Tornado Hoops Hits the Hardwood at LMU Invite on Friday

BRISTOL, Tenn. – The heart of the King College athletic season is upon us with the approach of men's basketball beginning this weekend. Head Coach George Pitts and his staff bring in the 2011-12 season by participating in the SAC/Conference Carolinas Challenge hosted by Lincoln Memorial University. Before the teams hit the hardwood, here are a few things you need to know about your Tornado.

Interview with Assistant Coach Nick Pasqua (.mp3) - part 1  |  part 2
KEY RETURNERS
Guard Eddie Piccinini will have a daunting task ahead of him being named captain to lead a group mixed with inexperience and raw talent. The Orlando, Fla. native played in 31 games last season and will be called upon to play the one and two positions on the floor in an effort to maximize his shooting capabilities. Last year, Piccinini shot 40 percent from the field and was all over the floor with 45 rebounds and 28 steals while averaging 5.8 points per game.

Brandon Goss (St. Louis, Mo.) is slated to start at the point to begin the season. The senior co-captain looks to be a part of the press offense that opens options on the court as he serves as floor general. Goss was third on the team in assists with 86 last season and when he couldn't find an open teammate his 41.9 percent field goal percentage gave the team a boost.

Michael Fortune (Beckley, W.Va.) will also fit into the mix of guards running the floor. As a freshman last year, Fortune played in all 33 games and shot 45.1 percent from the field, which tabbed him for third-best on the team (more than 65 attempts). Next to Mark Dockery and Brian Hewitt, Fortune took the next-most three-point attempts on the team (85) and converted 37.2 percent of his attempts.

The most experienced guard on the Tornado roster lies in Brian Hewitt (Lexington, Ky.). The senior is the team's best returning sharpshooting option having hit 82-of-211 (.389) three-ball attempts and is the team's lead returning scorer (11.9 ppg). Hewitt shot 42.7 percent from the floor and his experience in Coach Pitts' offense will be much needed with the number of young players that the lineup will feature this season.

The Tornado will be leaning on Lio Gedeon (Marash Harbor, Bahamas) to provide the combination of size and experience in the post this year. Standing at 6-foot, 7-inches and 240 pounds, Gideon played in all 33 games at the center position and is the team's lead returning rebounder (93/2.8 rpg).

 

KEY LOSSES
Tornado fans will not forget the contributions of one of the program's finest players to come through King College in Mark Dockery who became the College's leading all-time scorer last season. Averaging more than 20 points per game, leading the Tornado in three-point shot attempts, makes and percentage (139-337/.412) and serving as the team's second-best rebounder Dockery will be missed greatly but makes way for a talented group of guards to fill the void.

Clarence Smith can still be found in the halls of the Student Complex Center as a volunteer assistant coach of the women's basketball team but leaves the Tornado program as a top-10 scorer and rebounder in its history. Smith averaged 14.2 points, second-most in 2010-11, and pulled down a team-high 6.1 rpg. He gave the Tornado many second chances to score with 75 of his 202 boards being on the offensive end.

 

UP-AND-COMERS
Though the Tornado will endure some growing pains with the absence of Dockery and Smith in 2011-12, the transition will be softened by the contributions of a freshman class that is six men strong and features four guards and two forwards.

Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) is expected to make large contributions from the wing early on. The freshman packs size (6-5, 213) and shooting skill together and will make for a good threat from the outside. Those in Tornado camp make mention that he may remind fans of Dockery's style of play being a pure shooter with a side physical play to compliment.

Jamie Somers (6-6, 205) and redshirt-freshman Nathan Vannoy (6-4, 202) bring size to the forward spot and will also be in the mix to compete for playing time this season. Brandon Crompton (Hurricane, W.Va.) also joins the program as a transfer from the University of Charleston. Crompton will provide size (6-7, 233) and athleticism inside and can also shoot around the perimeter.

 

WELCOME TO CONFERENCE CAROLINAS
The Tornado will begin its first year as a member of Conference Carolinas and its second in NCAA Division II in 2011-12. In their first league preseason coaches' poll, King was tabbed to finish fifth overall in the conference and second in the West Division. Conference favorite Limestone College sits in front of King in both the overall and divisional rankings with Queens University, Barton and Mount Olive taking the two through four spots.

 

THE WAY ITS DONE – KING STYLE!
For those that are unfamiliar with the Coach Pitts style of play, expect a high-tempo offense that hopes to break into the front court quickly to create confusion and scoring chances. Tornado teams of the recent past have enjoyed shooting the ball from distance and this year's team will rely on the three-ball and perimeter shooting while it establishes its post play. Defensively, expect the same hustle and heart to get to the ball and press opponents. Forcing turnovers is key in the pressure defense King typically runs. Their speed and quickness to the ball will be paramount in overcoming what they may lack in height as well as their propensity to shoot from distance.

The 2011-12 team has many new pieces of puzzle that are trying to find a place to fit in Coach Pitts' masterpiece. Transition is always a process that takes time to overcome, but patience and trust in the system in place is something the Tornado coaching staff have much of.

 

THE SCHEDULE
The Tornado will play a 28-game schedule with 16 games played in their new conference. The team will begin the season Friday, Nov. 11 at the Southern Athletic Conference / Conference Carolinas Challenge hosted by Lincoln Memorial University (Harrogate, Tenn.). The Tornado will play Carson-Newman on Friday with a 6:00 p.m. tipoff from Turner Arena and then follow with host LMU on Saturday, also at 6:00 p.m.

King plays its first eight games all away from the Student Center Complex before hosting local rival Milligan College on Dec. 7. From there, they begin a four-game home stand against nonconference opponents. Their first Conference Carolinas game is the final of eight road games to begin the season against preseason favorite Limestone on Nov. 29. The Tornado will not play a conference opponent at home until 2012 when they host Mount Olive on Jan. 7.  King will play each team in its division twice and all other conference opponents once during the regular season.

The top eight teams in the conference, ranked by regular season conference record, will advance to the Conference Carolinas Tournament (Feb. 28 – March 4). The first four seeded teams will host first round games with the highest seeded remaining teams hosting each subsequent round. The tournament final will be held on March 4 and the winner will be given an automatic bid the NCAA Division II National Tournament.