VMI Hoops: Eyes on the Tournament
Lexington, VA—After struggling through his first season at VMI, head coach Duggar Baucom unleashed a style of play last season that tore through record books and gave VMI national records in 17 categories.
Yes, you read that correctly—17 national records. More importantly, Baucom’s VMI squad wreaked havoc on the Big South Conference, giving opposing teams fits with their aggressive, up-tempo style. Steady improvement throughout the season landed VMI in the Big South conference championship game, but the fairytale ended with a close three-point defeat at the hands of a very talented Winthrop team.
A big part of VMI’s resurgence can be traced to Reggie Williams, a scoring machine who racked up 28 a game last year while claiming the highest scorer in the land honors. Williams puts up Nintendo-like numbers while shooting a blistering 53% from the field.
Williams will once again be counted on for scoring and leadership this season. In an effort to improve his chances of making the league, look for Williams to showcase a more well-rounded game this season.
Recruiting by Baucom has been drastically improved as well. Recruiting from a military institution is hard enough, but one with no winning tradition is doubly hard. However the crafty Baucom seems to have a way of finding diamonds in the rough.
Take the Holmes twins for instance. Chavis and Travis Holmes, both dominant high school players, were largely passed over by D-1 programs. While other coaches scoffed at the fact that the twins didn’t have 40 inch verticals, Baucom saw in them what the other coaches clearly missed: basketball IQ, great passing, a will to win, and the ability to bring out the best in their teammates.
Last season, each of the twins had breakout years, as Chavis chipped in over 19 a game and a conference-leading 3.4 threes per game. Travis, meanwhile, netted about 15 a game while leading the nation in steals—earning him Big South Defensive Player of the Year honors.
Back as captains this year, look for both to improve even more in their junior seasons.
Junior Willie Bell is another upperclassman Baucom hopes to get more productivity out of. So far this season, Bell has responded, posting eleven points and over six boards a game. If VMI is in need of help anywhere, it is definitely down low—and Bell hopes to fill that void.
This past off-season, Baucom struck gold again, nabbing a collection of freshmen who will contribute immediately. In the backcourt, Baucom found two excellent additions to the roster.
Freshman Christian Hunter from Cleveland has been a pleasant surprise this season. A strong and tall guard who is never shy about putting up a shot, Hunter is averaging eleven points a game in about 25 minutes per contest.
Meanwhile, Austin Kenon, another high scoring freshman guard, is netting about ten points a game for the Keydets in roughly 20 minutes per. A 5-11 guard from Virginia Beach, Kenon has been VMI’s most consistent three-point threat early in the year. The Hunter/Kenon tandem should be a headache for the Big South for the next four years.
Seeking help down low, Baucom landed 6-6 forward Hunter Houston out of Birmingham, AL, whose athletic frame made him a standout tight end in high school. Houston considered playing football in college, but Baucom convinced him otherwise--instead of hauling in TD passes, Houston is now grabbing chest passes and launching his trademark lefty three ball.
Once again, Baucom saw in Houston what other coaches missed. Houston has already broken the starting lineup due to his smart and steady play, which shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, Houston’s older brother is a graduate of a little school called Harvard.
Although the Keydets lost three starters and will need a bunch of minutes from freshmen this year, you have to like their chances with Baucom at the helm. VMI is flat out capable of beating you on any given night, and if they can gel at any point in the season, it could be a nightmare for the rest of the Big South come tournament time.
Winthrop will certainly provide a tough test for the conference, as they return three starting seniors with March Madness experience, but parity in college sports is making it increasingly difficult to tote any team as a clear frontrunner. Who knows—the Keydets might very well be dancing come March.
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