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Men's Basketball Preview: Lions have prescription for success

But dodging familiar injury woes may be most crucial to Vanguard's continued progress.

November 07, 2013|By Barry Faulkner

Rhett Soliday came to Vanguard University to build a men's basketball program. But in his three previous seasons, particularly the last two, he has instead been saddled with nearly enough afflicted players to support a burgeoning medical practice.

Despite the string of physical maladies, ranging from shoulders, to backs to knees to ankles, the Lions managed to post their first winning record (17-12) in five seasons in 2012-13. And if Soliday and his staff can limit the length of daily progress reports from the training room, this year's squad may continue the upward trend.

"I'm thinking if we can get everybody healthy in the preseason, there is no one on our schedule that we can't, on any given night, compete with and beat," Soliday said. "In the past, I'd say we could compete with anybody, but I don't know if I could really say we were good enough to finally get over that hump and beat anybody."

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The return of the top two scorers from last season is a good place to start when it comes to optimism, as senior guard Preston Wynne (18.1 points per game) and junior point guard Chris Gorman (15.4 per contest) are back to anchor a backcourt Soliday proudly calls as good as any his team will face.

"In terms of talent, character and competitiveness, [Wynne and Gorman] are as good as you can find," Soliday said. "I think the thing we were really missing last year was length and athleticism at the rim. We've just gotten crushed on the boards these last couple years, and the reality is that if you can't protect the paint and rebound, you are going to lose games decided in the last five minutes."

Soliday believes he may have filled the front-court void with a trio of transfers. TJ Burke, a 6-9 sophomore from UC Riverside, Zach Allmon, a 6-8 redshirt freshman from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Keith Mason, a 6-8 junior from Los Angeles Harbor Community College are all long and talented, though, predictably, two are battling ailments that could limit their contributions.

Mason, who, Soliday considers the most ready to make a sizable impact in the paint, started and had 11 points and four rebounds in just 11 minutes of Monday's season-opening 101-59 home blowout of Cal Tech.

"He can face up against guys and also score with his back to the basket," Soliday said of Mason, who has had knee issues in the recent past.

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