By Chris Whitaker, The Americus Times-Recorder
Georgia Southwestern men's basketball coach Mike Leeder believes Mike Tippins is ready for Peach Belt competition.
Leeder signed the 6-foot-8, 205-pound forward from Georgia Perimeter and has high expectations for the Valdosta native in the post.
"We're thrilled to have him," said Leeder, who will enter his fourth season as the Hurricanes' head coach. "He brings much-needed size and athleticism to us. He comes from two really successful programs in ABAC and Georgia Perimeter that are very well-coached programs."
GSW lost three players from last year's team, including two players who were 6-6 or taller. Tippins averaged 5.8 points, 5.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 58 percent for the GJCAA runner-up Jaguars.
"I'm just happy to be able to continue and play basketball," said Tippins, who was selected to the GJCAA All-Tournament Team this season. "This is a great opportunity. It really reminded me a lot of ABAC, but on a larger scale. It's close to home, and my family can come see me play. From what I've heard, it's competitive in the Peach Belt, and very tough, and I want to play in a conference like that."
Tippins is the fifth signee of Leeder's upcoming class. He said the rest of the class will be disclosed at a later time.
Since joining the Peach Belt three seasons ago, GSW has lacked a post presence. Leeder is a defensive-minded coach, and he said Tippins can definitely fill the role in the paint.
"Mike's a guy that can be very, very good on defense," said Leeder. "He can guard anybody around the basket in our league. He has a passion for rebounding and for the ball. Offensively, I think he's a work in progress. But he has a chance to be very good offensively. He has a lot of skills, and a little work on his part can pay off. He's kind of what we didn't have the last couple of years. I think he will be special here."
Tippins said Leeder's defensive style suits him well.
"I pride myself on energy and defense," he said. "I just play the game with passion every time I step on the court. I want to be able to stop my opponent. I'd rather block a shot than score. I'm not really big on stats; I want to fit in and find my role as a team player."
Tippins said he can make the 10-12 foot jumper, but his offense does need to improve.
"I have to be able to take a player off the dribble," he said. "I've got to be more aggressive on offense."
GSW finished 10-18 overall and 6-14 in conference play last season.