2009-2010 Basketball Game Preview: Campbell

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Virginia Tech will get a tough early season test on Monday night. No, it
won’t come against Duke, North Carolina, Wake Forest or Maryland. Instead, Tech
will travel to Buies Creek, NC to take on the Campbell Camels. The Camels are
3-0 on the season, they are breaking in a brand new arena, and they have an ACC
team coming to town. This is a huge game for the Campbell program.

The new John W. Pope, Jr. Convocation Center is in its second season as
Campbell’s home court. It holds 3,100 fans, which is much larger than Campbell’s
old gym, Carter Gymnasium, which seated only 947 fans.

This will be the biggest game in the young history of the new arena. The
Camels are holding a “White Out” for tonight’s game, and fans,
students and players are all very excited.

Campbell is 3-0 on the season. They have a 76-52 win over St. Andrews, a
74-68 victory over East Carolina, and they also beat UNC-Asheville 85-66 in
their only road game of the season. This is a capable basketball team that
returns four starters from a team that went 14-16 last year, with an 11-9 mark
in Atlantic Sun play. This team could be a strong contender for the Atlantic Sun
crown this year.

Campbell Starting Lineup









Junard Hartley







Lorne Merthie







William Kossangue







Jonathan Rodriguez







Preston Dodson






It all begins and ends with forward Jonathan Rodriguez. Though undersized,
Rodriguez is averaging a double-double this season. The Puerto Rico native is on
pace to become just the third Atlantic Sun player in history to score 2,000
career points. He has 42 career double-doubles, which ties a league record. He
has a double-double in all three games so far this season.

Rodriguez knows how to get to the free throw line. He has made 480 free throw
in his career, which is third in Atlantic Sun history. He has 37 career 20-point
games, and he is the Atlantic Sun’s active leader in free throws, free throw
attempts, rebounds and double doubles.

Joining Rodriguez as an All-Conference caliber player is sophomore guard
Lorne Merthie. Merthie was the Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year last season. So
far this season, he is averaging 14.3 points per game. Merthie was a 40%
three-point shooter last year, and so far he is 8-of-20 (40%) this season. He
and Rodriquez provide a good inside-outside punch.

The point guard for Campbell is Junard Hartley, an experienced junior who has
been starting since his true freshman season. Hartley entered the season with
262 career assists, which ranks seventh on the school’s all-time list. His
career assist-to-turnover ratio is 1.74. This is a guy who knows how to take
care of the basketball and find open teammates.

Hartley isn’t a big scorer, averaging just 7.4 points per game, but he can
hit the open jumper and he’s a good floor general and defender. Through three
games, he already has 11 steals on the season.

Preston Dodson is Campbell’s biggest starter. That’s a problem for the
Camels, considering Dodson is only 6-6, 220. He is a solid scorer, averaging
11.7 points per game on the year. Dodson is a former walk-on who has improved
his game this year, after averaging just 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds a year ago.

Amir Celestin (6-1, 185, So.) is the first player off the bench for the
Camels. He averaged 4.7 points per game last season as a freshman, and shot 43%
from three-point range. Celestin and Lorne Merthie were members of the same AAU
program, the Florida Rams. They are used to being on the court with each other
and they have a good chemistry. As a side note, the Florida Rams also produced
NBA players Travis Outlaw, Amare Stoudemire and Renaldo Balkman.

Kyle Vejraska (6-8, 205, Sr.) is the tallest player on the Campbell squad.
Vejraska had 78 career blocks heading into this season, which ranks seventh in
school history. He has been a spot starter for the Camels in the past, and he’s
a solid interior offensive player. He averaged 6.4 points as a freshman, 10 as a
sophomore and 6.9 as a junior. So far this season, Vejraska is averaging 6.7
points per game.

Chris Reynolds (6-5, 195, So.) is the final Campbell player to average over
10 minutes per game. He is averaging 3.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. It
would be difficult to find a more efficient rebounder than Reynolds, who is
averaging 4.3 boards in just 10.7 minutes per game.

Campbell has a good small-conference basketball team. They have a couple of
good three-point shooters, and a double-double guy on the inside. The Camels
also have some solid pieces coming off the bench, and they should be one of the
best teams in the Atlantic Sun this season.

One thing they do lack is height. The Hokies will have a big size advantage
on the inside. Tech needs to establish Jeff Allen and Victor Davila in this
game. Both of those players can score in the low post, and they need to take
advantage of their length and weight against the Camels.

This game is scary, because this is the type of non-conference game that the
Hokies lose each year. They have more talent than Campbell, but Tech isn’t a
good offensive team right now, and they’ll be facing a fired up team on the
road. This is the type of game that you just want to get out of with a win and
no injuries.

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