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WVC men's basketball: Downey bolsters UC roster

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The gradual advancement of the University of Charleston men's basketball program is not lost on third-year Coach Mark Downey.

Still, he knows that to make another step it would be good to have Robbie Dreher.

The 6-foot-4 wing is awaiting word from the NCAA on his eligibility. Dreher is considered a double transfer after leaving Winthrop University and enrolling at Marshall before leaving there to take care of his ill father.

Downey hopes to know before his team tips off at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Puerto-Rico Mayaguez in the Nova Thanksgiving Tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

"We have some weapons," said Downey, who is 41-20 in two seasons at UC. "It would be nice to have Robbie as well. If Robbie is eligible, we have a chance to be special."

The Golden Eagles will try to replace 2011-12 WVC Player of the Year P.J. Reyes, who capped his final season with a 22-point, seven-rebound effort in the Reese's Division II All-Star Game last March.

Charleston will do it with a lineup that Downey bolstered with plenty of talent.

Former Huntington Prep standout Aleksander Kesic, from Belgrade, Serbia, joins the mix. The 6-foot-8 freshman spent the 2010-11 season at Iona University where he participated in seven games after playing at Huntington Prep.

"He can go inside and outside, he's a tough kid," Downey said. "He can score with his back to the basket."

Point guard Terrell Lipkins is another key newcomer in the starting lineup.

Lipkins, who wasn't eligible last season, gives the Golden Eagles something they haven't had in Downey's two seasons.

"He can score," said Downey of the Canton, Ohio, native. "He's not as quick and dynamic as a Cookie Miller, but he can score in some ways that Cookie could. He's a scoring point guard we didn't have the past couple years."

Lipkins averaged 26.1 points, 6.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 3.3 steals for Northland Community College in Canton. A junior college All-American, Lipkins had 1,275 career points at Northland.

There are some familiar names in the UC lineup as well, with former Marshall University player Xavier Humphrey. The 6-6 forward averaged just 8.3 points for UC last season, but led the Golden Eagles in scoring (32) and rebounds (9) in their 79-76 NCAA Division II regional tournament loss to Wheeling Jesuit.

Shooting guard Evan Faulkner improved steadily as the season wore on last year, and will be counted on to be more consistent from the perimeter.

He had a team-leading 79 3-points last season and averaged 3.4 rebounds and more than one steal per game.

The Eagles also added former George Washington guard Tino DiTrapano.

The progress UC is making under Downey is similar to what he achieved at Arkansas Tech during his four-year tenure.

The Wonder Boys went from a 6-21 in his first season in 2006-07, to 18-11, 23-9 and 30-2 during the 2009-10 season.

Last year the Golden Eagles were 26-7 overall and 18-4 in the WVC. They lost in the conference tournament championship game in overtime to West Liberty.

The challenge has grown for UC in a more balanced league. The Hilltoppers returned their top eight scorers from last season's NCAA Division II Tournament Elite Eight team, West Virginia Wesleyan hired Patrick Beilein - the former WVU guard and son of Michigan Coach John Beilein - and Fairmont State added former WVU assistant Jerrod Calhoun.

"I think it's (WVC) better than it has been," Downey said. "I don't know what Pat's (Beilein) going to do, but they have (Noah) Cottrill up there and he'll be good for them.

"Jerrod (Calhoun) has really done a good job of bringing in guys. They'll be talented.

"The thing that makes the league really good is a lot of teams have a lot of guys back."

Last year, four conference teams earned a spot in the Atlantic Region tournament.

*  *  *

THE GOLDEN EAGLES were scheduled to begin the season tonight against Davis & Elkins at Eddie King Gym. However, the game was postponed following the death of Senators assistant coach Roy Simms, who collapsed during practice on Saturday.

The former Elkins High School star, who was 52 years old, played at the University of Detroit (1979-83) and also was the former head boys basketball coach at Elkins.

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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