Friday, November 16, 2001

If possible, Jeff Jones and American University want to erase last season from memory. Completely.

Jones’ first season began with much optimism, but despite playing without suspended standout forward Patrick Doctor for the first 11 games, the Eagles started 5-6. Doctor came back, but the season went to pieces: There were injuries on top of suspensions on top of poor play. American lost 11 of its last 12 games and finished 7-20.

“To be honest,” Jones said, “there’s not a whole lot worth remembering from last year. It was difficult to swallow.”

So, Jones did some housecleaning and brought in eight new players, including two key junior college transfers, to try to make American’s first season in the Patriot League its first winning campaign in 10 years.

Senior forwards Doctor (16.1 points last season) and Keith Gray will be joined in the starting lineup by guards Steven Miles, who sat out last season after transferring from Coastal Carolina, and Glenn Stokes, a 25-year-old transfer from Tallahassee Community College. The starting small forward spot will be filled by Vladimir Buscaglia or Brian Williams, both returnees, or Nick Boyd, who transferred with Stokes from Tallahassee. Stokes was recruited by Maryland but wanted to go where he could play right away.

Other transfers who should factor in the rotation include 6-8 Slovenian Matej Cresnik, who had knee surgery and should return within two weeks, and 6-6 Patrick Okpwae, a native of Cameroon.

Jones said he wanted to go the junior college and transfer route because he wanted players who were prepared both to play basketball and hold their own in the classroom. Two players, Jernavis Draughn who showed potential as a freshman last year and Charles Pringle, cannot play this season because of academic difficulties. Hasheem Alexander, who played significant minutes as a sophomore at point guard, transferred to Bowie State.

The schedule looks much different, too. American is out of the Colonial Athletic Association, which includes perennial contenders George Mason and UNC Wilmington, and into the Patriot League, which includes three schools, plus Army and Navy, that do not give athletic scholarships. That doesn’t bother the Eagles.

“Some guys were disappointed to go from the CAA to the Patriot,” Miles said. “Other guys looked at it as an opportunity to go to the tournament. I look at it as an opportunity.”

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