2009-10 UAB Hoops Season Begins Tuesday With Exhibition vs. Miles

Nov. 2, 2009

UAB-Miles Game Notes | Gametracker | Watch

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - The UAB men's basketball team will open the 2009-10 season with an exhibition contest against Miles College on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. at Bartow Arena. The contest will mark the first and only exhibition contest this season.

The contest marks the return of former UAB player and current Miles head coach Chris Giles. Giles played under Hall of Famer and former Blazer head coach Gene Bartow from 1979-82 and was also an assistant coach under Mike Anderson from 2002-06. During his senior season in 1982, Giles played on what was considered by many as the most successful hoops team in UAB program history. That year, the Blazers finished with a 25-6 overall record and a berth in the NCAA Elite 8.

Miles comes into Tuesday's exhibition in a similar situation as UAB. The Golden Bears lost all five of last year's starters and return just four of 14 letterwinners from a year ago. Last season, Miles finished with an overall record of 13-15 and a 12-11 mark in Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) play.

This marks the first time UAB and Miles will do battle on the hardwood.

UAB is coming off a 22-12 overall record last season and an appearance in the 2009 National Invitation Tournament. In fact, over the last two seasons, the Blazers have racked up 45 victories and back-to-back NIT appearances. However, the Blazers lost seven letterwinners from last season's squad, six of which were seniors, and bring back just three returning players, while also welcoming eight newcomers to this year's team.



Leading the list of returnees will be senior forward Howard Crawford and junior point guard Aaron Johnson, the two lone returnees with starting experience. Crawford is the only senior on the team who has played all four years at UAB and has developed into a strong low-post player. Meanwhile, Davis feels Johnson is ready to take a leadership role this season.

There is also a plethora of new faces on this year's team, highlighted by three transfers who are expected to pay immediate dividends. A pair of senior transfers, who were cleared to play this season by the NCAA in mid-October, are George Drake (Vanderbilt) and Kenneth Cooper (Louisiana Tech). The duo has combined to play in over 170 college basketball games and is expected to make an immediate impact on this year's team. Another transfer, Elijah Millsap (Louisiana-Lafayette) has had a year to learn Davis' offense after sitting out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. Millsap is another player for whom Davis has high expectations.

Davis is going into his fourth season at the helm of the UAB men's basketball team. Now in his 10th season as a head coach, Davis boasts a record of 60-39 at UAB and a 175-118 overall record during his coaching tenure.

Blazers Rebuild After Losing Seven Letterwinners
UAB will look like a brand new team when it steps onto the court for the 2009-10 season. The Blazers lost seven letterwinners, six of whom were seniors, off last year's 22-12 NIT squad. With the departure of so many players, UAB will lose approximately 90 percent of both its scoring and rebounding output from last season.

Three Letterwinners Return For 09-10 Season
UAB returns only three letterwinners from last season's team. But playing with low numbers is something the Blazers are accustomed to doing. Over the final 24 games of the 2008-09 season, the Blazers played with only nine men on the squad, including three walk-ons. Additionally, last year's team had just five scholarship players over the final three months of the year.

Blazers Welcome Eight Newcomers
Head coach Mike Davis has brought in six newcomers this season, including four freshmen, a junior college player and three transfers. The newest Blazers include high school signees Anthony Criswell (Oklahoma City, Okla./Douglass HS), Dexter Fields (Orlando, Fla./Olympia HS), Ovie Soko (London, England/Bethel (Va.) HS, and Robert Williams (Greenville, Miss./Weston HS), junior college player Jamarr Sanders (Northwest Florida Community College) and transfer Elijah Millsap (Louisiana-Lafayette). Additionally, senior transfers George Drake (Calera, Ala./Vanderbilt) and Kenneth Cooper (Monroe, La./Louisiana Tech) were both cleared by the NCAA and will be allowed to suit up for the Green and Gold in 2009-10.

Cooper, Drake Cleared By NCAA
The NCAA has approved the graduate transfer waivers for UAB seniors George Drake and Kenneth Cooper, UAB head coach Mike Davis announced on Oct. 13. Therefore, both players were granted immediate eligibility and have been cleared to suit up for the Blazers and use their final year of competition in the 2009-10 season.
"This is great news," UAB head coach Mike Davis said. "You are talking about two fifth-year seniors with over 170 college games played between them. They will give us leadership, depth and maturity. We are very excited to have them cleared to play with us this season."
Both Drake and Cooper have already received undergraduate degrees from their previous university (Drake from Vanderbilt University and Cooper from Louisiana Tech University) and both are currently enrolled in graduate school at UAB.

Chris Long Joins Coaching Staff
Chris Long was tabbed assistant men's basketball coach at UAB, according to an announcement by head coach Mike Davis on Sept. 9. Long comes to UAB after serving as head coach for the women's basketball team at Louisiana Tech for the past four seasons (2005-09). While at the helm, Long guided the Lady Techsters to a 71-44 (.617) overall mark, including a 45-18 (.714) mark in Western Athletic Conference play. He was tabbed as the WAC Coach of the Year in 2006 after guiding his team to a 26-5 mark, the WAC regular season and tournament championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Approaching Milestones
As UAB enters the 2009-10 campaign, there are a series of milestones that are worth mentioning. Two of the milestones include Mike Davis. The fourth-year head coach's first game of the 2009-10 season will mark his 100th career game at the helm of the UAB program. Additionally, Davis is only seven games away from coaching his 300th game overall. Finally, the Blazers are 16 games from playing the 1,000th game in program history.

Non-Conference Home Win Streak Intact
The Blazers were a perfect 6-0 in Bartow Arena against non-conference opposition last season. With the unblemished record, UAB extended its non-conference home winning streak to 24 games. The last time the Blazers dropped a non-league game on their home floor game was on Nov. 29, 2005 when UAB fell to Western Kentucky, 92-76.

Johnson's "Magic" Number
Last season, UAB point guard Aaron Johnson collected 123 assists with just 63 turnovers, which equates to just under a 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio. In fact, Johnson has compiled an impressive 261 assists, which ranks just outside the school's top-10 assist men in program history. Good things usually happen for UAB when Johnson records at least four assists in a game. During his career, the Blazers are 26-7 when he accomplishes the feat.

Coming Out Of His Shell
A player who Mike Davis will turn to and should be in for a big senior season is forward Howard Crawford. After collecting an average of 2.8 points and 1.2 rebounds a game over his first two seasons in a UAB uniform, Crawford had a career year in 2008-09. He averaged 7.9 points and 3.5 rebounds a game, which makes him the team's top returning scorer and rebounder from last season. Additionally, Crawford shot 52 percent from the floor on his way to achieving career highs in nearly every offensive category.