The Lipscomb men’s basketball team will commence the 2021-22 season with a mix of knowns and unknowns that leaves them projected to finish among the middle of the ASUN.
This time last year, the team was projected to finish first in the ASUN. At season’s end, they finished third with a 15-12 overall record and were eliminated in the first round by Florida Gulf Coast. This year, the external expectations for the team aren’t as high, but there are several things that could lead to a successful 2021-22 campaign or an underwhelming one.
What We Know
Lipscomb is returning a number of key contributors this season that have been vital to the success of the team since head coach Lennie Acuff came on board in the 2019-20 season, junior center Ahsan Asadullah being the most notable. Asadullah enters into the season as a preseason All-ASUN player, and was placed on the Preseason Lou Henson National Player of the Year Watch List.
After a breakout season in 2019-20, Asadullah followed up with another dominant season last year. He led the team in points per game (14.1), rebounds per game (8.0), and assists per game (3.4). The two-time ASUN first teamer will be the focal point of this team’s success and if he can maintain that production or somehow elevate it, this team has potential to surprise people.
Along with Asadullah, the team is returning other notables such as sophomore guard KJ Johnson, junior guard Greg Jones, and grad student forward Parker Hazen. These players will provide the most experience and leadership outside of Asadullah and will carry the offensive load alongside him as well.
Johnson was the second-leading scorer on the team averaging 13.5 points per game. He also provided the team with solid three-point scoring finishing second in that category on the team. The team will need him to improve his offensive success and defensive abilities if they want to go farther this season.
Hazen is coming into his third year with the program and has been a solid player filling the rotation from the bench. Last season his production increased in scoring, rebounding, and defending. Whether his role on the team increases to a starter or he plays more of sixth-man role, Hazen will be looked to provide a spark of energy and swagger to this team whenever he’s on the floor.
Lastly, we know that while this team features key returners, they will have to look to several players who saw minimal time on the floor to step up and play heavier minutes. Grad student Romeao Ferguson chose to forgo his last year of eligibility and is now seeking playing opportunities in the NBA G-League. Ferguson averaged 13.3 points per game for the Bisons and logged the most minutes last season.
The transferring of guards Miles Miller and Jake Wolfe will also open minutes and opportunities for other players. Wolfe averaged 6.7 points per game last season and came up big for the Bisons in clutch moments in a few games. Miller was not a stat sheet stuffer for this squad, but he was a reliable guard that Acuff trusted to facilitate their offense and play good perimeter defense. In addition to those notable role players, guards Carson Cary and Alex Jones are no longer on the roster as well. These role players’ spots will need to be filled for the team this season.
What We Don’t Know
When Greg Jones was on the floor, he provided inside and outside scoring and was one of the better defenders on the floor. The unknown with Greg Jones is availability.
In two of his three seasons with the Bisons, Jones suffered injuries that led him to miss significant time on the floor. It is a testament to the tenacity of Jones that he has bounced back from injuries to perform for this team, but a player’s best asset to offer his team is availability.
Jones averaged 7.8 points per game and logged 27.5 minutes per game last year. Jones’ impact on this team can be substantial if he can remain healthy. More importantly, having him will add another experienced player on this team that knows Acuff’s system and philosophy.
In contrast to the familiar playmakers, there will be a few players seeing an increase in minutes. Outside of the aforementioned leaders, this team has younger players that will have a chance to show their value.
Freshman guard Will Pruitt, sophomore forward Kaleb Coleman, and freshman guard Tanner Shulman highlight players that were deeper in the rotation. What is yet to be seen is how these players will gel with the others if given more minutes. If the Bisons can get solid production and see consistent improvement from these players and others, it will make a difference for their efforts in the long run.
Staff writer Micah Kennedy:
- Overall record: 16-15 (10-6 in the ASUN)
- Team finishes fourth in the ASUN
- Ahsan Asadullah picks up third straight year as ASUN First-Team player
Sports Editor Danny Kotula:
- Overall record: 14-17 (7-9 in the ASUN)
- Team finishes fifth in the ASUN
- Ahsan Asadullah picks up third straight year as ASUN First-Team player, and KJ Johnson and Parker Hazen join him as All-Conference 2nd team selections
The Bisons will open the season against the NCAA Division III Birmingham-Southern Panthers 7 pm Tuesday in Allen Arena. The game will be broadcast live on The Bison, Lipscomb’s on-campus radio station.
Photo courtesy of Lipscomb Athletics