2008-09 UCF Men's Basketball Summer Preview

July 3, 2008

UCF Men's Basketball Summer Prospectus in PDF Format

ORLANDO, Fla. (www.ucfathletics.com) - The UCF men's basketball team will have a new look in 2008-09. Gone are five seniors from last season's squad, including Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell - two of the best guards in program history. What the Knights do return for 2008-09 is one of the nation's top offensive players in Jermaine Taylor and a bevy of talented freshman who are ready to contribute.

A Conference USA Player of the Year candidate, Taylor is one of two returning starters on head coach Kirk Speraw's squad. The young group of Knights includes just five total letterwinners from last season's team that went 16-15 overall and finished fourth in C-USA at 9-7.

The Knights had a successful inaugural campaign at the new UCF Arena in 2007-08. The squad won 12 contests inside the state-of-the-art 10,000-seat facility.

A new school record for attendance was established as 78,253 fans attended 16 home games for an average of 4,891 per contest. UCF posted the fifth-largest average attendance increase in the nation. During the season, 10 of the top-12 crowds in school history were recorded. A UCF record 7,097 fans were on hand on Jan. 12 as the Knights hosted Tulsa in the first C-USA game at the venue.

Season tickets for UCF's 2008-09 campaign are slated to go on sale later in July.

The Go-To Guy
The Knights feature one of the nation's top offensive players in Jermaine Taylor. The shooting guard ranked fourth in Conference USA and 23rd nationally a year ago, averaging 20.8 points per contest. A candidate for C-USA's Player of the Year award, he totaled a UCF Division I single-season 646 points as a junior in 2007-08. Taylor averaged 21.4 points in league play and was selected to the All-C-USA Second Team. A year after leading the squad in scoring in 24 of 31 games, Taylor should again be the focal point of the UCF offense.

Sunshine Scorer
At 20.8 points per game, Jermaine Taylor was the leading scorer among all players at the 13 Division I institutions in the state of Florida a year ago. He scored at least 20 points on 20 occasions and posted four 30-point performances.

Moving Up the Charts
Last year, Jermaine Taylor became just the 14th 1,000-point scorer in UCF history. In 2008-09, he will have the opportunity to move up the school's all-time scoring list. Taylor enters the campaign 13th with 1,167 points. Taylor could conclude his career as the program's top scorer at the Division I level. Ken Leeks, who played from 1988-92, is UCF's top D-I scorer with 1,763 points.

New Faces
UCF returns just two starters and five total letterwinners from last season's team that finished fourth in Conference USA. Jermaine Taylor is back after starting at shooting guard a year ago, and Kenrick Zondervan returns after starting 29 games in the post. The Knights return just two players - Taylor and Tony Davis - who averaged more than 5.0 points per contest in 2007-08. UCF returns 47.3 percent of its scoring from last year.

Youth Movement
UCF's 2007-08 roster included five seniors. This year's roster will have a different look. Jermaine Taylor and Kenrick Zondervan are the team's lone seniors. The roster features just four upperclassmen and nine underclassmen. The group of underclassmen includes six freshmen.

New-Look Backcourt
Dave Noel and Mike O'Donnell spent the last two seasons starting together in the backcourt. O'Donnell was a three-year starter for the Knights. Both players completed their eligibility a year ago and will have to be replaced. Noel ranked second on the squad last season in scoring (13.3) and was third on the glass (4.2). The shooting guard led Conference USA in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting at a 45.5 percent clip and also totaled 95 assists. Noel was UCF's top perimeter defender and was named to the C-USA All-Defensive Team. O'Donnell averaged 11.9 points and 3.0 assists as a senior and connected on 75 3-pointers. He finished his three-year UCF career among the school's all-time leaders in several categories, including 3-point field goals, assists and steals. Freshmen A.J. Rompza, Isaac Sosa and William Weathers are all candidates to replace O'Donnell at the point. UCF used a three-guard lineup a year ago, with Noel and Jermaine Taylor both playing shooting guard.

Knights Looking to Continue C-USA Success
Entering its fourth year in the league, UCF will be looking to continue its success in Conference USA in 2008-09. Since joining C-USA in 2005, UCF has finished in the top five in the league standings in each of its campaigns in the conference. The Knights have won 27 league contests during that span, a mark that ranks fourth among the 12 C-USA programs. UCF entered C-USA with five other programs - Marshall, Rice, SMU, Tulsa and UTEP - and has won more league games than any of the other new members.

Show and Improve
One of two returning starters for the Knights, Kenrick Zondervan has shown great improvement each year at UCF. The senior post player averaged 4.9 points and 4.3 boards last season. In 2006-07, the Hoofddorp, Holland, native averaged 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds. Zondervan averaged just 0.3 points and 0.3 rebounds as a rookie the previous season.

Ready to Step Up
UCF's coaching staff is expecting junior forward Tony Davis to make a major contribution this season. Davis made nine starts a year ago and concluded the campaign as the team's leader on the boards (5.9). He averaged 6.4 points per game and also led the team with 36 blocks.

Impact Transfer
After sitting out last season as a transfer, sophomore A.J. Tyler will see plenty of time on the floor at both forward positions. Tyler appeared in 30 games as a freshman at Clemson in 2006-07, averaging 1.2 points and 1.4 rebounds. The 6-foot-9 Tyler saw time in 11 Atlantic Coast Conference contests. He was a Florida Class 5A All-State First Team pick in 2005-06 after averaging 21.4 points and 12.0 rebounds for Palm Harbor University High School.

Guess Who's Back
Chris Baez missed the entire 2007-08 campaign due to a knee injury. Now a redshirt freshman, he is expected to provide depth at the shooting guard position. Before enrolling at UCF, Baez attended prep school in Maine. He was one of the top seniors in Florida in 2005-06. That season, he averaged 25.2 points for Gateway High School in Kissimmee and was selected to the Florida Class 6A All-State Second Team.

The New Guard
Freshmen A.J. Rompza, Isaac Sosa and William Weathers are all expected fill the void at point guard following the graduation of three-year starter Mike O'Donnell. As a senior, Rompza averaged 18.0 points and 7.0 assists for Chicago's Whitney Young High School. He earned a spot on the Associated Press Illinois All-State Class 4A Second Team. A native of Puerto Rico, Sosa attended Grandview Prep in Boca Raton and garnered Florida Class 1A All-State First Team honors as a senior. He averaged 19.5 points, 6.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds as a senior. Weathers attended Lewisville High School in Lewisville, Texas, and averaged 17.5 points, 7.2 assists and 4.0 boards this past year.

Summer School
Before starting his collegiate career at UCF, Isaac Sosa will compete for Puerto Rico this summer at the FIBA Americas Championship U18 for Men in July. The event features eight teams, including the United States, and will be held in Argentina. Last summer, Sosa helped Puerto Rico qualify for the tournament. As a member of Puerto Rico's U-17 National Team, he averaged 11.8 points at the Centrobasket U17 Championship.

Young Gets Wiser
After appearing in 24 contests a year ago as a redshirt freshman, Taylor Young will also be in the mix at point guard. Young averaged just over an assist in 6.0 minutes per game. He made one start for the Knights and is the team's most experienced point guard in 2008-09.

Big Man on Campus
There will be a new big man on the UCF campus this year as 7-foot-4 center Jakub Kusmieruk is set to join the Knights. A native of Poland, Kusmieruk attended The John Carroll School in Bel Air, Md., for three years. He began playing basketball just before coming to the United States and will be the tallest player in UCF history.

Depth Up Front
A pair of players will provide depth for the Knights up front. Jean Michel Yotio appeared in 29 contests as a backup center and power forward last year. As a rookie, he averaged 2.1 points and 1.5 boards. Freshman P.J. Gaynor was selected to the Florida Class 6A All-State Second Team after averaging 15.9 points and 9.0 rebounds at Jacksonville's Mandarin High School. last season He will see time at both forward positions.

New Addition
One of the top recruiters in the country joined the UCF staff this summer. Steve DeMeo, who spent the last 10 years at Providence, is now an assistant coach at UCF. He helped the Friars make five trips to the postseason.

A Big Year
The 2008-09 campaign will serve as the 40th season of men's basketball at UCF. The program's inaugural season occurred in 1969-70. The Knights competed as a club program that year and moved to the Division II level the following year.

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