Jump back to the Summer of 2022. There’s a lot of excitement surrounding the SFA Men’s Basketball program. Coming off of a shared WAC Championship, the Lumberjacks had a lot of depth with expectations to compete for a title once again.
But things can change quickly. And did they ever.
Head Coach Kyle Keller brought in Kansas State transfer Montavious Murphy. And while Murphy made it to Nacogdoches and was working out with the team, a potential pick for WAC Newcomer of the Year left the squad before the season had even started.
That was the first crack in the high expectations.
Just weeks later and into the beginning of the season, the injury bug took over in Nacogdoches.
Jalil Beaubrun suffered a foot injury. Day Day Hall was dealing with a torn labrum. Robbie Armbrester dealt with plantar fascia in the early stages of the 2022-23 season. Jaylen Jackson-Posey got his hand stepped on in practice. The X-rays came back showing a broken hand. In the middle of non-conference play, Latrell Jossell missed time with an abdomen injury. Late in the season, Nana Antwi-Boasiako suffered a significant neck injury and missed the remainder of the season.
One injury after the other. A roster built for success derailed by injuries and a scholarship player leaving prior to the season beginning.
Keller wasn’t sure if they were going to have enough scholarship players to even get games in. By the end of the season, only 2-3 players on the roster hadn’t missed significant playing time. In fact, just three players — Nigel Hawkins, AJ Cajuste, and Kyle Hayman — played in all 32 games.
Unfortunately, that was the theme for the season. When they got players back, they lost a few more…and never got into the groove and style of play that they wanted to be running.
Day Hall lead the way for the Lumberjacks, averaging 13.8 points and 6.8 rebounds. And he did that with a torn labrum. With so many injuries, Keller called on Hall, Derrick Tezeno and others to play out of positions at times.
The season however wasn’t all doom and gloom, far from it. The Lumberjacks picked up solid road wins at South Dakota State and Louisiana Tech. Yes, there were those weird home losses to Alcorn State and Northwestern State. But, the Jacks held their own.
SFA began conference play by reeling off five consecutive wins against the likes of New Mexico State, Grand Canyon, and in-state rival Abilene Christian.
However, the rest of the season proved to be inconsistent. Injuries continued to pile up, and SFA (19-13) went on to win only six of their last 13 games, with an added early first round exit in the WAC Tournament.
The Lumberjacks may have not reached the goals of a WAC Title and NCAA Tournament berth, but there were plenty of positives to take out of the season.
One being the emergence of A.J. Cajuste. After an injury and eventual transfer from Jaylin Jackson-Posey, Cajuste solidified himself as the starting point guard. A position of great importance in the Kyle Keller system.
The returning trio of Cajuste, Hall, and sharpshooter Latrell Jossell will form a solid core in a potentially dangerous 2023-2024 Lumberjack squad. Keller’s 2023-24 roster has been complete since April. Most guys have been in Nacogdoches all Summer. Utah Tech transfer Frank Staine is finally in Nacogdoches after completing his degree and working out in various spots all Summer.
According to Kyle Keller on the Straight Outta WAC podcast, everyone is healthy and will be ready for the 2023-24 season.