MACON, Ga. - The Mercer men’s basketball team opens the 2007-08 campaign versus Georgia College and State University in their annual Coaches vs. Cancer exhibition game Tuesday night. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. in the University Center with admission $10 for adults and $5 for students with all of the proceeds going to the American Cancer Society.
“This is a great opportunity to raise funds for a great cause,” Mercer head coach Mark Slonaker said. “Last year we raised more than $4,500, which was the most ever and we are hoping to surpass that tomorrow night. It is the eighth year for this event and it is a great night of quality basketball. We hope everyone comes out to support the team in addition to furthering cancer research. I am excited to get started and it should be fun.”
Slonaker is looking to blend three newcomers into the system while returning the top four scorers from an explosive offense that scored more than forty points in a half on 17 occasions and notched more than 50 points in a half five times. Mercer's strength this season is its backcourt, featuring the all-conference duo of Shaddean Aaron and James Florence. Aaron, who had a breakout season in 2007, showed his versatility by ranking third in blocked shots, fourth in scoring and seventh in rebounding in the conference. After leading the league in scoring and earning A-Sun Freshman of the Year accolades, Florence was named to the CollegeInsider.com Freshman All-America team.
Also returning to the court after missing more than half of last season is junior forward Calvin Henry. The Orlando, Fla., native set records at three separate venues in his 14 games, collecting a Cameron Hall record 22 rebounds at VMI and blocking seven shots against ETSU in the University Center and at Belmont’s Curb Center. After sitting out last season following his transfer from UNC Asheville, guard Michael Ellis returns to the hardwood. The sophomore was named Big South Conference Freshman of the Year after averaging 9.8 points per game during the 2005-06 season. Forward Brian Pfohl saw action in 20 games last season, starting 13. He started the first 11 contests before suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee during the Oregon State game and returned in late January.
GCSU is coming off somewhat of an off season, at least by Bobcats’ standards. GCSU lists seven newcomers on the 2007-08 roster after finishing last season 19-10. All-Peach Belt Conference center Aaron Clark returns for his senior campaign, with junior guard Shaun Keaton adding the outside scoring threat to the mix. Clark and Keaton combined for more than 40 percent of the Bobcats’ offensive firepower last season while Clark and fellow senior LeVert Carter also ranked among league leaders in rebounding last season.
The Bears suffered their second consecutive loss in the series last season, 78-70, at the University Center. Mercer trailed by as many as 17 points twice in the first half before battling back to take a three-point lead midway through the final stanza, only to see the visiting Bobcats re-take the lead with just over five minutes remaining and hold on for the win. Mercer rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit, taking its final lead, 62-61, on a trey by James Florence but GCSU answered with a 15-4 run, taking a 10-point advantage with just 1:29 left in the contest and held on for the win.
Tonight's game can be heard at www.MercerBears.com with Rick Cameron doing the play-by-play. Mercer opens the regular season at 18th-ranked Southern Cal, Saturday, Nov. 10. Tip off for that game is slated for 4 p.m.