Georgia State looks to bring energy in basketball opener

Eliel Nsoseme will be out of the lineup with a knee injury when Georgia State opens the season against Brewton-Park.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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Eliel Nsoseme will be out of the lineup with a knee injury when Georgia State opens the season against Brewton-Park.

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Georgia State will enter the season opener on Tuesday without a key piece to its starting lineup.

Eliel Nsoseme, the high-energy power forward, is still nursing a knee injury and won’t be on the court when the Panthers host Brewton-Parker at 7:30 p.m. at the GSU Sports Arena.

Nsoseme averaged 11.7 points and 10.1 rebounds last season as a junior and was All-Sun Belt Conference preseason second team. The injury could keep him out until the beginning of conference play.

The team is still learning to play without Nsoseme’s high-octane presence. That void was an issue at times in the 101-56 exhibition win over Clayton State and Georgia State coach Rob Lanier doesn’t want it to become a problem.

“It was glaring watching the game that there’s an energy void when Eliel is not on the floor that has to be make up collectively,” Lanier said. “And we have enough people to do that.”

The opener may not be much more challenging than the exhibition. Georgia State beat Brewton-Parker 101-35 in 2019 and brings back three all-conference picks on a team that chosen No. 1 in the preseason coaches poll. But the competition gets dialed up quickly with a home game against Northeastern on Friday and a trip to Richmond on Tuesday. Georgia State is ranked No. 7 in the College Insider Mid-Major Poll.

“We’ve got a long way to go,” Lanier said. “We’ve got shooters, we’ve got talented guys, and that will take care of itself, but the energy level needs to be high all times.”

The starting lineup includes guards Corey Allen (15 points), Justin Roberts (13.2 points, 4.7 assists) and Kane Williams (12.9 points, 4.0 assists) and forward Jalen Thomas (10.1 points, 5.9 rebounds).

Williams begins the season No. 10 on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,227 points), 592 points behind R.J. Hunter’s school record of 1,819. Allen (762 points at Georgia State) and Roberts (714 points at Georgia State) could become the 24th and 25th players to reach 1,000 points.

Freshman Ja’Heim Hudson, a 6-foot-7 product of Cobb County’s Wheeler High School, started for Nsoseme in the exhibition and had nine points and five rebounds in 21 minutes.

“We expected him to put his nose in there and do some great things,” Lanier said. “He’s still learning college basketball and he’s shielded somewhat by some of the older guys. He did a nice job. He’s got to keep growing.

Returning from last year’s knee injury is Nelson Phillips, a high-energy guard who had 18 points and seven steals against Clayton State.

“He’s a difference maker,” Lanier said. “He is our best athlete. At some point we hope to have him and Eliel and Collin Moore (currently injured) together. Little by little we’ll definitely have a more athletic group.”

Newcomer Jordan Rawls, a transfer from Western Kentucky, played 22 minutes against Clayton State and did a nice job settling the team down in the half.

Brewton-Parker, a small NAIA college in middle Georgia, was 5-20 last season and picked to finish last in the 10-team Southern States Athletic Conference.

This will be final season opener at the GSU Sports Arena. The team will compete in the new Convocation Center in 2022. Fans are encouraged to participate in a “Black Out” as the team debuts its new black uniforms. Georgia State has won 13 straight home openers.

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