Because of an NCAA rule, the Flames cannot officially begin regular-season play until later in November, meaning Lee can only count Saturday’s meeting as an exhibition game. Lee's first official game on the 2013-14 schedule is slated for Nov. 11 against Johnson University.
Coach Tommy Brown enters the 2013-14 season with a host of new faces. Eight out of 15 roster players will be wearing a Flames’ uniform for the first time, by far the most since Brown took over the leadership duties in 2005.
KEY PLAYERS LOST
The Flames will be trying to replace a first-team NAIA All-American, a SSAC All-Division point guard and a 6-foot-10 post player. Will Barnes averaged 20 points per game in leading Lee to a 30-4 season and an eighth consecutive trip to NAIA National Tournament.
Duran Blue was a quality point guard with speed to burn. He dished off 152 assists last season and turned the basketball over just 63 times. Big Steve Bennett averaged 10 points and eight boards in 30 games. He shot 61 percent from the field. Also missing will be Chase Dunn (12.1 ppg) and Jamorris Gaines, who averaged almost 15 points and five boards in 22 games. He was a third-team All-American.
KEY PLAYERS RETURNING
The list is small when it comes to this category. Corey Billingsley started four games last season, but played in all 34. He averaged 8.5 ppg and three rebounds. A versatile player, the junior can stroke the 3-ball, knocking down 43 percent of his 72 attempts.
Chad Lee also started only four contests, but saw 791 minutes of playing time. The 6-foot-6 junior has added some muscle and expects to improve on all phases of his game. He averaged just over five points, but claimed 6.5 rebounds per game.
Brice Sharp is looking to stay healthy as he enters his senior season. Sharp set out the 2011-12 season with leg problems. Muniru Bawa is an intimidating figure with his 7-foot, 230-pound frame. The native of Tuma, Ghana is still learning the game, but coach Brown is hoping he’s ready to step in and help a club that needs a big made in the middle of the defense. He appeared in 30 games and played 246 minutes last season. Also returning are guards Evan Forhetz (21 games, no starts) and Darien Johnson (16 games and no starts).
Valentino Thomas, is a versatile 6-foot-4 player who can operate inside or out. He is a transfer from Roane State Community College. No doubt he is expected to play a key role in the success of the 2013-14 squad. Matt Clark is a transfer from Flagler College (St. Augustine, Fla. At 6-foot-1, Clark is billed as a solid 3-point shooter with a lot of college experience at Flagler. Tyquan Roberts is another transfer who is expected to step in and play key minutes. Roberts is a solid 6-foot-5, 250 pound inside player from Louisburg Community College (N.C.) Jay Marquette is another 6-foot-5 transfer. He played at Owens Community College in Rossford, Ohio.
STRENGTHS OF 2012-14 SQUAD
Coach Brown says this year’s squad lacks the size of teams he has featured in the past. This club will likely shoot more treys and need to make a higher percentage as the Flames the rugged competition from the Gulf South opponents. “This team has a tremendous work ethic so far and should be a fun team to watch,” said Brown. "The squad has already shown some toughness and the ability to knock down 3-point shots.”
MOVE TO THE GULF SOUTH
Before the season ever began, the Flames realized the overall quality of the GSC will be much better than the Southern States Athletic Conference.
“We’ll have to play our best ever single game to win,” stressed the Lee coach. “Everyone is very talented and it is an extremely difficult and deep conference.”
TOP TEAMS IN GULF SOUTH
Brown says North Alabama has everyone returning from a good team last season. He sees Alabama-Huntsville as being really good in recent years. “They are always going to challenge and are very well coached. All Lee followers know that Shorter always has good talent.” He ranks North Alabama, Huntsville and Christian Brothers as the clubs to beat.
“It is very important that we get off to a good start because we have so many new players who will be playing significant minutes,” said Brown. “We need to improve and learn from every game, especially during the early games, so the new guys can have a firm grasp of the system and what is expected of them when it is time for conference games.”