03/11/10 — Miskdeen, Gabriel add knowledge

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Miskdeen, Gabriel add knowledge

By Ryan Hanchett
Published in Sports on March 11, 2010 2:20 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The best assistant coaches on the basketball landscape are the ones who are rarely noticed, but develop championship caliber talent.

Mount Olive's Eric Gabriel and Akeem Miskdeen certainly fit that bill.

In their first season on the bench as head coach Joey Higginbotham's right-hand men, Gabriel and Miskdeen have helped continue the already-rich basketball tradition at MOC.

"The success that Mount Olive has had over the past 10 years would make any coach want to come here," said Gabriel. "When this job came open last year, coach Higginbotham and I got to talking and he thought I would be a good fit on his staff."

Gabriel, a former Division II player at perennial West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference power West Liberty State, understood the rigors of the college game and gladly accepted Higginbotham's invitation.

As a guard specialist, Gabriel inherited an experienced group of backcourt players that includes preseason All-American selection Kendrick Easley.

"Those guys can really make the drills look easy," said Gabriel. "Kendrick is a 'lead by example' type player and he makes my job easier because he shows the rest of the guards how things are supposed to be done at practice."

Miskdeen handles the post players for Higginbotham and the Trojans.

Also in his first year with the team, Miskdeen knows all too well about MOC and its history. He played against the Trojans while in a Queens University of Charlotte uniform.

Miskdeen has overseen the emergence of Craig Hayes into one of the league's top forwards. The efforts of both assistant coaches has certainly not been lost on their players or their boss.

"Those two guys have been unbelievably great this season," said Higginbotham. "It's hard to put into words what those two do for us because it's about leadership and knowledge of the game. I hope that I can keep them here forever."

Filling his staff with both quality coaches and quality people has helped Higginbotham transition from long-time assistant to the top spot on the bench. In two seasons as head coach, Higginbotham has a 43-15 career record.

"Those two guys next to me deserve a ton of credit," said Higginbotham. "Their daily preparation and what they add to this program are immeasurable."