11/22/11 — Stephens' program is rebuilding

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Stephens' program is rebuilding

By Andrew Stevens
Published in Sports on November 22, 2011 1:48 PM

After compiling 38 wins and a share of two Eastern Carolina 3-A Conference regular-season titles over the last two seasons, Southern Wayne continues to set the bar higher and higher.

Despite losing eight members of last year's team, the expectations haven't changed for the Saints. Gone are Southern Wayne's top five leading scorers from a year ago -- Bernard Gross, Delfawn Worrells, Khari Faison, Tony Smith and Carlos Council. The Saints must also replace their top seven rebounders from last season.

Senior point guard Trey Allen, junior guards Andrew Matthews and Ronnell Outlaw, and junior forward Jamiel Price have demonstrated leadership during the first few weeks of practice.

"Offensively, we have some guys that can really score the ball," Southern Wayne head coach Russell Stephens said. "We're very skilled in the backcourt and we're really solid at point guard with Allen and Matthews. Our wing guys can score and I've been real pleased with our ball movement."

Stephens admits his biggest concern is his team's youth.

Allen and reserve guard Chris Artis are the only returning seniors from a year ago. The Saints will have time to mature while playing their first six games at home.

Six-foot-four sophomore Jaylen Roberts is being counted on to fill the scoring and rebounding void left by Faison, Gross, Worrells, Council and Jonathan Joyner.

"How are we going to react on the road playing in a hostile environment without having seen it before on the varsity level?" Stephens said. "We're going to make our practices really tough. We're going to be putting a lot on Jaylen as a sophomore with what we want him to do. He has heart and he's willing to learn.

"He reminds me a lot of Khari with his body type and athleticism."

Allen, Matthews, Outlaw and Price along with Roberts have solidified starting roles. Artis, Vernon Pendleton and several members of last season's JV squad compromise Southern Wayne's bench.

The Saints opened the season Tuesday night against Jacksonville. The non-conference portion of the schedule also includes West Craven, James Kenan, Goldsboro, Wilson Fike and Pine Forest.

Southern Wayne begins ECC play Dec. 13 at Triton.

"We have some good competition coming in," Stephens said. "West Craven won 22 games last year and they have five starters back. Pine Forest is a good 4-A team with three starters back and they should be good competition for us. We also have Goldsboro and Fike on the schedule and our conference is always tough."