2007-08 UCF Men's Basketball Summer Preview

June 25, 2007

UCF Men's Basketball Summer Prospectus in PDF Format
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ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team posted one of the best seasons in school history this past year, going 22-9 overall and finishing second in the 12-team Conference USA. In 2007-08, the Knights will be seeking another impressive finish in C-USA as the team moves into its new home, the 10,000-seat Convocation Center on campus.

Head coach Kirk Speraw, the conference coach of the year last season, welcomes back three starters and nine letterwinners from last year. The 2006-07 campaign was the Knights' second in C-USA.

Construction on the Convocation Center is expected to be completed in July or early-August. The Convocation Center will have double the seating capacity of the UCF Arena, where the Knights played from 1991-2007. The new building is located directly in front of the current arena.

Black and gold seats will surround the court and a scoreboard that shows video replays will hang over the floor. About 7,000 seats will be on the lower level, while about 3,000 seats will be on an upper level. Bleachers for student seating will be situated behind one of the baskets, giving the Knights a true advantage at home. The venue will also have numerous luxury suites and premium seats.

The Convocation Center is being built on the northern side of campus and will be situated around UCF's other athletics facilities, including Bright House Networks Stadium. Following construction of the Convocation Center, the UCF Arena will be renovated. A practice facility for the Knights' basketball teams will be built in the existing arena.

UCF is currently accepting season-ticket deposits for the upcoming campaign. Fans can guarantee their seats by calling (407) 823-1000.

2007-08 Summer Notebook

Talented Backcourt
Seniors Mike O'Donnell and Dave Noel are both back to start in the backcourt. O'Donnell is one of the top point guards in Conference USA. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 43 percent from 3-point range last season. Noel showed great improvement as the team's starting shooting guard in 2006-07, averaging 9.1 points and 3.8 boards, in addition to totaling 91 assists.

The Go-To Guy
With Josh Peppers lost to graduation, guard/forward Jermaine Taylor will be the team's go-to-player on offense. Taylor, who has not started a game during his career at UCF, averaged 12.7 points a year ago, while shooting 47.4 percent overall and 41.4 percent from deep. His output in 2006-07 was impressive, considering he averaged 4.3 points and shot just 30.4 percent from behind-the-arc as a freshman the previous year.

Accuracy Returns
UCF should be one of the top shooting squads in Conference USA. Last year, the Knights led the league in field-goal (47), 3-point field-goal (39.4) and free-throw (72.4) percentage. UCF has paced C-USA in 3-point shooting in both of its seasons in the league. Dave Noel was second in the conference and 37th nationally at the free-throw line, shooting 85.4 percent at the stripe in 2006-07. The Knights' shooting should improve as the squad will add freshman small forward Cordell Pope to the mix.

Senior Citizens
Only two seniors were on the Knights' roster last season. The 2007-08 campaign will be different. UCF will have five seniors, led by starting guards Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell.

Four Questions
Lavell Payne averaged 10.8 points and a team-high 5.5 rebounds at power forward last year. With Payne now gone, someone must fill his role in the frontcourt. Tony Davis is the leading candidate. Davis proved that he could rebound as a freshman in 2006-07, averaging 3.8 boards to go with 2.9 points in 13.3 minutes a game. Currently listed at 6-foot-7, 200 pounds, Davis must gain weight over the summer. He was the Florida Class 6A Player of the Year in 2005-06 at Riverview High School in Sarasota. Freshman Jean Michel Yotio will compete for playing time at power forward.

Major Improvement
Kenrick Zondervan started 30 contests at center last year after averaging just 2.5 minutes as a freshman in 2005-06. Zondervan did the dirty work for UCF and averaged 3.9 points and 2.8 boards last season. With the loss of Payne, more will be expected offensively out of Zondervan.

Upper Classman
In his first year in Orlando, center Stanley Billings was hobbled by injuries in 2006-07, but did pace UCF with 20 blocks. A healthy Billings will give the Knights a presence inside on the defensive end this upcoming year. At age 29, Billings is the oldest player at the Division I level. A local product who did not play high school basketball, he spent eight years in the Marines before attending junior college in 2004.

Going Deep
Kirk Speraw will have a plethora of options in the backcourt. In addition to projected starters Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell, Mike Battle, Chris Baez and Chip Cartwright are available. A 3-point shooting specialist, Battle spent the 2006-07 season getting acclimated after missing the previous year with a leg injury. He made 17 triples and averaged 2.4 points in 7.6 minutes a game. Baez is from nearby Kissimmee, but attended Lee Academy in Maine last year. A shooter who can also take the ball to the basket, he will see time at both shooting guard and small forward. Cartwright is a playmaker who will serve as O'Donnell's backup at point guard.

Holiday Fun
The Knights will not have to travel far to compete in one of the nation's top tournaments in November. UCF will be one of eight teams competing at the Old Spice Classic at Walt Disney World, which begins on Thanksgiving. In addition to the Knights, George Mason, Kansas State, NC State, Penn State, Rider, South Carolina and Villanova will be in action at the event. The Knights will open the event on Nov. 22 against Villanova on ESPN2.

Talented Transfer
Sophomore forward A.J. Tyler will redshirt this year after transferring from Clemson. The Palm Harbor, Fla. product averaged 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds in 30 games as a freshman last year. In 2005-06, Tyler was a Florida Class 5A All-State First Team selection after scoring 21.4 points per contest.