Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics
By John Weis (’94)
Next UCF Opponent: Samford Bulldogs (6-3, 0-0 Southern)
2021-2022 Record: 21-11 (10-8 Southern)
Coach: Bucky McMillan (3rd Season, 33-27)
Last Game: 11/30 Away vs. DePaul (L, 103-98 OT)
Opening Tip: 12/4 2:00 Addition Financial Arena (TV: ESPNU)
Opponent at a Glance
After a 6-0 start to the season, the Samford Bulldogs will limp into the Addition Financial Arena on Sunday afternoon having lost their last three in a row.
Samford has plenty of players who can score (you’ll read more about that in the next section) and returns 14 players from last year’s team – including four starters – and they added some talent from the transfer portal, too.
The big question is: Which Samford team will show up … the one who nearly beat Big East team DePaul this past Wednesday night (losing in overtime 103-98), or the team that lost to NAIA Tennessee Southern, who was playing its third game in three nights? I’m guessing somewhere in the middle, which means Samford is a team the Knights should handle relatively easily. Their talent level is fine for the Southern Conference, but it’s a step up for them against UCF.
Five Samford players score in double figures, led by 6’0” Junior guard Quez Glover, who’s averaging 13.8 points but was held to just six in the team’s last outing against DePaul. Last year, he ranked third in the Southern Conference scoring at 19.2 a game, and he also led the Bulldogs in assists with 4.4 per contest. Next comes 6’6” Junior Jermaine Marshall at 11.1, and he’s also the team’s leading glass cleaner, grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game. 6’9” Senior Forward Logan Dye averages 11 points and 5.8 rebounds and led the way versus DePaul, scoring 23 points to go along with seven rebounds and three helpers.
Jaden Campbell, a 6’5” Junior guard (11.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg); and 5’11” Georgia Tech Senior transfer Bubba Parham (10.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg and team-leading 2.7 apg) are the other double-figure scorers. Meanwhile, 6’9” Sophomore Forward Achor Achor, a transfer from Chipola College, is not far off that pace at 9.6 ppg. A Florida native is 6’5” Sophomore Forward A.J. Staton-McCray, who’s only averaging 5.3 points but has more than twice as many steals (22) as anyone else on the roster.
Through their first nine contests, Samford is averaging 86.2 points per game while giving up 69.6.
“BuckyBall” has energized the Bulldog faithful! Samford is coached by Bucky McMillan, who was hired in April 2020 to replace former Kentucky Wildcat star player Scott Padgett, as the program had fallen upon hard times in Padgett’s latter years. In a short period of time, McMillan has completely changed the culture of the team. After managing just six wins in his first season at the helm, he changed the fortunes of the Bulldogs almost overnight, guiding them to a 21-11 finish last season (including wins over Ole Miss and Oregon State) – the first time Samford won 20 games in a year since the 1998-1999 campaign. For this exceptional job, McMillan received Southern Conference Coach of the Year honors. If you’re wondering if Bucky is a nickname, as far as I can tell the answer is no.
Samford is a private Christian university located in Homewood, Alabama (Birmingham area), and is the state’s top-ranked private institution.
There is no true legendary player in Samford’s basketball past; in fact, only two Bulldog players have ever been selected in an NBA draft. There have been none since 1985 and no one has ever been chosen higher than in the fourth round (the draft has been shortened to two rounds since then). That player, you ask? Forward Craig Beard, who was picked by the Chicago Bulls in 1985 but never made their roster. (It’s OK; I don’t remember him, either.) It’s no wonder, then, that with just 33 victories under his belt, McMillan is already sixth in program history for most wins by a head coach.
John Weis is a freelance Writing/PR professional. His company, Weis Words (www.weiswords.biz) serves national clients such as advertising agencies, public relations firms and sports organizations, as well as small businesses and private individuals. A native Central Floridian and basketball enthusiast, he spent six seasons as Broadcast Coordinator for the Orlando Magic Radio Network early in his career. He graduated from UCF in 1994 with a degree in Communications and can’t wait for the Knights to move to the Big XII.