2019 opponents not Polite to Highlanders
From the sidelines
By Marty Gordon
Last year, Radford University shocked the world with wins over William & Mary, Texas and Notre Dame. The season included 21 wins, but this season, wins have been tough to come by. The non-conference schedule has included Duquesne, Mississippi State, Bradley, Northwestern and Georgia Southern, and in almost every case, the Highlanders have found it tough to pick up a road win.
Many Radford fans are scratching their heads about what is happening. Radford is finding the road not so Polite.
At the heart of the matter is rebounding. When Radford hits from behind the arc, they are able to keep the score close, but Coach Mike Jones has to find some help inside the paint.
He and the Radford fans knew it was going to be hard to replace Ed Polite, Jr., who is now playing professional ball overseas. His leadership, scoring and rebounding are missed.
In July, Polite inked a professional contract with Italian-based club Pallacanestro Biella, which was formed in 1994 from the merger of two local clubs, Biella Basket Club and Amici del Basket Biella. It started playing in the Italian fourth division, moving up to the second division by 1999.
Last season, Polite Jr. was a preseason Lou Henson Award Watch List selection for the top mid-major player in the nation. He was named to the All-Big South First Team and earned Defensive Player of the Year honors after averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game including 14.8 during conference play.
He led the Big South with 9.5 rebounds per game and ranked in the top 10 in the Big South for both steals per game (1.5) and blocks per game (1.2). The Lanham, Md., native became the top rebounder in program history and the second in Big South history with 1,119 in his illustrious career.
The bottom line is that Radford misses him and has yet to find a replacement, which they have to find and soon.
The schedule will get a little easier as Radford will begin Big-South play after Christmas and will be given a chance to flex its muscles against other mid-majors. The team is the preseason favorite to win the conference regular season, and there is no reason it still can’t do that. But it will take someone stepping up and filling Polite Jr.’s shoes.
The leading candidates are: 6-8 Davine Eke who has been averaging six rebounds a game with 7.7 points per game, and Leroy Butts, a 6-7 small forward/guard who has 4.6 boards a game. Both will have to step it up as the Highlanders head into conference games.