JONESBORO — It’s time for some roundball.
Arkansas State begins the 2012-13 basketball season this evening with the first of two exhibitions when Division II member Southern Arkansas visits the Convocation Center. Tipoff is 7:05 p.m.
ASU basketball coach John Brady, who has a 61-66 record in four years at the school, is eager to see his team hit the hardwood. The Red Wolves return four starters and have added seven newcomers for what Brady believes will be his deepest team since he arrived in 2008.
"We’ve gotten enough practices in and we’re ready to play somebody besides ourselves," Brady said. "We almost have everything in that we need between now and when we go to Dayton. I think our guys are anxious to play and we’ve got a collection of new players that we need to see what they can do in a game situation."
Among the returnees expected to lead Arkansas State are seniors Trey Finn, Marcus Hooten and Brandon Peterson.
Hooten is ASU’s leading returning scorer at 12.5 points a game, followed by Finn (11.6) and Peterson (9.2). Peterson also led the team in rebounding last season with 7.9 boards a game.
All three were selected to the preseason All-Sun Belt Conference team. They’ll be joined in the starting lineup tonight by freshman point guard Cameron Golden and junior forward Kendrick Washington.
Golden was a late addition to Arkansas State’s signing class after he previously committing to Alabama-Birmingham. The 6-foot-7 Washington transferred from the University of Houston and sat out last year to regain his eligibility.
Golden, 6-foot and 154 pounds, has impressed the staff since his arrival from Memphis Ridgeway. He’ll take over the point in place of junior Ed Townsel, who will move to a shooting guard, while sophomore Rakeem Dickerson will assume the backup role.
"I like his ability to pass the ball, see the floor and make shots," Brady said of Golden. "He needs to be a better defender. He’s small, so I’ll see how he is against somebody who gets after him pretty good. But he’s got good quickness, shoots it well, can pass it well and sees the floor well."
Brady plans to bring 6-foot-7 freshman Kelvin Downs off the bench first on the inside. Townsel and freshman Raeford Worsham should be the first subs at the wing positions.
One newcomer Brady was hoping to get a good look at tonight won’t be available.
Six-foot-8 junior forward Seth Kisler took an elbow to the back of his head in practice on Tuesday and sat out Wednesday’s workout. It is unclear if Kisler suffered a mild concussion, but he’ll sit out as a precautionary measure.
Brady had hoped to bring Downs and Kisler off the bench together. Brady had thought about rotating five substitutes at a time for SAU, but was leaning toward using one or two subs throughout to get the newcomers acclimated to their teammates and the quicker pace.
"Sometimes I want a couple of those freshmen to play with veterans," Brady said. "We’ve got a whole newcomer team outside of Ed (Townsel), so I may just sub two at a time so they can play with some experienced guys and get a better feel of what they can do with people around them that understand what they’re supposed to do."
Tonight’s exhibition will be the first opportunity for the Red Wolves to break in their new offense.
ASU spent practice time over the summer and early preseason switching to a faster, more open offense that should allow for more freedom and creativity. Brady’s teams have previously played in a more structured, deliberate, high-low offensive style.
But it’s how well the Red Wolves defend and rebound this evening that interests Brady most. ASU allowed opponents to shoot better than 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from 3-point range last season.
"What I really want to see is how we defend," Brady said. "Our field goal stat last year wasn’t where it needed to be. I think it cost us probably two or three games. I’m really interested to see how we defend and how we rebound the ball also."
Southern Arkansas is a member of the Russellville-based Great American Conference. The Muleriders went 13-16 overall last year, 6-10 in conference play.