The Charlotte 49ers’ basketball season ended Tuesday with an 80-64 loss at Saint Joseph’s in the first round of the Atlantic 10 tournament. Let’s wrap up things up and look ahead:
(Note: I'll have a story with coach Alan Major and AD Judy Rose's take on the season soon).
-- The 49ers’ record (13-17, 5-11 A-10) improved – somewhat – in Major’s second season. Their overall and league marks were both three games better than 2010-11 and they returned to the league tournament after failing to qualify last season. But after a promising 2-0 start in the league, the 49ers lost 11 of 14 regular-season conference games the rest of the way.
-- Center Chris Braswell continued to develop into one of he league’s top big men, averaging 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. Freshman point guard Pierria Henry was a revelation, finishing among the nation’s leaders in steals and providing the 49ers with a tough defensive presence on the perimeter. The versatile DeMario Mayfield had a strong second-half, scoring and rebounding, and he often took over ball-handling duties for Henry.
-- But the 49ers never found offensive cohesiveness (shooting 41.2 percent for the season). Javarris Barnett was the closest thing Charlotte had to a No. 2 scorer behind Braswell, but Barnett’s senior season was marked with inconsistency. The backcourt depth Major hoped for vanished when Luka Voncina left school in December and senior Derrio Green’s defensive liabilities (something his streaky shooting couldn’t make up for) cost him a spot in the rotation.
-- In Braswell and Henry, Charlotte will have two of the Atlantic 10’s top players at two key positions, and Mayfield and shooting guard Jamar Briscoe will also return to the starting lineup. But Braswell will clearly need help offensively, and there’s no veteran who has shown he can fill that gap.
It could come from Briscoe (the nation’s second-leading freshman scorer at N.C. Central three years ago), Mayfield or even E. Victor Nickerson, who got plenty of minutes as a freshman this season.
Incoming freshman Shawn Lester was a proven scorer at Mooresville High, but counting on a freshman is dangerous business. Finding that No. 2 scorer will be a huge priority for Major.
Henry, for all his defensive prowess, will need to work on his offense in the offseason. If he can find – and make – more shots, Charlotte will be better.
-- Rebounding help is on the way from incoming freshmen Darion Clark (6-6) and Willie Clayton (6-8). And if Braswell’s eventual replacement in the post is to be recruiting-gamble Mike Thorne (who played three minutes this season), he’s going to have to quickly develop and contribute as a sophomore.
-- As Major continues his re-building effort, it can be argued that this the lowest point for 49ers basketball in nearly 30 years. The last time Charlotte had back-to-back losing seasons was 1985 and '86, Hal Wissel’s final season and Jeff Mullins’ first. Another three-game improvement would only move Charlotte into the middle of the Atlantic 10. Will that be enough to satisfy 49ers fans who are yearning for a return to the NCAA tournament, where Charlotte hasn’t been since 2005?