Non-Conference Preview: Sam Houston State
A look at this season's fourth opponent for Georgia Tech men's basketball
By Wiley Ballard - Georgia Tech hosts Sam Houston State in the first meeting ever between the two teams Nov. 22 at McCamish Pavilion. This is the fourth in a series of previews of the Yellow Jackets' non-conference opponents.
Date: November 22, 2016
Location: Huntsville, Texas
Home arena: Bernard G. Johnson Coliseum (6,100)
2015-16 Record: 18-16 overall, 12-6 in Southland (3rd), 192nd in NCAA RPI
Post-Season: lost in the first round of the CIT to Jackson State, 85-77 (OT).
All-time series record: first meeting
Head coach: Jason Hooten (entering 7th season, 116-85)
Starters returning/lost: 5/0
Top scorer returning: Aurimas Majauskas (14.2)
Top rebounder returning: Torry Butler (5.9)
Quick preview for 2016-17
Sam Houston State returns all five starters, including a pair of All-Southland second-team selections, Aurimas Majauskas and Dakarai Henderson. Majauskas, a Lithuanian native, anchors the Bearkat front court and led the squad last season in scoring with 14.2 points per game. Henderson ranked fourth in the Southland with 75 treys as a junior and enters his senior season with 962 career points (28th in school history). With Majauskas down low and Henderson on the wing, junior Jamal Williams runs the show from the point. Williams made his first start at point guard in December due to injury and never looked back. Williams, who had never played the position, collected 148 assists while starting every game and finished the year as one of the Southland’s best point men.
Quick recap of 2015-16
Having lost four all-conference starters, head coach Jason Hooten expected to see growing pains in 2015-16. But after a 5-8 non-conference performance, the Bearkats began the Southland portion of their schedule with four straight wins. Sam Houston carried the momentum to a runner-up finish, trailing only the March darlings of Stephen F. Austin. The Bearkats qualified for the CollegeInsider.com Tournament but fell in the event’s opening round to Jackson State in overtime. On the year, Sam Houston boasted the league's top rebounding margin and the second-best assist-to-turnover ratio.
Greatest program accomplishment
2003 Southland Conference Championship – Through their first 15 seasons of Division I basketball, Sam Houston State had only dreamt of reaching the famed field of 64. However the 2002-03 campaign proved to be the charm for the Bearkats. In addition to an unblemished home record of 15-0, Sam Houston won 19 of its final 23 games, including a watershed moment in the Southland Conference Championship. Against archrival Stephen F. Austin, the Bearkats trailed 66-65 with 20 seconds remaining at which point All-American Donald Cole sunk a go-ahead three-pointer that sent the Johnson coliseum into a frenzy. The win gave Sam Houston State its first NCAA Division I Tournament berth in school history while also cementing Donald Cole’s name in Bearkat lore. The inaugural tournament run was a short one, however, as the second-seeded Florida slammed Sam Houston 85-55 in the opening round.
Greatest player in program history
James Lister – James Lister’s legacy may not be that of Ralph Sampson or Christian Laettner across the grand scheme of NCAA basketball, but at the NAIA level there weren’t many better. Lister is one of just three Bearkats to ever score 40 points in a game (he did it three times). His 30 boards against Stephen F. Austin in 1972 are also a conference record. He owns the four best rebounding seasons in Sam Houston history, and he’s the school’s all-time leading scorer and rebounder. At 6-10, Lister dwarfed his competition and led the Bearkats to the 1973 national championship while earning his third All-American selection. Lister was drafted in the third round (41st overall) by the Cleveland Cavaliers following his senior season but never played in an NBA game.
Place to visit on campus or in the city
The Blue Lagoon/Sam Houston National Forest – Huntsville is home to one of the top SCUBA diving outfits in the state of Texas. Located 80 miles north of Houston, The Blue Lagoon offers courses that can prepare first-time divers for the open water or certify instructors to teach their own classes. The Blue Lagoon shares its space with the Sam Houston national forest which spans over 160,000 acres and serves as a popular hunting and hiking location.