Caldwell, Smith look for breakout seasons in sophomore campaigns
HAMMOND, La. – As the 2020-21 season opener draws near for the Southeastern Louisiana men’s basketball team, sophomores Nick Caldwell and Byron Smith are primed to be a vital part of the team’s success.
Caldwell (6-7, 215, F) showed his versatility for the Lions last year. The Geismar, Louisiana native was second on the team in steals (28) and third in blocked shots (13) while playing 18.3 minutes per game. The Dutchtown High School grad averaged 6.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game including a season-high 16 points against Nicholls and UL Lafayette.
“I feel like I’ve gotten stronger since last year,” said Caldwell. “I also feel like I’m in better shape for when the team needs me to play more minutes this year.”
Smith (6-1, 180, G) played in all 31 games as a freshman with 28 starts playing 27.3 minutes per game. A Palatka, Florida native, Smith was second on the team in steals (29) and assists (48). The P.K. Yonge High School grad averaged 7.7 points per game including a season-high 18 points at UL Lafayette Dec. 3, 2019.
“Having that first year helped me mature as a player,” said Smith. “I think it will also help me be more of a vocal leader this year so I’m looking forward to playing.”
Caldwell and Smith’s experiences gained from their freshmen seasons could pay dividends as the Lions having a grueling non-conference schedule. SLU will play 10 straight road games to start the season, the longest road trip in program history.
“It’s going to be tough,” said Smith. “But for me, the key is just staying focused and watching a lot of film. I’m just trying to get better day-by-day in the gym and understanding that preparation for each game is the same no matter where we play.”
Caldwell’s approach is to make sure that he keeps a routine preparing for the month-long road trip.
“The main thing for me is to get a good night sleep each night and stay in shape,” said Caldwell. “It’s going to be a tough month but I think it will test the entire team’s toughness and make us better when we start conference.”
Despite the challenges of the daunting non-conference schedule, Caldwell and Smith are confident the Lions have what it takes to battle through the road trip.
“This is a very motivated team that brings the best out of each other,” said Smith. “We are all in it for the main goal which is to compete for a conference title.”
The intensity and focus of the team during practice have caught Caldwell’s attention.
“Every practice has been intense because of how tough the team is as a whole,” said Caldwell. “Every player wants to put in the work and get better and it’s showing each day. I think the team is extremely focused.”
Second-year SLU head coach David Kiefer praised the efforts of Caldwell and Smith through the preseason practice schedule.
“Both Byron and Nick have put in an immense amount of time to put on about 15 pounds of muscle,” said Kiefer. “That strength, along with the maturity from last year, will make them both high impact players for us this season. They’ve also really pushed themselves to increase their basketball IQ by studying film, meeting with the coaching staff regularly and working on their craft in their spare time. I’m really excited about the prospects Nick and Byron have for this season and the rest of their careers.”
Kiefer, Caldwell, Smith and the Lions open the season Wednesday, Nov. 25 on the road against Purdue-Fort Wayne, the first of a 10-game road trip to start the season.
HARDWOOD CLUB/S CLUB
Fans interested in becoming active supporters of the basketball program are encouraged to join the Hardwood Club. Lion alums are encouraged to join the exclusive S Club, which is restricted to Southeastern athletic letterwinners. All membership fees and donations to Hardwood Club are available for the exclusive use of the Southeastern basketball program. Membership information is available by contacting the Lion Athletics Association at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 549-5091 or visiting www.LionUp.com.
For more information on Southeastern Basketball, follow @LionUpMBB and @DavidKieferSLU on Twitter, like /SLUathletics on Facebook and subscribe to the SLUathletics YouTube channel.
For ticket information, please contact the Southeastern Athletics Ticket Office at (985) 549-5466 or visit www.LionSports.net/tickets. Southeastern is implementing mobile ticketing as the primary source for securing tickets for the 2020-21 season. All tickets will be available via e-mail in a PDF format for fans to download on their phone or print at home. Tickets can also be downloaded to Apple Wallet.
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