UCF Men's Basketball Season Preview Notebook

Nov. 8, 2010

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By Doug Richards

Click here to order your season tickets for the 2010-11 campaign

Join the UCF Victory Club

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - One of the most anticipated seasons in UCF men's basketball history opens Friday when the Knights host West Florida at the UCF Arena. The contest will serve as new head coach Donnie Jones' UCF debut.

Season tickets, which start at just $96 and include a free Knightmare t-shirt, are currently available by calling (407) UCF-1000 or by visiting UCFAthletics.com. The Knights are slated to play a school-record 17 games at the UCF Arena this year.

A New Era Begins
The 2010-11 campaign will mark year one of the Donnie Jones era at UCF. Jones was named the Knights' head coach in March after three campaigns at fellow Conference USA member Marshall. Jones led Marshall to 24 victories and one of the best seasons in school history last year. He is no stranger to the Sunshine State, having worked as an assistant at Florida from 1996-07. Jones helped Florida claim back-to-back national titles in 2006 and 2007.

The Score
Expect the Knights to have a new look on the floor this season as Jones plans to implement an up-tempo style of play. UCF averaged just 66.7 points per game in 2009-10, while Jones' Marshall squad averaged 79.9 points, good for ninth nationally.

Points a Plenty
UCF returns eight letterwinners from last season as the team's top eight scorers from 2009-10 are all back. The team returns 95.2 percent of its scoring from last year.

Time for Change
A year ago, UCF had only three upperclassmen along with 12 underclassmen. As a result, the Knights were the fourth-youngest squad in the country. UCF's roster will have a different layout in 2010-11. Seven upperclassmen will suit up for the Knights this season.

New Faces
Despite returning eight players from 2009-10, the Knights will have a new look this season. Seven newcomers have joined the program and four of the new faces - Jarvis Davis, Tom Herzog, Dwight McCombs and Isaiah Sykes - will see action in 2010-11.

Hometown Hero
A Conference USA All-Freshman Team pick in 2009-10, Keith Clanton is poised for a breakout year. The forward averaged 9.7 points and a team-best 6.8 boards as a rookie, and also blocked 45 shots. The 6-foot-8 Orlando native arrived at UCF as the most heralded recruit in program history. He led Orlando Christian Prep to a pair of Florida Class 1A titles and was listed as the 68th-best player in the nation as a senior by Scout.com.

All-Around Game
Joining Keith Clanton on the 2009-10 Conference USA All-Freshman Team was teammate Marcus Jordan. The shooting guard started the final 18 games of the year and exhibited a great all-around game. The Chicago native averaged 8.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.5 assists. In C-USA games, he averaged a team-high 10.8 points in 31.1 minutes per outing. Jordan battled a bevy of injuries last year, including one in the preseason that hampered his conditioning.

Making a Point
UCF's leader both on and off the floor is point guard A.J. Rompza. The junior averaged 8.6 points and 4.6 assists a year ago. Expect Rompza to have a big year offensively. All of his offensive numbers improved in 2009-10, and the speedy 5-foot-9 Rompza should thrive playing in Jones' fast-paced system.

Man of Steal
Last season, A.J. Rompza ranked ninth nationally in steals per game at 2.6. In Conference USA play, he led the league with 37 swipes in only 15 games. Rompza, who enters his junior campaign seventh in career assists at UCF with 294, is also 10th all-time at the school in steals (127).

Three's Company
UCF returns one of the top 3-point shooters in the country in Isaac Sosa. Sosa averaged a team-high 10.3 points as a sophomore and led Conference USA in 3-point field goal percentage. He connected on 73-of-171 (42.7 percent) of his attempts from deep. Sosa ranks second in UCF history in career 3-point field goal percentage. In two campaigns in Orlando, he has made 43.8 percent (130-of-297) of his shots from behind-the-arc.

Senior Moments
A pair of fifth-year seniors with plenty of experience will both be looking to conclude their careers in strong fashion this season. A.J. Tyler started all 32 games at power forward a year ago and averaged 10.3 points and 5.0 boards. Tyler is a skilled offensive player who should benefit from the arrival of some other post players, allowing him more room to show off his shooting touch. Taylor Young is the team's other returning senior. Young was inserted into the starting lineup late last year and averaged 7.1 points and 2.8 assists per contest. At the end of the year, Young showed off his scoring ability. In the squad's final five games of the season, he averaged 14.0 points.

Also back for the Knights are a pair of small forwards - P.J. Gaynor and David Diakite. The duo combined to start 29 games a year ago. Gaynor, a junior who is skilled on the offensive end, averaged 4.9 points and 3.5 rebounds. Diakite is an athletic sophomore who should thrive in Jones' up-tempo offense. He averaged 4.7 points and 3.8 boards last year.

Center of Attention
UCF's largest newcomer is Tom Herzog, a 7-foot transfer from Michigan State. Herzog spent four years with the Spartans, where he played in 44 career games. The senior, who redshirted in 2006-07, will attend UCF to pursue a master's degree and will be eligible immediately. As a junior in 2009-10, Herzog appeared in 15 contests, averaging 1.3 points and 1.2 rebounds in 3.7 minutes per game. Herzog was a member of two Final Four squads at Michigan State. As a senior at Flint Powers High School in Michigan, he was rated as the seventh-best center in the nation by Rivals.com.

Welcome Freshmen
Donnie Jones will have two talented freshmen on UCF's roster this season. Point guard Jarvis Davis comes to Orlando after spending a postgraduate year at Hargrave Military Academy. The South Carolina native averaged 13.0 points and 5.0 assists per game in leading Hargrave to a 24-1 mark. Jones landed one of the top unsigned seniors in the country in May when guard/forward Isaiah Sykes from Detroit Denby High School signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UCF. Sykes averaged 19.7 points as a senior and had offers from Arkansas and Michigan. Scout.com listed him as the 39th-best small forward in the nation.

Power Play
UCF added one of the most-sought after junior college players in the country in power forward Dwight McCombs. As a sophomore at Moraine Valley Community College in Illinois, McCombs averaged 22.5 points and 13.3 rebounds per game in 2009-10. He chose UCF over Arizona State and Indiana.

Wait Until Next Year
Over the summer, Donnie Jones added three prominent transfers who will all have a chance to make an impact with the Knights in 2011-12. Josh Crittle, Jeff Jordan and Tristan Spurlock will all sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules. Crittle, a 6-foot-8 power forward, joined the program after two years at Oregon. Crittle appeared in 51-career games at Oregon, averaging 2.9 points and 2.5 rebounds. He will have two years of eligibility remaining. Jordan joined his brother Marcus at UCF in June. A strong defender, Jordan played in 92 games in three seasons at Illinois. He made two starts as a junior in 2009-10. In August, small forward Tristan Spurlock transferred to UCF after playing at Virginia as a freshman. He appeared in 13 games in 2009-10 and averaged 2.4 points in 4.6 minutes per contest. Spurlock was listed as a top-75 player as a senior at Word of Life Christian High School in Virginia. The majority of UCF's 2010-11 roster will return next season. Tom Herzog, A.J. Tyler and Taylor Young are the lone seniors on the squad.

Summer Days
UCF players had the chance to work on their games during the summer on campus. All eight returning letterwinners from last year spent the entire summer at UCF, as did Jarvis Davis. The squad's other newcomers, with the exception of Tristan Spurlock, spent the second summer school session in Orlando. The players worked out with UCF's strength and conditioning staff and played pickup games daily inside the UCF Practice Facility.

Sunshine Slate
UCF's non-conference schedule includes a pair of high-profile games in the Sunshine State. On Dec. 1, Donnie Jones will square off against mentor Billy Donovan when UCF plays Florida in the first collegiate game inside the new Amway Center in downtown Orlando for the FCS Shootout. The Knights have never faced Florida in Orlando. On Dec. 18, the Knights will meet Miami in Sunrise as part of the MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic. The contest against the Hurricanes will mark UCF's first game in south Florida since 2005. In total, the Knights will play all but one of their 13 non-conference contests in Florida. The team's lone trip outside of the Sunshine State will come on Dec. 22 when the Knights face host UMass.

Tough Schedule
In 2010-11, the Knights will have games against squads that participated in the postseason a year ago on 15 occasions. Seven Conference USA programs played in the postseason in 2010: Houston (NCAA), UTEP (NCAA), Memphis (NIT), Tulsa (NIT), UAB (NIT), Marshall (CIT) and Southern Miss (CIT). The Knights will play Memphis, UAB, Marshall and Southern Miss twice. In non-league play, UCF will face postseason participants Florida (NCAA), Jackson State (NIT), USF (NIT) and either Northeastern (NIT) or Princeton (CBI) in the UCF Holiday Classic.