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The Dunkin’ Dogs are here to stay

November 12, 2015

 

ALEX HEARD

Staff Reporter | amh072@latech.edu 

Dayon Griffin (10) goes up for a layup during the Bulldog’s exhibition win over Southwest Baptist University. Tech went on to win their final warmup 87-53, before the season opener–Photo by Colin Fontenot

Dayon Griffin (10) goes up for a layup during the Bulldog’s exhibition win over Southwest Baptist University. Tech went on to win their final warmup 87-53, before the season opener–Photo by Colin Fontenot

 

Fall is upon us here in Ruston. It not only brings cooler weather and the changing colors of the leaves, but also the beginning of the Dunkin’ Dogs season.

 

For head coach Eric Konkol and the Louisiana Tech basketball team, this season is a new era. Former coach Michael White left for Florida in the offseason.

 

With his departure, there are questions to be answered this upcoming season.

 

Tech basketball tips off their season against Millsaps College at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the Thomas Assembly Center.

 

Tech lost its three captains from previous years in Kenneth Smith, Raheem Appleby and Michale Kyser. With that trio gone, who is to replace their production and leadership?

 

Konkol said the team will have to rely on two guys who played with and experienced lots of success with the three.

 

“Having lost three seniors who had an unbelievable and long-lasting impact on this program, there is great competition to elevate roles,” Konkol said, “whether its an Alex Hamilton or an Erik McCree or the players in the program who played second-or third-string roles last year. We are looking forward to this season and to continue that growth process every day in practice and to just continue to build on that standard of excellence that has been here at Louisiana Tech.”

 

Alex Hamilton, a senior shooting guard, said he embraces his veteran role this season.

 

“When I first came here, we had older guys like Kenyon (McNeail) and J.L. (Lewis). In practice we used to always pick at them,” Hamilton said. “Now I am one of the guys that they pick at. When I walk around the locker room they always talk about me being banged up.”

 

Kenneth Smith was Conference-USA Player of the Year last season, winning the award mostly because of his distribution abilities rather than scoring, and according to Jay Bilas of ESPN was one of the nation’s top perimeter defenders.

 

With his departure, there is the question of who is going to replace his production at the point guard position.

 

Konkol said Hamilton is capable of playing the point.

 

“I think he is very capable with both (point guard and shooting guard),” Konkol said. “I think that he is a guy that defenses are going to key on and we are going to want to move him around on the floor. He is going to handle the ball a lot for us this year. He is one of the very best downhill drivers I have been around that can finish with his right hand and his left hand, finish with contact. He went to the foul line 209 times last year which is really remarkable. We want the ball in his hands a lot. Sometimes it could be with starting it and him bringing the ball up the floor. It could be rolling off screens and catching it in different spots because we want to move him around so a teams’ defense does not get into a good rhythm guarding him.”

 

Tech was able to land a four-star recruit/human-highlight reel in freshman guard Derric Jean.

 

Hamilton said Jean has great potential running the point in years to come.

 

“He has made big strides,” Hamilton said. “Coming in, he was trying to do more than he could do. Now he is settling in and gradually coming along. I see all of the little things he is doing to help our team. I am constantly in his ear every time he gets frustrated. I tell him that it is going to be all right and keep his head up. Keep playing hard and practicing hard and everything will come together.”

 

Bulldogs fans may worry that with White gone, so are the SportsCenter Top-10 plays and acrobatic finishes above the rim.

 

McCree, a junior small forward, said that is not the case.

 

“Fans should definitely expect the same style of play,” McCree said. “We have some very athletic guys. We are still the Dunkin’ Dogs.”

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