Today: Jul 23, 2024

Southern has its own ‘Fab Four’

ANDREW ANASTASIOSpecial to Southern News
From 2007-09, the Southern men’s basketball program won four games. During that time span, they also lost 50 times.
Because the program was failing, Mike Donnelly was hired as head coach in 2010 and his career record with Southern is 22-26. Now in his second year at Southern, Donnelly has turned the program around significantly behind new recruiting tactics.
Last spring, guards Luke Houston of Pearl River, N.Y., Kyle Callanan of Bennington, VT., Tylon Smith of Manchester and forward Jose Cruz of Shrewsbury, Mass. were all given the opportunity to play Division II basketball at Southern, forming what they call “the Fab Four.”
Despite the program’s poor history, these individuals were honored that Donnelly gave them all a chance to bring their talents to the Owls.
“We took over a situation from scratch and revamped the program by bringing in quality student athletes we knew would have success here,” said Donnelly. “Each four of those kids met those qualities that we were looking for.”
Back when they were seniors in high school, Houston, Callanan, Smith and Cruz were all being scouted and contacted by Southern to ensure their commitments to the university. The players said they were impressed by the amount of interest the coaching staff displayed toward them.
“I liked the coaching staff. I got along with everyone,” said Smith. “Throughout my senior year of high school they kept in contact with me and it felt like a family more than just a basketball team.”
Cruz also said he appreciated the amount of contact he had with the university.
“I talked to Coach [Michael] Makubika and Coach Donnelly every week during my senior year,” said Cruz. “They came to quite a few of my games and told me that I would fit in well at Southern.”
All four freshman have seen the starting lineup at least once so far this season. They have made the most of their time by putting up solid numbers, whether as starters or role players.
As of Jan. 31, Cruz has played 234 minutes. His production on defense has earned him second on the team with 12 blocks. Houston has played 492 minutes, averaging 8.1 points per game. Smith has played 586 minutes. Along with Cruz, he also has been productive on defense, ranking himself second on the team with 27 steals. Callanan has played 433 minutes; despite only averaging 4.8 points per game, his ability to make plays for his teammates ranks him second on the team with 45 assists.
Hard work, not laziness is what Donnelly said he sought. With numbers like what the “fab four” have put up, he said he’s been impressed.
“It’s great to see them grow as a group,” said Donnelly. “They are the future of this basketball program.”
Callanan and Houston are roommates and neighbors to Cruz and Smith. This allowed them to interact with each other outside of basketball, which has translated into a unique form of camaraderie on the court.
“We carry the fab four logo with us,” said Houston. “We are with each other all the time and that connection we built off the court really helps us on the court. We encourage each other and pick one another up to do the right thing.”
The four said they have dedicated themselves to strengthening Southern’s basketball program and winning a championship along the way.
“With what the program has been through, the fans deserve to see what is next for all of us,” said Smith. “We want to be the four to start it of., Along with who we have now and who we get in the future, we want to put a banner on that gym.”

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