McNeese men’s basketball program gains valuable experience on Bahamas trip

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LAKE CHARLES – McNeese men’s basketball had quite the experience last week in the Bahamas where the Cowboys faced off against three of the island’s professional teams at the BBF Summer of Thunder event.

But there was more to the trip than just the winning, it was a valuable experience for everyone involved with the Cowboy program from the competition on the court to the team bonding off the floor.

“It was a phenomenal opportunity to represent McNeese State University in a foreign country,” said second year head coach Heath Schroyer. “It was an unbelievable experience from a cultural standpoint. I think our guys got a lot out of it and we got better as the week went on.

“We played against three professional teams. The team we played the first night had an average age of 31 and won their league championship last year. They lost to Temple on a last second shot the night before so they were a really talented team.”

NCAA rules state that teams can play out of the country once every four years and are allowed 10 practice days to prepare for such competition.

That’s a value Schroyer said you can’t put a price on.

“We went over there and got better. Having so many new guys getting real game experience, that really jump-started our season. Having the 10 days of practice, you can’t put a price or a value to what the trip meant to us as a team.”

In the three games (McNeese won two), returner Sha’Markus Kennedy and newcomer A.J. Lawson averaged 20 or more points per game – Kennedy with a 21.7 mark and Lawson at 20.7. Newcomer and sharp-shooter Dru Kuxhausen averaged 15.7 points a game while sinking 52 percent of his 3-point shots.

Returning all-conference player Roydell Brown led the way in rebounding with an 8.3 average.

“Sha’Markus was a monster,” said Schroyer. “He played extremely well. Dell (Roydell), as the games went on, found his rhythm after coming back from an injury that sidelined him for the last six weeks of the season last year. It was good to get A.J. on the floor. He’s a special player and a great kid.

“Dru is a kid, I’ve said all along, is the best shooter in the country. He shot the ball well.”

McNeese dropped the first game, 79-65, to the Commonwealth Bank Giants as Kennedy led the Cowboys with 22 points on 10 of 16 shooting while Lawson scored 21. Both notched double-digits in rebounds as well – Kennedy with 12 and Lawson 10.

The Cowboys responded the next day with a 98-78 win over Raw Talent Elite as Kennedy drained 30 points on 12 of 15 shooting while Kuxhausen sank 5 of 9 from long range to a 21-point outing. Lawson added 16 points and seven assists while Brown pulled in 10 rebounds.

As a team, the Cowboys connected on 54 percent of their shots from the floor (36 of 67) and held a 47-39 advantage on the glass.
The final game saw the Cowboys drum IBA Elite 114-72.

McNeese torched the nets with 59 percent shooting (42 of 71) including 15 of 25 from long range for 63 percent.

Lawson led the way with 25 points on 9 of 15 shooting (4-4 3FG) and Kuxhausen added 20 points on 6 of 8 shooting (5-6 3FG).

Kennedy scored 13 points while Trey Johnson led the team with five assists as McNeese dished out 26 dimes on 42 shots made.

“Everyone played in all the games,” said Schroyer. “We took those games as a chance to play everyone, to look at different rotations and combinations. Overall, we had some really good performances.

“Being able to travel abroad, going to restaurants and doing activities together, that was a great experience for the kids and as a program. I think our guys grew a lot closer with the experience. I’m excited and proud with how they represented the university.”

The Cowboys will return to the practice floor at the beginning of October when the official start to the 2019-20 season gets underway.

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