Sometimes when a new coach is hired they are tasked with rebuilding a program. When Jayson Gee was hired at Longwood a little over a year ago he was tasked with a different challenge; build a program. Longwood does have some solid basketball history, including four NCAA Tournament appearances and a Division III Final Four appearance, but since joining Division I the Lancers were never really able to gain much traction. The former head coach, Mike Gillian, resigned with just one winning season under his belt and a 93-214 mark over 10 seasons in Farmville.
Gee came to Longwood with an impressive resume that included being an assistant at St. Bonaventure, Cleveland State, and an impressive head coaching stint at Division II Charleston. While fans expect a near immediate turnaround, Gee has plenty of hurdles to overcome at Longwood.
The first hurdle was the roster itself; simply put, Longwood didn't really have a real pipeline of talent left by the previous regime. It also didn't help when star freshman Michael Kessens left for Alabama to join the Crimson Tide. Gee was left with some decent pieces in point guard Lucas Woodhouse and La Salle transfer Tristan Carey, but beyond those two he was left with a cupboard that was rather bare.
The second hurdle to overcome was culture. There basically was no culture when it came to what Gee was dealing with. He immediately installed a system that he labeled as PACE which stands for Pressure, Attack, Compete, and Energize. Engagement with the students, community, and alumni were all ramped up in an effort to establish a new brand and identity for a program that really hadn't been a "program" over the previous decade.
Both challenges were not easy to overcome in Gee's first year at the helm. Longwood struggled to an 8-24 mark with their limited roster and virtually no post players, but some memories were made. The Lancers took down TCU on the road, the Big South's first win ever against a Big 12 squad. Longwood also beat rival Liberty at home to preserve a 13-0 mark against the Flames in Willett Hall and, finally, TT Carey went viral with a tenacious dunk against Radford.
While there were some moments to savor in 2013-14, more or less everyone wanted to fast forward to 2014-15. There was promise in what was sitting on the bench for Longwood. First, there are a pair of transfers in former UAB point guard Quincy Taylor and former Tulane big man Lotanna Nwogbo. Both players are expected to be an instant upgrade in talent on the court. The third piece that was on the bench this past year is redshirt freshman Charlie Lockwood, who led the whole state of California in blocks his senior year of high school.
There was the blow of losing star point guard Lucas Woodhouse to Stony Brook this offseason, but where one door closes another opens, and that open door is Gee's second recruiting class. Gee has brought in serious talent via the junior college route with former Auburn forward Shaquille Johnson and former Old Dominion big man Jason Pimentel. Both come with a bit of baggage, but their talent is undeniable. The frontcourt upgrades also helped the Lancers to lure in freshman point guard Kanayo Obi-Rapu who said no to the likes of Cincinnati, Seton Hall, Rhode Island, and Mercer because he has bought into the program that is being built in Farmville. Alongside Obi-Rapu will be fellow freshmen and a trio from Ohio in Ryan Badowski, Victor Dorsey, and Bryan Gee.
The talent upgrade on the court in just one year is undeniable, but Longwood is still a program that needs to earn respect from it's peers before a true program is finally built. Gee has been able to jumpstart excitement in Longwood and is now looking for results on the court. Don't be surprised if you see the Lancers makes some noise this season with the influx of talent.