Team preview: Southern Utah

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

Southern Utah was among the worst teams in the country -- at least record-wise -- as 2005 ended. That's when the Thunderbirds took a 1-11 record into the new year and Mid-Continent Conference play.

In the next two months, Southern Utah went from a laughingstock to a halfway decent team. The Thunderbirds finished 8-8 in the MCC and pummeled IUPUI to close the regular season.

A clear explanation for those vastly different stanzas during the same season can be attributed to the town in which the campus resides -- Cedar City. No one wants to fly into Las Vegas and bus three hours to play the Thunderbirds.

Southern Utah's home-court advantage (6-2 in Mid-Con play) at the Centrum is considerable. So when the school starts with 10-of-12 games on the road -- where it went 2-14 -- before even venturing into conference action, there's going to be a disadvantage.

"Obviously, we started slow last year," Southern Utah coach Bill Evans said. "But I think our guys showed tremendous resiliency in overcoming that. In our league, we were 8-8. We rebounded and responded. I have to admire our guys for that."

Evans himself will have to exhibit some resiliency this season, as he surprisingly lost his top player, Henry Uhegwu (13.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg), who left the program.

"Henry left because he thought it was best for Henry," Evans said. "He brought a lot of energy and a lot of positive attributes as a person."

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound guard, a second-team all-conference selection, was the team's leading scorer and shot 43 percent on three-pointers. He scored 35 points -- including seven three-pointers -- in a loss to Oakland.

Last year was his first season in Cedar City after transferring from Dixie State (Utah) College.

Starters Lubor Olsovsky (9.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg), along with brothers Nate Janes (9.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.0 spg), who shot 57 percent from the field, and Rand Janes (8.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.0 spg) all were seniors last year.

Reserve Esteban Bonzano (3.5 ppg, 2.4 rpg) also is gone.