The team's top two backcourt players were together for only the first three games of the season. As a result, ULM ranked near the bottom of the Sun Belt conference in assist/turnover ratio and turnover margin and assists.
However, optimism is high in Monroe.
All five starters return as does as the team's sixth man, who may very well claim a starting assignment.
A stout recruiting class and a favorable decision by the NCAA hardship committee gives the Warhawks their best roster of talent and depth in the Orlando Early era.
• Starters missed a total of 44 games due to injury including a combined 43 from junior point guard Brandon Roberts and All-Sun Belt guard Tony Hooper.
• ULM was one of five Sun Belt teams to have four players average in double figures.
By The Numbers:
- 88.5-Total percentage of the team's scoring the Warhawks return for the 2009-10 season.
- 10- Number of wins by ULM in three of Orlando Early's four seasons.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Key Returnees: Dynile Forbes sprained an ankle early last season, but came on strong down the stretch by averaging nearly 15 points per game over the final 10 contests. Forbes is best at attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line. Forbes moved into the starting line-up late in the season.
The team's scoring leader (12.3 per game), steals leader and 3-point leader, Malcolm Thomas, also returns. Thomas was ninth in the league, hitting at a 40% clip from beyond the arc, as he landed the conference newcomer of the year award.
ULM's top rebounder and shot blocker, Rudy Turner, is also back. Turner averaged ten points and seven rebounds last year.
The Warhawks also get former All-Sun Belt performer Tony Hooper back, Hooper played in just four games last year because of a broken foot and team suspension.
Scouting The Newcomers:
Five newcomers join the squad, but gaining significant minutes will be tough. The most intriguing new face is junior college transfer the Fabio Ribero from New Mexcio Junior College. Ribero is a 6-10 center originally from Caetanopolis, Brazil.
Key Early Season Games:
Coach Orlando Early hopes to help himself on the Cajun State recruiting trail with a number of match-ups against in-state competition. The Warhawks open their season November 13 in Baton Rouge against LSU, followed by Grambling State visiting Monroe for the first time in ten years. Louisiana Tech visits the Monroe campus for the first time in 20 years on December 2. Shreveport-based Centenary will host ULM on November 27.
Early, a former Alabama assistant coach, gets a pass due to the injuries that clearly hampered his team last season. However, the fact is the ULM has only 20 total wins and 10 league victories the last two years combined. With a veteran squad, a move up the conference hierarchy is expected. School administrators are confident the program is turning the proverbial corner.
• Hooper was granted a fifth year of eligibility.
• Reserves Mitchell Hampton and Reggie Lassiter transferred after last season.
• Fred Brown joined the ULM program in July. Brown, a Kansas State transfer, will have two years of eligibility after sitting out this season.
• Tommie Sykes was a late spring signee (June) from Odessa Junior College.