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Rob Lanier has Georgia State ready to contend in the Sun Belt

In Rob Lanier’s second season, the Panthers can take it to the next level

Georgia State v Georgetown Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Georgia State Panthers are entering the second season of the Rob Lanier era under some of the toughest circumstances. With coronavirus still hitting the country hard, the uncertainty of what’s going to happen this season is a big thing for Lanier and the Panthers.

“We’re not ignorant to what’s going on,” Lanier said in a zoom call with the media on Monday.

The Panthers haven’t been directly affected by the virus as far as scheduling goes so far, but as Lanier said on Monday, “I don’t feel like anyone will ever think they’re out of the woods.”

Beyond the pandemic, the Panthers are looking promising on paper. They return their top three leading scorers from last season, headlined by preseason first team all-Sun Belt guard Kane Williams. Williams averaged 14.8 points per game last season, while starting all 32 of the Panthers’ games. Georgia State was the top scoring team in the Sun Belt last season, averaging 78.1 points per game.

Williams isn’t the only offensive weapon returning for the Panthers this season, as they bring back both Corey Allen and preseason all-Sun Belt second-teamer Justin Roberts. They averaged 13.5 and 13.2 points respectively, and will be key in trying to get the younger players acclimated to the game quickly.

“I definitely appreciate having three guys that can put the ball in the basket at any time,” Lanier said of Allen, Roberts, and Williams.

Lanier led Georgia State to a 19-13 record, and a 12-8 record in the Sun Belt last season. This season, he’s not exactly sure what to expect from his team.

“You don’t normally walk into a season without a gage of where your team is,” Lanier said.

The Panthers will kick off their season Wednesday against Georgia Tech — a real challenge as the Yellow Jackets won seven of their last 10 in ACC play last season.

The Panthers will have some new faces see meaningful playing time. Eliel Nsoseme will play a lot for Georgia State, but he had to redshirt last year per NCAA transfer rules after he came to the Panthers from Cincinnati. Nsoseme appeared in 33 games in the 2018-19 season for the Bearcats, and will play a substantial role for the Panthers this year.

Lanier was a little apprehensive when talking about the younger guys, and the guys not so used to the system at Georgia State.

“Should I expect those guys to walk in and set the world on fire, or will there be a learning curve for those guys?” Lanier asked. “Sometimes you just need that process of guys getting their feet wet.”

That was made especially tough this season with no scrimmages and fewer preseason practices compared to normal.

Looking deeper into the schedule and into conference play, the Sun Belt has scheduled back-to-backs every weekend, playing the same team at the same place both nights.

“You’ll get to a point in conference play when you’re not going to fool anyone,” Lanier said. “You have to do the best you can to limit their effectiveness.”

The Panthers are still on an upwards trajectory as a program, and the coaching staff knows that.

“I’m surrounded by a great, great staff.” Lanier said. “We gotta get to the point where guys are obsessed with trying to become great.”

The Panthers were picked to finish first in the Sun Belt’s eastern division, and got one first place vote to win the whole conference. Playing in the east, their schedule doesn’t have the favorite to win the whole conference in Little Rock. They can’t hope to mail it in all season either though.

“You really can’t look past anybody you have to play.” Lanier said.

The Sun Belt will be a tough conference, but Georgia State has what it takes to make some noise.