Updated Mon, Nov 4, 2013 5:57 pm
An experienced head coach and youthful team highlight the 2013-14 season for the Rio Grande men’s basketball team. Entering his eighth season, head coach Ken French looks to build off of last’s season 11-19 record by focusing on team chemistry and trust in one another.
With only four returning players and 11 new faces, the RedStorm rely on the leadership of players such as D.D. Joiner, Jermaine Warmack, and Evan Legg. The experience of these veteran players is vital to the success of the team this year especially in its two games against NCAA Division I opponents Marshall and Central Florida.
The team lost Kaleb Kimber and Dominick Haynes due to graduation, but is returning several key players including Joiner, Warmack, and Legg. Legg and Joiner won back-to-back Mid-South Conference (MSC) Freshman of the Year awards for the RedStorm. Joiner, a sophomore, led the team in scoring last season averaging 15.3 points a game and shot 46 percent from the field.
“D.D. is a very special player,” French said. “He has improved his game this year and has taken it to the next level. His work ethic has gotten better and it’s only going to help us as a team because we have someone to rely on that’s a quality player.”
Rio Grande also returns senior Jermaine Warmack who was the leader in assists and steals last season. Warmack accumulated a total of 126 assists in addition to his 68 steals.
“Jermaine Warmack has a lot of experience as a four-year player at our program and is going to be relied on heavily,” French said. “He’s a tough kid and tough point guard and he’s going to have a solid senior year.”
The RedStorm will lean on the talent and experience of Joiner and Warmack to lead them in games against Division I opponents Marshall and Central Florida. These games are a chance for Rio Grande to “line up against the big boys,” according to French.
“We were fortunate enough to beat a Division I team last year against Campbell University and it was a great experience for our guys,” he said.
Playing Division I teams “doesn’t intimidate our players” he said. “The two Division I teams we play this year are going to be very, very tough opponents. We’re looking forward to it, and it gives our program exposure and gives our guys a chance to compete at the highest level.”
The Saunders Insurance Tipoff Classic begins Rio’s season on Nov. 8 and 9. The game against Marshall marks the only away game for the RedStorm in November before they return for homecoming weekend to host the Bevo Francis Tournament on Nov. 15 and 16. The following week Rio also plays back-to-back games against MSC rivals Lindsey Wilson and Cumberland. Other games that highlight the RedStorm’s schedule include matchups against MSC favorite Georgetown College and their final two home games versus Bluefield and Pikeville on Feb. 20 and 22.
After finishing 6-14 in conference play last season, the RedStorm are ranked 10th this year in the preseason MSC polls. Preseason ranking, “doesn’t have any factor what so ever. Our conference is good, but as far as ranking goes I think it bothers the guys a little bit,” French said.
“They want to go out and prove it to each other. It’s more important what we do for each other in the locker room than it is for anyone outside of it.”