early impact. Antoine Joseph, Veljko Petrovic, and Roland Banhoro each join Union as international players who are athletic and will continue to improved as college basketball players.
Union head coach Ralph Turner has a much smaller team physically and several new players in key roles. In addition to that challenge, this schedule for Union is one of the toughest in recent history. Of the eight non-conference opponents (10 games to open the season), all have been to the NAIA National Tournament in their program’s history. Seven of those eight teams have been to the national tournament at least once the past three years, including four teams who went last season (Oklahoma Baptist, Campbellsville, McKendree, and Mountain State).
Following those ten games to open the season, the Bulldogs step into the tough TranSouth Conference season. Last season, three teams (Union, Crichton, and Lambuth) advanced to the national tournament with Union and Crichton making the Elite Eight.