Oral Roberts must replace top scorers

Sunday, November 16th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Oral Roberts is looking to get production from a mix of experienced guards and new post men as it replaces its top two scorers and three leading rebounders.

The Golden Eagles will be without Reggie Borges, Tyrone Tiggs and Kendrick Moore when their season starts Nov. 21 against South Carolina State.

The departing trio accounted for 36.1 points and 19.7 rebounds per game for last year's 18-10 team that finished fourth in the Mid-Continent Conference and failed to make the NCAA Tournament.

Cameron Tragardh's decision to play professional basketball in his native Australia robbed Oral Roberts of another scorer. He averaged 7.1 points in just 13 minutes per game as a freshman.

``People ask if this is a rebuilding year,'' coach Scott Sutton said. ``It's kind of a unique situation. We lost some really good players but we have a good nucleus coming back, especially in the backcourt.''

Back are senior guards Luke Spencer-Gardner and Josh Atkinson, who averaged 12 points per game and 9.6 points per game respectively. Spencer-Gardner, another Australian, chipped in 5.9 assists per game as well.

They'll be asked to score more and to steady the Golden Eagles as freshman Caleb Green and junior college transfer Schuyler Thomas figure out the challenges of playing in the paint in Division I basketball.

Schuyler has potential, but Green, the Oklahoma Class 6A player of the year last year, could be special soon, Sutton said.

``The one area that the three starters we lost were especially good at was rebounding,'' the coach said. ``This is where Schuyler and Caleb are going to have to step up.''

Sutton wisely sent the Golden Eagles on an October trip to Canada. It gave the young team 10 extra practices and five exhibition games to get used to playing together.

``That was a good time for us,'' Green said. ``We learned a lot about each other both on the court and off.''

Green, a 6-foot-7 forward, said he's not putting any pressure on himself to replace Borges' scoring (18 points per game) or Moore's rebounding (7.3) or shot blocking.

``I just come in to play my part, play big,'' said Green, of Tulsa's Memorial High School. ``That's what I am, a big man.''

Matt Gastel, at 6-feet-11, will also be asked to contribute more. As a sophomore, Gastel averaged just 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds in his first season back since sitting out for a year with asthma.

``All our big men are showing scoring potential,'' guard Ralph Charles said. ``Gastel is looking especially strong.''

Charles and Jonathan Bluitt add depth to the backcourt. As a freshman, the quick Bluitt scored 5 points a game. But it was freshman Ken Tutt who led the Golden Eagles in scoring in Canada.

The team might be more effective offensively without Borges and Tiggs.

``We don't have a guy that will get 18 points a night like Reggie did, but we may have seven or eight guys who are going to average about 10 points a game,'' Sutton said.

``Last year if Reggie didn't score for us, we struggled.''