HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The University of Southern Miss will be a getting a tropical jump on the 2017-18 basketball season.
Southern Miss coach Doc Sadler has set up a trip to the Bahamas, where the Golden Eagles are expected to play three exhibition games over five days. The team is scheduled to leave Aug. 8 and return home Aug. 13.
National Collegiate Athletic Association rules allow universities to schedule summer exhibition tours once every four years. The Golden Eagles' last overseas excursion took place in August 2013 on a similar three-game trip to the Bahamas.
Sadler said not only should the Golden Eagles benefit from the games themselves, but team is allowed, 10, full-scale practices in preparation for the trip.
And that should be a boon for a team that lost three seniors, forwards Quinton Campbell and Raheem Watts and guard Michael Ramey, and welcomes five new players, including:
Junior transfer guard Dominic Magee (Memphis/Grand Canyon)
Junior transfer guard Tyree Griffin (Oklahoma State)
Junior college redshirt guard Anfernee Hampton (Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College)
Junior forward signee Boban Jacodonmi (Chattanooga State Community College)
Freshman guard signee LaDavius Draine (Calhoun City)
"The advantage is you have five new guys that are going to get a chance to play some games that don't count," Sadler said. "Boban and Draine weren't here last year, obviously, and we're counting on both of them to help us some.
"So, it's a chance to play."
The Golden Eagles return junior guard Cortez Edwards, who finished second in scoring last season, averaging 11 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists a game.
Also returning are senior guard D'Angelo Richardson, junior forward Eddie Davis III and junior guards Kevin Holland and Robert Thomas III, each of whom appeared in at least 26 of the Golden Eagles' 31 games.
Sophomore forward Tim Rowe, who had his 2016-17 season cut to eight games by injury, returns, as do sophomore guards Josh Conley, Clay Weatherspoon and Christian Clark.
"We'll be smaller and quicker," Sadler said. "I think you'll see us playing a little different than we've played, and even though we're still three scholarships short, we're deeper than we've been.
"We're up to 10 (scholarship) bodies, so at least we have an option. Ten is better than eight."
Southern Miss will have to do without three scholarships over the next two years as part of the package of penalties imposed by the NCAA for improprieties during the Donnie Tyndall regime from 2012-14.
The penalties, which also included scholarship reductions in the 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, have impacted the program. Last year, the Golden Eagles finished 9-22, but with six Conference USA victories, Southern Miss played in the league's postseason tournament for the first time since a self-imposed, two-year ban.
"We still have to deal with the three scholarships that the NCAA (penalized)," Sadler said. "So, it's just depending on how we deal with that. Right now, we're at 10 (scholarship players), and I'm just trying to figure out which is the best way to do it because (this season) it's such a big junior class, if you're not careful, you'll be back in the same position you were in with a whole new team.
"There's no right way to do it, and it's not easy. We don't know if we're doing it the right way because nobody has ever had to go through this. It's not like I could call anybody and they'd say, 'You want to do it this way or that way.'"
The players have been working out this summer, including two hours per week on "skill-related instruction," per NCAA guidelines.
Sadler said he also intends to spread out the 10 summer practices associated with the summer trip to the Bahamas.
"Instead of doing 10 straight days, which I didn't want to do, I'm just doing one or two days a week," Sadler said.