Georgia State’s men’s basketball season is officially underway with a 101-56 win over Division II Clayton State. Here were some of my takeaways from Press Row at the Sports Arena, as well as postgame quotes from Georgia State head coach Rob Lanier:
Shaking Off Some Rust
It’s the first game Georgia State has played since the middle of March – and the first collegiate game for the four freshmen – so it’d be understandable if the players weren’t firing at midseason form yet. There were a few open shots that you’d expect to drop that didn’t and some unforced turnovers in the second half. Clayton State got a few cheap buckets by advancing quicker down the court in transition than the Panthers were ready for. There were some offensive rebounds where a Laker just made the extra effort more and fought for it more that you’d want cleaned up. All these are things that time and more reps will help clean up.
Coach Lanier didn’t like the team’s energy in the first half but felt the team found it in the second half, saying they had “a renewed energy level, urgency.” He hypothesized the absence of Eliel Nsosome had an impact on that, saying, “I think it was glaring watching the game that there was an energy void there that we miss with [Eliel] not on the floor that has to be made up collectively.”
Coach Lanier praised Clayton State and their coach Vince Alexander, saying, “It was good for us to play against a team with some talent, with some Division I transfers and some athletes, and to go against some of the concepts they run.” Referring to some of the aforementioned tempo and pressure, he said it was good that Clayton State “put [the team] in situations [they] practiced” and “gave [them] some looks we tried to prepare for…so we’ll get some good teaching out of that.”
#10 Is Back
You can’t comment on this game against Clayton State without heralding the return of junior guard Nelson Phillips for the Panthers, who missed all of the 2020-21 season due to injury. He picked up where he had left off two seasons ago by filling up the stat sheet across the board. Nelson finished with 18 points in just over 18 minutes played, making 7-of-8 shots and shooting 3-of-4 from downtown, to go along with 7 steals.
Coach Lanier called Nelson Phillips a “difference-maker” and the “best athlete” on the roster, and said he looked forward to a time when the team could have his defensive energy on the court at the same time as Eliel Nsoseme and sophomore Collin Moore. Like Eliel, Collin has been out injured and did not play in tonight’s exhibition. Coach Lanier noted that Nelson and Eliel have never played in a game together and that Nelson and Collin have never even practiced together due to the timings of their injuries. He said, “Little by little, we’ll definitely have a more athletic group.”
Meet the New Guys
We also saw the debuts of freshmen Ja’Heim Hudson, Jamall Clyce and Chien-Hao Ma, as well as the WKU transfer Jordan Rawls.
Hudson had 9 points and 5 rebounds in his first collegiate action and provided some of the energy the team needs without Eliel Nsoseme at the start of the season. On Hudson, Coach Lanier said, “We expect Ja’Heim to stick his nose in there and do some great things, and he did,” going on to say, “He’s still learning college basketball, he’s getting thrown into the fire a little bit and he’s a little bit shielded by those older guys, but he IS an energy guy and a tough guy.”
Jordan Rawls finished with 10 points on 4-of-9 shooting, 5 assists and a block and a steal. Coach Lanier credited Rawls with being the team’s steadying force in the first half, saying he was “running the show and giving [the team] a bit of organization at times when we needed it.”=
The hardwood action gets official next Tuesday when Georgia State hosts Brewton-Parker in their opener of the regular season. Tipoff from the Third Floor is at 7pm Eastern and you can see it live on ESPN+.