The Radford Highlanders will take on Division III Houghton tonight in Virginia and will likely grab their ninth win of the year and move to 9-4. It'll mark the first time the Highlanders have been above. 500 since the 2009-2010 season under former head coach Brad Greenberg.
Greenberg came to Radford from Virginia Tech where he was an assistant under his brother, Seth. He won 55 games over a four year stint and even got the Highlanders to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998 in 2009. Unfortunately, Greenberg didn't just leave a banner in the Dedmon Center but left a wake of destruction and was found of NCAA violations.
Enter Mike Jones.
Jones would leave Shaka Smart's bench to become Radford's head man 2011. Jones took over a five win team, who was in the midst of a seven game skid. The roster he would implore his first season at the helm would feature six freshman and three sophomores. Jones opened his tenure with a 58-54 win over Delaware, which remains his highest rated win as a head coach.
Despite the win in the opener, the Highlanders certainly took their lumps. Radford finished the year 6-26 and had a 15 game losing streak in the middle of the season.
Amazingly, the Highlanders roster would get even younger in 2012-13 when it featured 8 freshman and 4 sophomores. Radford would inch closer to .500 with a 13-19 mark and would finish 7-9 in the conference, getting upended by Winthrop in the first round of the Big South Tournament.
Now, at 8-4, it seems like the lumps that the Highlanders have taken the bricks that Jones has laid have paid off. Radford is now one of the most veteran teams in the Big South and seems like the foundation of current juniors and sophomores they have will make them contenders in the conference for the foreseeable future.
Forward Javonte Green has grown into one of the conference's top players. He's currently leading the Highlanders in scoring and rebounding with 16.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, all while only playing 23 minutes per game in Jones' rotational system that is a blend of VCU's HAVOC.
In the backcourt, R.J. Price, Ya Ya Anderson, and Rashun Davis have become one of the most feared tandems in the Big South. Price has big-time scoring ability and recently dropped 30 points on Sacred Heart in the Las Vegas Classic. On the year he is averaging 14.3 points and 3.5 assists per game. Anderson is a talented sophomore who can also be an explosive scorer, as he's averaging 10.3 points and 2.7 assists per game. Davis finishes off the trio with 8.8 points and 3.5 assists.
Mike Jones has laid a foundation at Radford the right way, but now the question is will the hard work and rebuilding approach result in a Big South North Division title and postseason success in the conference tournament?Jones has laid a blueprint for rebuilding conference foes like Longwood and Campbell, although the Lancers have more veterans at their disposal in year one.
Radford will close out of conference play this week with, not only Houghton, but match ups versus The Citadel and Hampton. The Highlanders could very well find themselves tipping off conference play on January 8 versus Liberty with a 11-4 mark, which means a lot given where this team has come from and been through.