Men's Basketball


King to Close 2011 with Salem International on Friday

*photo courtesy of Katie Bowles
*photo courtesy of Katie Bowles

King Tornado

(8-3, 1-0 Conference Carolinas)


Salem International Tigers

(1-9, N/A) 

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Game 12  |  Dec. 30, 2011
Student Center Complex  |  Bristol, Tenn. 
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SIU website

King fought tooth and nail with the No. 3 LMU Railsplitters and came back from multiple 10+ point deficits in a 77-75 loss on Dec. 17. The loss broke a four-game win streak and was the second loss to LMU this season after falling in their first meeting, 75-69, on Nov. 12. Brian Hewitt led the Tornado with 23 points.

The Salem International Tigers find themselves struggling with a 1-9 overall record, but its not because they do not find the bottom of the bucket. The Tigers are averaging 81.8 ppg and in only three of their losses have they scored less than 75 points. In two of their losses, SIU has scored more than 90 points but surrendered  more than 100 in each of those games. Their defense may be their biggest downfall, allowing 93.1 ppg in their 10 contests. Kenneth McCornell leads the team in scoring (12.3 ppg) and is one of three Tigers who possess both double-digit point averages and more than 10 steals. Salem has been outrebounded by an average of more than nine boards per game. Size is also an issue with only one man on the roster larger than 6-4, Walter Brock (6-8) though he is averaging only 11.0 mpg and is third on the team in fouls.

King has made it a habit to live and die by the three pointer, as shown by the their statistics through nine games. They lead the league in total three-point attempts (318) and makes (114) by a wide margin. They have the fifth-highest three-point percentage in the league (.358). On an individual level, Brian Hewitt (35) and freshman Logan Lyle (31) have the second and third-most successful three-point tries, respectively. The Tornado have three shooters hitting better than 40 percent of three points attempts; Hewitt (.438), Lyle (.443) and Michael Fortune (.412). Nearly 46 percent of all the team's points (372-of-809) have been scored by way of the three ball.

Logan Lyle (Unicoi, Tenn.) has been a big bright spot of the freshman class this year. The local product is one of four - and the youngest - to score in double digits this season, averaging 13.6 ppg. He is shooting north of 40 percent both from the field and from distance. He has hit the second-most threes on the team (31). Lyle is also second on the team in rebounds (4.5 rpg) and shares the team lead for blocks (3). His 141 points earns him a share for 12th in the conference in overall scoring.

Orlando's own, Eddie Piccinini, has returned from injury in a big way for King. He serves as team captain for the Tornado but also gets it done on the court, averaging 14.9 ppg as a full-time starter.Piccinini is fourth on the team in FG% (.402) and has the most floor time, playing 32.1 minutes per game. He has posted double-digit point totals in all but one game (vs. Mountain State, Nov. 25), totaling 10 games and five straight.

Beckley, W.Va. native Michael Fortune has been a great asset to the Tornado team being the team's third-leading scorer (14.6) and accounting for 14 steals. He is shooting better than 40 percent both from the field goal and from three-point range. He also leads the team in free throw percentage (.900) becoming a triple threat, offensively. Fortune has started 10 games but left the game versus Milligan with an injury, leading him to miss the team's win over Augusta State. He returned against LMU (Dec. 17) with nine points.

Senior Brian Hewitt was named the Conference Carolinas Male Basketball Player of the Week after posting up 32 points in an upset win against Limestone College on Nov. 29. In just one game, Hewitt convinced voters that his performance to help lead the Tornado to victory over the Saints was enough to garner him the honor for the second time this season. He also earned the award in Week 2. Against Limestone, Hewitt shot 80 percent from the field (12-for-15) and an unprecendented 77.7 percent from three-point range, hitting seven shots from deep. He also added three assists, three rebounds, two steals and a block.

To the chagrin of many around the program, King has overcome a decent sized roster turnover from a year ago and started their season with a commanding 6-2 record. Their losses include a tightly played game with Lincoln Memorial (Nov. 12), ranked fourth in the country at the time, and to Mountain State (Nov. 29), the defending NAIA Division I runners-up. They won five of their six games from Nov. 15 to Nov. 29, including a big upset win over Limestone College who was ranked as the preseason favorite to finish atop the conference. 

King College Men's Basketball was voted to finish fifth in Conference Carolinas, according to the Preseason Coaches' Poll taken in mid-October. They were selected to finish second in the West Division, behind preseason favorite Limestone College. Ahead of King in the overall rankings are Limestone, Queens (N.C.), Barton and Mount Olive. 

The Tornado welcomed a new member to the coaching staff this offseason. Damon Johnson was named assistant coach in August, joining Nick Pasqua and Head Coach George Pitts on the staff. Johnson played for Pitts at Science Hill High School in Johnson City, Tenn. before he played three seasons at the University of Tennessee. He enjoyed a 10 year profession career playing overseas playing in various European leagues making stops in Spain and Iceland. He spent the last two years coaching in the Johnson City school district. 

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