Defending National Champion Trailblazers look to continue winning ways in 2021 - Athletics

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Defending National Champion Trailblazers look to continue winning ways in 2021

VINCENNES, ind. – The Vincennes University men’s basketball team looks almost completely different from a year ago after losing 11 players, including six players who signed with NCAA Division I programs.

Vincennes looked to shake off some of the rust of not playing against an actual opponent in over 10 months by hosting Aim High Prep for a scrimmage Jan. 13.

The scrimmage was played as a half against Aim High, followed by an inter-squad second half.

“I feel about how I thought I would feel after the scrimmage. Not worse, but we’re going to have mistakes and things aren’t right but I thought our guys tried to play fairly hard. We just have to clean some stuff up,” VU Hall of Fame coach Todd Franklin said.

“We came out with fairly good intensity for now and we haven’t played anybody. It’s a new group, a new group of guards, so I thought we were okay for today for what I anticipated. There’s some good things and there’s some bad things, but that’s what this time is about.”

The 2021 version of the Trailblazers has reloaded with just three returning players with in-game experience at VU in sophomores John Ukomadu, Christian Wells and Randy Tucker, as well as Antonio Watson II who redshirted last season.

“(The returning players) were okay, I didn’t think they had great days, except for Watson, because he got a chance to do what he can do, which is catch and shoot” Franklin added. “I thought DJ did a good job of finding him, when they were on the floor together. I think (Antonio) did a good job of running to his spot, he hit four from three and that’s what he’s going to bring you from an offensive stand point.”

“The other three was up and down. I think all three can be good players, they had some good moments today and some not so good moments. But that first scrimmage you do, it’s just hard to evaluate too much because what you’re really going to evaluate now is what happens after, in practice.”

Vincennes is bolstered by incoming transfers such as DJ Brewton (Alcorn State), Jalen Harper (Florida Gulf Coast), JJ Ramey (Pikeville), Jaidon Hunter (Southeastern Illinois) Nigel Martin (Shaw) and Deatrick Pashell (Dodge City).

The VU coaching staff has also brought in another excellent class of incoming freshmen who will look to have a big impact this upcoming season in; Brandon Muntu, Justin Archer, Aaron Tims, Brevin Jefferson and Tyrus Baynham, Jr.

“I think Justin Archer is going to score the ball for us. He’s a little bit of a Lony Francis type, he’s going to hurt you on the block, really good off his right shoulder and he’s got a pretty good jump shot. He’s a guy that has a chance to be a double-figure type of scorer for us as a freshman and be impactful.”

“DJ showed that he’s got good vision, there are some things to clean up, but he’s got an innate vision, he can shoot it pretty good. If he’s willing to work hard at cleaning up some things he could really be impactful.”

“Aaron Tims is long, can run, has a chance. He’s probably not been as polished offensively to this point as Archer, but I think those two as two freshmen are going to be some quality over the next couple of years, where they could really do some good things.”

“I thought JJ Ramey did some good things shooting the ball, has some toughness, just the kind of guy that plays hard, there’s a lot of guys like that. Like Jaidon Hunter, coming over here from SIC, walking on and earning a scholarship. I think he’s excited and embraces this every day, so I think you could see some good things from him.”

“Brevin Jefferson, Brandon Muntu, Nigel Martin, we just have so many and they’re all kind of the same, who is going to get better, who makes that next move up because the one that makes that move is going to have a chance to be good and if you don’t, you’ll get passed.”

“With this group it’s hard to tell who will be our guys right now because there are a lot of them on a pretty close level of ability and I think they could all be good players, but they all have some movement they need to go to, to really be those players. We’ll just see, we’ll go to work every day but I think the pieces are in there, it’s just which guys emerge and how we end up putting it all together. I think at some point, if we keep working and hammering, I do think this team can be a good team.”

The 2019-20 season saw the Trailblazers defend their National Championship well, finishing the season with a 28-5 record and a berth in the NJCAA National Tournament for the eighth-straight season, before the tournament was cancelled.

Vincennes will begin their 22-game shortened season Wednesday Jan. 20 as the Blazers play host to Indiana Elite Prep at 7 p.m.

“We are just looking at who figures it out. We’ve hammered on the same things all the time and I think today the guys could figure out most of the stuff we told them. When they did it right it worked and when they didn’t they saw the problems we said would come. What we’re going to want to see is guys embrace that the next week, get into all the detail-oriented things. When you do that it eliminates your mistakes and that maximizes your chances for you to make plays, it does both and that’s what we want to see.”


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The Vincennes University Athletic Department hosts Play4Kay and raises donations for the Kay Yow Cancer Fund annually. VU Women’s Basketball Coach and Athletic Director Harry Meeks has a special connection to the late Yow, who was the longtime coach at North Carolina State. He had the pleasure of meeting her while he was an assistant coach at Western Carolina University. This left a lasting impression on him and made this cause important to him and the Trailblazers.

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