Men’s basketball set for special season


Justin Brown

Junior Muusa Dama lays in a basket Sunday against Eureka College at Lantz Arena. Dama scored 14 points and recorded 3 blocks in the 94-58 exhibition game win.

Maher Kawash, Men's Basketball Reporter

While it is expected against a Division III opponent, a 36-point victory is always a nice way to kick off a season.

The win over Eureka College was just an exhibition game, but it still showed plenty of what is in store for the Eastern men’s basketball team this season.

The first round exit from the Ohio Valley Conference may still be on the minds of some Panthers, but it will not be for long as the team returns four of its five starters to set up a contending season.

We did not see a lot of those four returning starters in the 94-58 exhibition win Sunday evening, but what we did see was a preview of the additional newcomers to the team.

It will not be nearly as easy once the competition elevates for the Panthers, but a 30-2 run to close a game is still quite remarkable.

What makes it better for Eastern is who led that run, and what they have to offer the rest of the way.

The three junior college transfers that have just joined the team appeared to shine brightest in their first appearance in front of the Panther faithful.

Montell Goodwin made the most of his opportunity by leading Eastern with 17 points, while other transfers Muusa Dama and Ray Crossland combined for 26 points against Eureka.

Just the opening performance of those three newcomers opens a nice window of opportunity for this Panther team.

That trio combined with the Panthers returning lineup led by preseason All-OVC first team member Cornell Johnston could lead to plenty of success.

Not to mention the return of Demetrius McReynolds who is bound to be a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball.

Eastern had a decent season a year ago and although it ended early in the postseason, there was still plenty to be proud about.

But with the bright lights of a new campaign set to begin this week the expectations are only going to rise for this group.

The size and leadership available for the Panthers provides Eastern coach Jay Spoonhour with a dream scenario to exceed expectations.

Of course it is never an easy task in the Ohio Valley Conference though.

The Panthers have a shot to exceed their preseason prediction of finishing third, but still have to deal with the likes of Belmont and Murray State.

Luckily for Eastern their season will not depend on those two opponents, but it is sure to be a race to the top among those teams.

If the Panthers are going to outlast the rest of the field it will come down to how well those three transfers mesh with the returning lineup.

Spoonhour has emphasized early on that everyone on the team will have a chance to contribute, and that will be a must for Eastern.

In previous years, the team has seen Johnston easily rack up over 35 minutes a game on the court, but that may not even be needed this season.

With the depth available at hand, the opportunity to have a special season looms in the air, and it will be up to Eastern to take it and run with it.

Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]