When Georgia State guard Joe Dukes transferred to the Panthers from Wake Forest two years ago, he was tired of sitting on the Demon Deacons' bench and wanted a chance to play close to home and get more playing time.
Two years later it's apparent that changing schools was good for Dukes and Georgia State.
Georgia State has found a leader in Dukes, a 6-foot-1 senior who is the center of three players on the cover of the Panthers' men's basketball media guide.
Dukes, who played at Randolph-Clay High School, leads the team in scoring (13.7 points), is second in rebounding (5.7 rebounds) and averages three assists per game.
"The transition was smooth," Dukes said. "When I came here, Georgia State opened their arms. The coaching staff here was great. It's been like a big family."
Georgia State has struggled this season, and Dukes has been frustrated with the losses.
"I would give up the points for wins any day," he said.
Georgia State coach Rod Barnes said Dukes has been consistent since he arrived at Georgia State. He averaged 12.8 points and 4.7 assists last season and was named third-team All-Colonial Athletic Association.
"He's been good to coach because you know every night you're going to get something," Barnes said. "Whether it's points, rebounds or assists, I know I'm going to get something."
But Barnes said the best thing about Dukes is his versatility.
"If you say 'combo guard' you would say 'Joe Dukes'," Barnes said. "Because he can do all of those things. Sometimes you'll want him in a scoring role, and sometimes you'll want him at the point guard position."
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Barnes said his teams have been known for peaking late in a season. The theory will be put to the test this month as the Panthers need a strong finish to make up from a slow start.
"What I would like to see happen now is for us to finish strong," Barnes said. "As a coach you always want to see your team play up to its potential, and I think we've had some games and even weeks where we've played like that, but I would like to see us reach our peak now."
Track and field
Senior Loris Hutterli began the season by winning the 3,000-meter run in 8 minutes, 39.77 seconds at the season-opening Clemson Games.
Hutterli finished more than three seconds ahead of second-place Greg Decker of Emory (8:43.16).
The victory was Hutterli's first in the 3,000 meters.
"I started the race in the middle of the pack, and then I took the lead midway through," Hutterli said. "I wasn't pushed by anyone."
Other strong performers at the meet were junior Yolanda Berryhill, who finished second in the shot put with a career-best throw of 13.26 meters. Junior Brittany Rhea was fourth in the shot put (11.61 meters) and sophomore Christina John was sixth.
The Panthers, who were honored as the Georgia Dugout Club Team of the Year for last season, started practices Friday.
Georgia State has 18 returning players from last year's team, which set the school record for most wins in a season (39). The Panthers open the season at seventh-ranked Florida State on Feb. 19.