Dec. 14, 2012; Coral Gables, FL, USA; Charlotte 49ers forward Willie Clayton (21) shoots over Miami Hurricanes center Reggie Johnson (42) during the first half at the BankUnited Center. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte 49ers Countdown to Madness: Frontcourt Overview


For the past four years Chris Braswell has been the constant presence in the frontcourt for the Charlotte 49ers, but now that he is gone who will take his place?

Returning: Willie Clayton (So.), Mike Thorne (R-So.)

Additions: Cameron Blakely (Fr.), Marcus Bryan (Fr.)

Losses: Chris Braswell (Graduation), JT Thompson (Graduation), Ilija Ivankovic (Graduation), E. Victor Nickerson (Transfer to Valpo), Darion Clark (Transfer to Southern Cal)

Last year’s strength now appears to be a weakness as Charlotte lost five post players over the summer for various reasons. When the dust settled, the only two big men that remained from last year were Willie Clayton and Mike Thorne. Clayton lived up to the hype last season as he was named one of the Top 25 freshmen in the country by ESPN.com and was also a member of the A-10 All-Rookie team. Often playing as a complimentary post player to Braswell, Clayton averaged a respectable 8.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game in his freshman campaign. In his sophomore year he will need to improve on his range and finishing more consistently around the rim.

Big Mike Thorne played sparingly last season, but when he did, he showed off an impressive skill set. Thorne has been considered a project since he arrived on campus two seasons ago, but this is the year many expect for him to show what he has been working on. With the lack of bodies in the post this season, Thorne will get his opportunity to play and contribute like never before. He will need to work on his conditioning during his redshirt sophomore season because he will be on the court often.

The losses of E. Victor Nickerson and Darion Clark came as a surprise to many in Niner Nation and it appeared the coaching staff were left scrambling to find their replacements. Cameron Blakely was added late in the recruiting cycle as Alan Major and company reached into Georgia once again to land the 6’9″ forward. It will be interesting to see how ready Blakely is to play, because Charlotte desperately needs contribution from another big body. Speaking of late additions, incoming freshman Marcus Bryan signed on to the program just weeks before class started in August. Bryan comes to Charlotte after his tenure at the Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, and he was also a member of the highly touted Garner Road AAU program. At 6’7″ he is a bit undersized for his power forward position but he makes up for it with his hustle and hard-nosed play. It is unknown how much playing time these freshmen will receive, but the more they can contribute the better if the 49ers hope to compete for the Conference USA title.

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