Southern Indiana basketball returns to USI for summer workouts

EVANSVILLE, Ind. — Stan Gouard understands the importance of this summer.

There’s increased attention on the University of Southern Indiana men’s basketball program. Gouard is reminded of that every time he looks down at the court in Screaming Eagles Arena and sees a bright, new Ohio Valley Conference logo.

Excitement continues to grow in the community as USI prepares for its inaugural season in Division I. Gouard can feel it. It’s why these next six and a half weeks of practices are going to be so crucial. This summer could set the tone for the season.

“We’re doing something totally different as we transition to Division I,” Gouard said. “We’ve got to train the mind and body right now. This summer will be huge for us just in terms of team unity and camaraderie.”

USI Athletics:Contract with Ohio Valley Conference is still mostly a secret

From an almost entirely new roster to a scheduling update, here’s an offseason check-in with USI.

Transfers highlight new-look roster

Only five players from last season’s team — Jelani Simmons, Jacob Polakovich, Tyler Henry, Isaiah Swope and Jack Mielke — still remain on the roster today.

Peter Nwoke, a freshman forward who spent last season at Michigan State, is one of two transfers from the Big Ten Conference on the USI men's basketball roster.

Eight of USI’s 13 scholarships will be filled by newcomers. Gouard and staff attacked the transfer portal by landing six players from other schools. The Eagles’ gained two from the Big Ten — grad transfer forward Trevor Lakes (Nebraska) and freshman forward Peter Nwoke (Michigan State) — and two others with Division I experience in sophomore center Nick Hittle (Indiana State) and sophomore guard Jeremiah Hernandez ( Kent State).

The Eagles also landed a pair of junior-college transfers in junior guard Gary Solomon (Henry Ford College) and sophomore guard Ryan Hall (Iowa Lakes). Plus, two recent high school grads in Jack Campion and AJ Smith.

Jeremiah Hernandez, a Kent State transfer, is one of four Division I transfers joining the USI men's basketball team this season.  There are a total of eight newcomers in 13 scholarship spots.

“We had a lot of guys who had an interest in us but then when we talked about the four-year NCAA Tournament ban with the transition, we lost a lot of guys,” Gouard said. “But the guys that we have to be here. These guys are working hard and so far they’re a pretty tight-knit group.”

USI also will have two walk-on spots. One of those positions will be filled by sophomore guard Sam Mervis, who joins the Eagles from Indiana State. Gouard said he’s still looking at who would be the best fit for the other.

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