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Clayton State men's coach looks for improvement next season

One of the biggest chores going into the offseason for Clayton State is replacing leading scorer Charles Shedrick, an honorable mention all-conference player. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)

One of the biggest chores going into the offseason for Clayton State is replacing leading scorer Charles Shedrick, an honorable mention all-conference player. (Special Photo: Jerry Jackson)

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Senior Omari Murray will leave a big void in the Clayton State lineup with his graduation. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

Clayton State men’s basketball coach Paul Harrison has had a few days to review the recent completed season. It was the former Division I assistant’s first season as a head coach.

The Lakers finished 10-16 after having to replace four starters from last season’s team that lost in the first round of the Peach Belt Conference tournament. If the team is to be competitive next season, Harrison must replace three starters — all were the top scoring leaders.

With a few weeks until the spring signing period, Harrison and his staff have been evaluating potential prospects. He said the Lakers will likely sign a combination of junior college, high school and transfer players to make the team immediately competitive in the conference.

On Thursday, he talked with Clayton News Daily sports editor Derrick Mahone about the recent season, the future of the program and expectations.

Question: Overall how would you evaluate this season?

Answer: “I thought it was a pretty good season. Would we have liked to have won more games, sure. All in all there were four teams from our conference that made the NCAA Tournament, and at various times during the season we had five teams that were ranked. This is basically a Division I league with a Division II name. If you can win this league, you can play competitively in the Atlantic Sun, Big South and with most teams in the Southern Conference. We had some good wins over some great teams. We played well enough to win some more.”

Q: How well did the team handle transition from a new coach?

A: “We were in the majority of the games, and it just came down to who made the plays down the stretch. We had some hiccups during the year, and most teams have those stretches to overcome adversity. We had some things happen that we didn’t envision like Travis Black not being able to play, and Omari Murray missing the first semester. We are not looking to make excuses, but those were some facts about the season.”

Q: How well did sophomore point guard Sirdarius Henry play?

A: “He played well at times. At other times, he let people pressure him, and he didn’t handle that pressure well. As the point guard, pressure shouldn’t bother him. He had some big games, and he made some big plays for us. He will continue to get better with another two years in the program.”

Q: What area would you like to see Sirdarius improve in the most?

A: “The longer you do this, you realize that sophomores can’t be leaders on the team. We had some OK senior leadership, but Sirdarius plays a leadership position. Sophomores are not usually your leaders unless they are exceptional. We know he will be improved next season, and that will carry us a long way.”

Q: You lose your top three scorers to graduation, how tough will that be to replace?

A: “Obviously we have to recruit a player or players that can give us immediate scoring. That will be the one plus we will take into recruiting. Charles did a great job in the scoring for us. Omari came on strong once he got used to playing with the team and they got used to him. Yes, we will be looking to bring in a scorer.”

Q: What players surprised you?

A: “I’m very happy with what Kelsey Terry did in January on. He had about three to four games where he had a double-double. He scored attacking the rim, and gained some valuable experience this year. At times, he made some great plays. He is one that I expect to make a big step next season. We are also looking for Sirdarius to take another big step. We expect Josh Sallette to come back from injury. William Asplund needs to be more aggressive.”

Q: Overall, do you see the program heading in the direction you envisioned?

A: “I feel we made progress. We achieved at the level I thought we could. We didn’t overachieve, but we also didn’t underachieve. This is a good league that is littered with Division I transfers. We had to replace three starters that played in about 256 games, and that is a lot of minutes and experience.”