UCF Men's Basketball Summer Preview

July 22, 2005

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ORLANDO - Change is on the horizon for the UCF men's basketball team. A move to Conference USA. A challenging non-league schedule. Replacing three valuable leaders from last season's squad.

Despite numerous changes, head coach Kirk Speraw and the Golden Knights coaching staff are hoping that the most important factor remains the same - winning. UCF is coming off of its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Dating back to the start of the 2002-03 season, the Golden Knights have won 70 games. That mark ranks 23rd nationally and first in the state of Florida during that span. The team is seeking its fourth consecutive 20-victory seson.

After posting a 24-9 record in 2004-05, Speraw's team moves from the Atlantic Sun to C-USA. In the 10 years since its inception, C-USA has sent a pair of teams to the Final Four and has produced numerous All-America selections.

UCF dominated the competition in the A-Sun, winning four league titles in 12 years, but will now have to compete against storied programs such as Memphis and Houston.

The Golden Knights return three starters and seven letterwinners from last season's squad. Junior forward Josh Peppers is the team's top returning scorer. Peppers was the team's second-leading scorer last year, averaging a career-best 13.1 points per contest. As a freshman in 2003-04, he averaged just 3.8 points an outing. Last season, he led the team in scoring on 11 occasions and posted 25 double-digit scoring performances.

Senior forward Anthony Williams started 32 of 33 contests in 2004-05 and averaged 11 points and a team-high 5.6 boards per game. He shot 54.2 percent from the floor and blocked 53 shots.

At center, Will Bakanowsky returns for his senior season. Bakanowsky made 26 starts a year ago. He is coming off a strong performance in the 2005 NCAA Tournament. Against Connecticut, the defending national champions, he matched a career-high with 15 points and added seven boards, three steals and two blocks.

Thanks to a pair of seniors, Justin Rose (6.7 ppg) and three-point specialist Troy Lindbeck, the team is deep in the backcourt. Up front, senior Marcus Johnson and sophomore Adam Gill will see time at both the power forward and center positions.

UCF will have the services of sophomore guards Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell, who both sat out last year after transferring from UNC-Wilmington and NC State, respectively. Along with Rose, the duo will compete for the starting point guard spot.

Freshman guard Jermaine Taylor from nearby Tavares, Fla. will also compete for minutes on the perimeter. The Golden Knights also welcome post player Lavell Payne, a junior transfer from Tallahassee Community College.

The squad returns the bulk of its scoring from last season, but the team will have to replace point guard Gary Johnson, who led the team in scoring in 2004-05 with 13.6 points per game. He established a school single-season record with 103 three-pointers.

Guard Kingsley Edwards (26 starts in 2004-05) and forward Marcus Avant (22 starts) where also lost to graduation. Edwards led the team with 137 assists and Avant averaged 7.7 points per outing last season.

UCF opens the regular season on Nov. 18, hosting cross-town rival Rollins at UCF Arena. During its non-conference slate, the Golden Knights will travel to national powers Florida and Kentucky and also participate in the Fiesta Bowl Classic, hosted by Arizona. The C-USA schedule will be released in late August.