Team preview: Oral Roberts

Blue Ribbon Yearbook previews the 2012-13 season, exclusively on Insider

Updated: October 19, 2012, 2:47 PM ET
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(Information in this team report is as of Oct. 1.)

COACH AND PROGRAM

After 15 years in the Summit League, Oral Roberts ventures into uncharted territory this season as a first-year member of the Southland Conference.

The move comes after the Golden Eagles won the Summit regular-season title and set school records for overall wins (27) and conference wins (17). Last season ended in frustration as Oral Roberts fell in the conference tournament semifinals and settled for a berth in the NIT before losing in the opening round to Nevada.

"It wasn't a great ending, but it was a great season," said Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton. "This season is going to be a learning process for us because there are so many unknowns going into a new league."

Sutton lost three starters -- forwards Dominique Morrison and Michael Craion and guard Rod Pearson. Morrison averaged nearly 20 points per game and was the Summit League Player of the Year. Craion scored in double figures and led the team in multiple categories. Pearson led the squad in assists and started at point guard.

Of the five returning contributors from last season, Warren Niles (12.1 ppg) and Damen Bell-Holter (7.9 ppg, 5.8 rpg) started every game and Steven Roundtree (9.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) is a one-time starter. Niles and Roundtree were honorable mention All-Summit League last season. Roundtree was also voted the Summit League's Sixth Man of the Year.

Niles, a 6-5 senior guard, was second on the team last season in scoring and assists. He also led the team with 63 3s made while shooting 36.2 percent from behind the arc.

"Warren is an excellent 3-point shooter who can get to the basket and finish," Sutton said. "With added strength he should be more productive and get to the free-throw line more often."

Bell-Holter, a senior forward/center, can give and take hits at 6-9, 245 pounds. His numbers dipped last year from his sophomore season (13.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg), but he was still the team's second-leading rebounder while battling injuries.

"He's worked hard to improve his body and has lost probably 15 pounds," Sutton said. "He's determined to have an excellent senior year."

A 6-8, 190-pound junior, Roundtree is an athletic forward who averaged 12.1 points per game as a freshman. Last season as the sixth man, he shot a team-best 57.1 percent from the floor and was third on the team in re-bounding and fourth in scoring.

"Steven is a high-energy guy who can slash to the basket and is a very good rebounder," Sutton said. "We need him to step up, and I think he will."

The other returning players are 6-2 junior guard Mikey Manghum (2.3 ppg, 1.3 apg) and 6-5 sophomore guard Jake Lliteras (2.0 ppg, 0.9 rpg). Sutton said both are "solid role players" and "good shooters."

Manghum, a former walk-on, shot 42.2 percent from 3-point range (19 of 45) last season. He tied a Summit League record by going 6 for 6 from 3 against South Dakota State on Jan. 26 for a career-high 18 points.

After redshirting in 2010-11, Lliteras played nearly 10 minutes per game last season. He scored a season-high 12 points on 4 for 4 shooting against FIU in the NIT Tip-Off.

Utah transfer Shawn Glover, a 6-7, 205-pound swingman, sat out last season to satisfy NCAA residency requirements and is expected to take Morrison's spot in the lineup. The junior played in 60 games with 35 starts over two years at Utah before leaving for a school closer to his home in Cedar Hill, Texas after the firing of Jim Boylen.

Glover averaged 6.2 points and 3.6 rebounds in 31 games with 22 starts for the Utes in 2010-11. He scored a career-high 15 points against Air Force that season.

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"He's an impact player and a guy that you pencil in at the 3," Sutton said. "I'd be very surprised if he's not a double-digit scorer and reliable rebounder."

Junior college transfer Tramel White and 5-11 redshirt freshman D.J. Jackson are battling for the starting job at point guard.

White, a 6-3 junior, averaged a team-high 4.8 assists per game last season at Dodge City (Kansas) Community College and chipped in 14.2 points and 5.8 rebounds. He was an all-state performer during his prep days in Louisiana.

"He is extremely fast and is a good athlete," Sutton said. "His biggest strength is he's tremendous in transition and is a very good defender."

Jackson redshirted last season to focus on academics. As a prep senior, Jackson earned all-state honors at Archbishop O'Hara High School in Kansas City, Mo.

"D.J. is a pass-first point guard, but he's a good shooter," Sutton said. "He's a competitor and a tough kid."

A hard-nosed 6-2 guard, Korey Billbury also redshirted last season as a freshman for academic reasons. As a senior, he led Booker T. Washington High School in Tulsa, Okla., to a second straight Class 5A state championship.

Sutton is also excited about his incoming freshman class that includes Jorden Kaufman, Corbin Byford and Brandon Conley.

Kaufman is a 6-11, 245-pound center from Andover Central High School in Andover, Kansas. He was rate one of the nation's top 70 prep centers by ESPN.

"Jorden is good enough to help us," Sutton said. "He is 6-11 and skilled and can get up and down the floor."

Byford, a 6-6 forward from Velma Alma High School in Velma Alma, Okla., was voted the Jim Thorpe Award winner last season as the state's top prep player. He was also a state champion in the 400-meter dash.

"Corbin is a high-energy guy who plays hard," Sutton said. "He's a little undersized, but his athleticism makes up for his lack of height."

Conley, a 6-5 forward from Texas, led the Dallas-Fort Worth area with 4.9 blocked shots per game as a senior at Fossil Ridge High School. He also averaged 14.8 points and 9.9 rebounds.

"He's a great athlete and makes plays," Sutton said. "If he develops quickly he can play because he'll defend and rebound."

BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS

BACKCOURT: B
BENCH/DEPTH: B+
FRONTCOURT: A
INTANGIBLES: A

The Golden Eagles face some unknowns in a new league after losing some key players. Even so, Oral Roberts has the personnel to be one of the top Southland contenders this season.

No Morrison means someone must pick up the scoring slack. Look for a balanced attack, because Niles, Bell-Holter, Roundtree and Glover are capable of scoring in double figures and have all-conference talent.

The frontcourt is the biggest strength, thanks in part to the return of Bell-Holter and Roundtree and the addition of Glover. Sutton also likes his leadership, chemistry and depth.

If there are any areas of concern, it's point guard and perimeter shooting. Otherwise, this is a solid squad that should improve as the year progresses and may even win another conference championship.

For the most comprehensive previews available on all 335 Division I teams, order the "Bible" of college basketball, the 2012-13 Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or call 1-877-807-4857.