Freshmen Luka Vasic, Bryant Thomas and Jaylan McGill chat during a scrimmage. Photo by Chris Crews

The 2017-18 Men’s basketball season is just a few weeks away, and all eyes are on the 49ers. Coming off of a 13-17 (C-USA 7-11) season filled with high offensive triumphs, defensive struggles and a first round exit from the Conference USA tournament, the 49ers look to make some changes. The 2016-17 season was the year Coach Price was able to truly begin to mold the program in his image, this year he seeks to reap the benefits.

The theme of last season, without a doubt, was transfers. This year, the name of the game is freshmen. With incoming first years such as 6-foot-2 wing Jaylan McGill, 6-foot-9 forward Bryant Thomas, and forward Milos Supica walking into the program, a new wave of energy is on the horizon for Niner Nation.

McGill, a young guard out of Olympic High School in Charlotte, will be a breath of fresh air to the 49ers already strong backcourt. Averaging 17 points and five assist his junior year in high school, the wing will offer Charlotte another high volume shooter who is able to distribute and handle the basketball off of the bench.

Thomas, a 6-foot-9 big man also from Charlotte, lead the nation with 7.7 blocks per game. The forward will bring a presence to the paint that the 49ers lost with Anthony Vanhook.

Averaging a double double in high school with 17 points per game and 10 boards, the combination of Thomas and 6-foot-7 sophomore Najee Garvin will prove to be a huge problem, matchup wise for many teams in the conference.

In addition to the growing Charlotte frontcourt, is junior transfer Jailan Haslem, a 6-foot-10 260 pound center out of Warner Robins Georgia. Haslem offers another big body to the charlotte interior and is a presence not easily ignored. Averaging 7.9 boards along with nine points at Gordon State college, Haslem has the ability to collect ball on both side of play, and put up consistent second chance points.

With a 6-foot-9 wingspan, he also shows proficient rim protecting ability, having averaged 1.2 blocks at Gordon.

The 49ers will look to their returning on-court leaders to set the pace in terms of morale. Junior guard Jon Davis is the prime example. Coming off from a stellar sophomore season where Davis led the team in scoring, shooting 38 percent from behind the arc, Davis undoubtley is the leader of the pack.

Averaging 19 points per game off of 35 minutes, which allowed the guard to finish second in scoring for C-USA, the then sophomore made a habit of taking over games in the second half. Finishing the season with two buzzer beaters, one at home against ODU and another against the UTSA Roadrunners,  Davis has shown that not only does he have the ability to take over games, but also to finish them, something we will undoubtley be seeing more of this coming season.

6-foot-7 redshirt junior Austin Ajukwa is definitely another component to keep your eye on this coming season. Transferring from Clemson earlier in the season, Ajukwa quickly found his niche among the team in his first game, played against Florida.

Averaging 11 points and four boards, Ajukwa was able to offer high energy and a high level of play on both ends of the floor.

Recording two double doubles and scoring in double digits over 10 times, Ajukwa will walk into the season in a new role of leadership that he is sure to thrive in. Junior shooting guard, Andrien White will also play a key role this season as both a veteran and key role player.

Coming off a season averaging 11 points and four rebounds with 19 double figure games, the guard’s role will only expand from there. With all three if these key pieces returning to the program, and the 49ers have strong foundation to build off of.

Last season, the 49ers averaged 76.5 points per game, placing fourth overall in C-USA basketball in terms of scoring, second overall in terms of three point percentage as well as free throw shooting. With three of those major contributing pieces returning to the program, Mark Price and his coaching staff have a strong foundation to build off of.

As new faces and new talent walk into the door of Niner Nation, Price has the chance to not only renew his game plan, but to revitalize the winning culture of Charlotte 49er men’s basketball program.

Consistency will be key for Mark Price and his boys this coming season both in the record books and off the court, in order to see a deep conference run come March. With high hopes, and even higher spirits, the team looks to be in good condition to “stake their claim” in conference play and show the rest of C-USA what it means to be a Charlotte 49er.