Williams Setting Lofty Goals for Golden Eagles

clarion-menCLARION, Pa. (EYT) – It may only be year two for Clarion University men’s basketball coach Marcess Williams, but that hasn’t kept the Golden Eagle coach from setting some very high goals for his team.

Williams, who wasn’t hired until just before the start of practice last year, went on to say he believes this year’s team is far ahead in terms of preparation of where last year’s team was.

“We hope that will translate into the PSAC West title, which is our No. 1 goal, a PSAC conference championship, which is our No. 2 goal and to qualify for the national tournament, that is our No. 3 goal,” Williams said. We are confident we have the players in place and that we’ve been able to build the team so we feel we can compete for the championships. We are just excited to get going now.”

To say Williams’ goals for his team are lofty ones would be an understatement.

Despite winning 10 games in his first season (10-16 overall, 7-15 PSAC West), Williams, who prefers an uptempo, 90-feet for 40 minutes pace, is in charge of a program that has won just 21 games over the last three years, hasn’t been the to PSAC playoffs since 2010, hasn’t won a PSAC West title since 2005, and a PSAC Title since 2001.

This year’s squad is picked to finish seventh in the always-tough PSAC West, which includes NCAA Division II runner-up IUP, in a preseason vote by the league’s coaches.

“That (the preseason poll) means nothing,” Williams said. “Our football team was ranked eighth, last, and they are fighting for a conference championship right now. I don’t care about that, and (the players) don’t care about that. We don’t care about that mess. The rankings came out before our roster was even posted. We’re confident and comfortable with what we’ve got in this house that we are going to be able to compete for a championship around here.”

Williams is correct in the thought that preseason polls probably don’t mean much, especially considering outside of a couple of scrimmages no one even inside the locker room has seen this team together.

Of the 15 players on the roster, 10 are newcomers with only seldom-used senior Ralph Naples, senior Rob Agurs, juniors BJ Andrews and Justin Grant, and sophomore Cameron Grumley returning.

“We had a bit of an overhaul,” Williams said. “We had to make some tough decisions this summe. But we had to make them for the betterment of the program. We brought in 10 new guys, and we were transfer heavy. Because of that there is going to be a big time learning curve. But I don’t think there are (Division II) basketball program in the country other than West Liberty that brings in all freshmen anymore. It just doesn’t happen anymore. When you are in it, you have to keep up with it. I think a lot of people around the country are dealing with this learning curve.”

Perhaps the top newcomer for the Golden Eagles is senior Andre’ Anthony, a native of Pittsburgh who transfered from Division II South Carolina-Aiken. Anthony averaged 13.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.2 assists per game in his only year at South Carolina-Aiken.

“You don’t get players like that,” Marcess Williams said. “We had an opportunity to get him because of prior relationships. We got him. He instantly made the point-guard room better. He works harder than anybody.”

Additional key transfers are senior big men Tim Gill, who played at Division I Jacksonville last year, and Akeem Williams out of Manhattan Community College in New York City, junior guard Justin Dobbs, a Pittsburgh native who was a Mercyhurst North East a year ago after going to D-I Grambling out of high school, and swingman Larry Johnson Jr, who played at Youngstown St. and is the son of former NBA and UNLV star Larry Johnson Sr.

Gill, a 6-foot-8 forward/center, scored 89 points to go with 63 rebounds at Jacksonville last year after averaging 11 points and seven rebounds per game at North Dakota State College of Sciences two years ago.

Akeem Williams is a 6-foot-7 center/forward who averaged 7.5 points, 11 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game a year ago in one of the top junior college teams in the country.

Dobbs scored 19 points per game at Mercyhurst North East in 2015, while Johnson saw limited action at Youngstown but still scored 16 points to go with 22 rebounds in 22 games. He was a 20 point-per-game scorer in high school.

The transfers will join a talented group of returning players led by Andrews, the 2014 PSAC West Freshman of the Year who was Clarion’s leading scorer last year as a sophomore averaging 14 points per game.

Grumley from nearby Johnsonburg was thrust into a starting role at point guard as a true freshman and responded with an all-around solid season that saw him average 7.3 points, 2.4 rebounds. 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. His expectations of the season mirror those of his coach.

Agurs was solid after joining the team following the Christmas break after transferring from Marcess Williams former school, Penn State-Beaver, scoring 8.0 points per contest to go with 4.6 rebounds per game.

Grant also started to come into his own as a sophomore and averaged 5.2 points and 2.3 rebounds per contest.

“We’ve got great players,” Williams said “They are getting after it and buying in. We have the athletes. My mentor (former Clarion player and LaRoche head coach the late Scott Lang) use to say it’s not the Xs and the Os is the Jimmys and the Joes. It’s about the players. We’ve got good players, and they go out and compete.”

Clarion opens the season Nov. 14-15 in Shepherd, W. Va. against Wheeling Jesuit and Shepherd before coming home to start PSAC West play with Gannon Nov. 18. A complete schedule can be found at www.clariongoldeneagles.com/mensbasketballschedule.

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