Georgia State basketball imports eight new faces to help to get back on track

Julian Mackey is one of eight new Georgia State basketball players. He averaged 20.5 points last season at Northeast Oklahoma Community College last season. (Daniel Wilson/Georgia State Athletics)

Credit: Daniel Wilson

Credit: Daniel Wilson

Julian Mackey is one of eight new Georgia State basketball players. He averaged 20.5 points last season at Northeast Oklahoma Community College last season. (Daniel Wilson/Georgia State Athletics)

Jonas Hayes is almost starting his second season as head basketball coach at Georgia State with a clean slate. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Hayes has only four holdovers and brought in eight new faces who are intent on erasing last season’s disappointing 10-21 record and contending for the Sun Belt Conference championship. The Panthers have the most wins among Division I programs in Georgia since the 2011-12 season and won the conference title two seasons ago.

“We’ve got a group of guys that are committed to getting better,” Hayes said after the first official practice at the GSU Convocation Center. “I can feel the energy in this group. It was like Christmas coming into this building for the first time. We’re chomping at the bit to get better.”

There are four returnees. Dwon Odom, a 6-foot-2 junior, averaged 13.1 points and a team-high 114 assists and was the team’s most consistent player. Brenden Tucker, a 6-3 senior, averaged 12.9 points and was effective getting to the basket. Jamaine Mann, a 6-6 junior, averaged 10.3 points, leading the team in 3-pointers, and 5.1 rebounds. Edward Nnamoko is a 6-10 sophomore who started 19 games; he added weight and confidence during the offseason.

The newcomers include a pair of grad transfers – Jay’Den Turner, a 6-5 forward from Queens University, and Leslie Nkereuwem, a 6-8 forward from Lawrenceville and Longwood University. Turner averaged 8.4 points and led the Atlantic Sun Conference with 7.5 rebounds last season. Nkereuwem averaged 8.4 points and shot 62.3% from the field in 2022-23.

Others who transferred in are: Lucas Taylor, a 6-5 guard from Wake Forest; Rickey Bradley Jr., a 6-2 guard from VMI; Julian Mackey, a 6-2 guard from Northeast Oklahoma, where he averaged 20.5 points and shot 43.3% on 3s; and Toneari Lane, a 6-5 guard from Winthrop.

Hayes has a pair of prized freshmen in Malik Ferguson, a 6-4 guard from Grovetown, and Dhiaukuet “DK” Manyiet Dut, a 7-foot forward from Greenforest Christian in Decatur. Both helped their high school teams win a state championship as juniors.

“In building a new team you’re building new responsibilities, building new roles because everything is new again,” Hayes said. “They’re all more mature, they’re all older. They’ve all been in college, except for two of them. I think this is a good mix. We just have to be consistent and adamant about what the standard is and what it means to be a Georgia State basketball player.”

In addition to adding experience, Hayes went looking for scorers. The Panthers averaged only 66.7 points and shot only 41.6% from the field and only 29.5% on 3-pointers last season.

“The first goal, the second goal, the third goal and the fourth goal was to try to find some shooting,” Hayes said. “We really covered that. I think the guys we have in our locker room now we feel are great shooters who can put the ball in the hole.

“But we wanted to find guys that were obsessed with trying to find success of winning. When you look through the annals of Georgia State men’s basketball, winning has been synonymous with this program. To get guys whose goals align with this program’s goals and aspirations, that was going to be key. We recruited people as much as we did players.”

Of the eight departures, the two who will hurt the most are Collin Moore, a 6-4 guard who transferred to Grand Canyon, and Ja’Heim Hudson, a 6-8 forward who transferred to SMU, where he is reunited with former GSU coach Rob Lanier. Moore led the team in scoring (14.2 points) over the past 13 games after missing time with a thumb injury. Hudson made 22 starts and averaged 10.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.

Georgia State’s season begins with an exhibition at Morehouse on Oct. 29, and they open the season at Belmont on Nov. 6 in Nashville, Tennessee. The home opener is Nov. 17 against Northern Illinois.

In the meantime, the players can expect a serious of strenuous and intense practices.

“I want to get our guys as close to game-ready as I can,” Hayes said. “I’m going to create as much adversity as I can, so when the moment of truth comes, when you get in the gut of the game, we will have acquired the skill to overcome adversity. Last year I thought we were kind of a hot-button team, and things got us off track pretty easily. I want to be able to overcome that adversity a little bit more.”

Junior Dwon Odom (1) is one of four returning players back for Georgia State. Here he's putting some defense on Malik Ferguson, one of the team's prized freshmen.

Credit: Daniel Wilson

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Credit: Daniel Wilson