Men's hoops: Southeastern Louisiana game preview

The Commodore men officially open the 2002-03 basketball season Friday at 7:00 p.m. at Memorial Gym against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions. It will be the first meeting on the basketball court between the two schools.

The Lions, members of the Southland Conference, finished 7-20 overall last season, and 6-14 in conference play. They defeated Spirit Express 85-76 in an exhibition game on November 9.

The top player for Southeastern Louisiana is 6-3 junior Amir Abdur-Rahim, the brother of Shareef Abdur-Rahim of the Atlanta Hawks. Last season he averaged 15.9 points and sank 77 three-pointers. Against Spirit Express he scored 16 points and shared high-scoring honors with Terry West, 6-6 junior transfer from Georgia Perimeter College, where he averaged 14.1 point and 11.4 rebounds last year. 

Compared to the Commodores, the Lions have little effective height. The tallest player, 7-0 Stephen Ameh, is a sophomore from Nigeria who went down with a torn ACL in the early weeks of the 2001-02 season. He is likely to see limited action this year. Stephen Walker, a 6-8, 225-pound freshman from Atlanta, will probably start and play a lot of minutes against the Commodores. He scored six points against Spirit Express. 

Two seniors share the point guard position, 5-9 Dyron Clark, who averaged 6.2 points last season, and 6-0 Marcus Smith (5.3 points per game in 2001-02). Rounding out the starting five is 6-5 Gary Solomon, a junior transfer from Garden City Community College. Solomon scored nine points in the Spirit Express exhibition and averaged 15 points at Garden City last season. 

Dee Gadsden, a 6-2 freshman from Jersey City, N.J., scored nine points in the exhibition game and is expected to play a lot of minutes for the Lions after sitting out last season. 

Other players who may see some action against Vanderbilt are 6-3 junior Wesley Haynes, 6-7 freshman Cuevas Sapp, 6-7 freshman Marcus Verner, 6-3 sophomore Adrian Scott, 6-3 junior Neil Berry, and 6-4 junior Lane Frey. 

The Lions will get most of their points this season from Abdur-Rahim, West, Solomon, Gadsden, Smith, and Clark. West and Walker will have to do most of the rebounding, with Ameh probably contributing 10-15 minutes per game or less. 

Southeastern Louisiana finished last season with an RPI of 304. They never have been in an NCAA basketball tournament, and regularly finish in the lower echelon of a weak conference. Coach Billy Kennedy has a 25-58 record in the three years that he has coached the Lions. 

On paper, this appears to be the easiest game on Vanderbilt's schedule, with only Alabama A&M and High Point providing comparable opposition. Look for a decisive Commodore victory, and a 20-40 point blowout if the team shoots the ball well. 

Vanderbilt started last season with a 96-61 win over Liberty, a team that finished the season rated 324. However, after that game, the Commodores tended to struggle against lower-ranked non-conference opponents, and even lost to Monmouth in a tournament in Hawaii. 

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