BARBOURVILLE, Ky. - A new season always includes changes, but the 2009-10 season for the Union College men's basketball team has a host of changes as interim head coach Sean Gillespie takes over a team that went 15-15 last season.
Gillespie will put his touch on the program with four players returning that started at least 17 games last season.
Running the new system will be a trio of point guards; Shawn Hadley (Atlanta, Ga.), Payton Ponzer (Independence, Ky.) and Jerome Carmichael (Newport, Tenn.).
Hadley and Ponzer combined to play in four games last year while Carmichael comes to Barbourville from Cleveland State (Tenn.) Community College.
Gillespie commented on how Hadley had worked hard in the offseason and shown a lot of improvement. "Once he begins to believe in himself all the time, he will begin to make some contributions to the team effort."
"He brings speed and a strong defensive presence," Gillespie said about Carmichael who will make the move from a shooting guard. "We all know that Jerome can score but I think people will be surprised at the level he gets after it on the defensive end."
Ponzer was a point guard in high school and Gillespie talked on how he has composer while running the offense. "He is a hard -nosed kid that won't back down from challenges. I have been impressed with his ability to step in and fill a big gap for us."
At the shooting guard, Kearny Demus (Lexington, Ky.) and Darrel Jackson (Jonesboro, Ark.) will occupy the spot.
Demus returns for his senior season after starting 17 times last season and averaging 10.0 points per game. Gillespie likes how Demus can drive and his ability to shoot as well.
Jackson brings athletic skills according to the head coach. He should be able to play above the rim and Gillespie looks for him to be able to penetrate into the defenses' seems.
Beau Brown and Nathan Beckley (Clarksville, Ind.) will hold down the three-guard position. Jackson will also be a part of the line up in the three guard.
Brown was named to the All-AAC second team last season as he led the Bulldogs with 12.8 points per game and he was the only Bulldog to start every game.
"He is a proven scorer," Gillespie said.
Gillespie likes what Beckley brings as he commented on his abilities.
"Nathan runs the floor well, gives great effort every day and will be a key piece in our program," Gillespie added.
At forward, newcomer Dan Penick (Covington, Ky.) comes in to join Clinton Dixon (Irvine, Ky.).
Penick, at 6-foot-8, gives Union size at the position. Gillespie likes the basketball IQ Penick has and his ability to step out and hit the three pointers. "I believe that Dan is going to give us a great advantage when played at the four spot. Teams will have a problem matching up with him."
Dixon played in 27 games with five starts and also owns a knack of knocking down three pointers. The senior has a combination of size and quickness according to Gillespie.
The other forward position has a host of Bulldogs at it. Josh Hurd (Independence, Ky.) returns after an injury plagued 2008-09 season. Brett Miller (Carrolton, Ky.) started 22 games last season while Anthony Coote (Georgetown, Ky.) played in 24 contests and Randy Carter (Georgetown, Ky.) returns for his junior season.
Gillespie talked about how Hurd uses his body well in the paint along with keeping his game simple. "Josh is a throw back to the old style of post play. He does a great job using his body and sealing the defenders. We are excited to have the ability to go inside out for our offense."
The head coach commented on Miller's quiet leadership style. Gillespie also added that Miller should fit into his system really well. "Brett is pretty athletic and we are looking forward to him running the floor and contributing on the glass and the defensive side of the floor."
Coote brings more physicality and a drive to compete Gillespie said. "There isn't anyone on this team that brings effort as consistently everyday then Anthony does. He is a Bulldog at heart."
Carter, at 6-foot-8, has improved his game according to Gillespie. "He continues to work hard everyday and I am looking forward to seeing him see some fruit from that hard work."
Union was picked to finish fifth in the AAC this season after a fourth-place finish in 2008-09. The Bulldogs will take part in the Joe B. and Denny Classic on Nov. 6 and 7 in New Albany, Ind. Union plays Ivy Tech (Ind.) Community College the first evening followed by a contest against Mid-Continent (Ky.) College. The AAC schedule opens with UVa-Wise coming to Barbourville on Nov. 18.