Winthrop men's basketball coach Randy Peele cast a cloud over suspended senior Charles Corbin's return date at Tuesday's Coaches Luncheon.
Prior to Peele's comments at the weekly gathering at McHale's restaurant in Rock Hill, it was understood that Corbin would be back at the end of fall semester exams in time for the Dec. 20 game at Dayton. But on Tuesday Peele said he was unsure if the "end of the semester" meant when classes are done or after exams have been taken.
Winthrop Athletic Director Tom Hickman cleared up the situation later in the day.
"I thought it was prudent to let Corbin begin competition when classes end. His behavior has been good. His suspension will be lifted on Dec. 6," Hickman said.
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That date puts Corbin back on the floor for the Eagles' road game at Charlotte on Tuesday. He averaged 6.7 points and 5.1 rebounds in 29 games last season.
Preparing for a tough stretch of games ahead took center stage for Peele at practice Tuesday. The Eagles play three straight road contests and five of the next six away from the friendly confines of Coliseum.
Winthrop is coming off a 65-46 win on Saturday over Division II Lander. Andre Jones led all scorers with 20 points and the team played without floor leader Reggie Middleton who sat out with a lower leg injury.
The 3-3 Eagles play at VMI Thursday night in the Big South Conference opener for both teams. Middleton is likely to return and could well be one of four guards on the floor against the hyper-paced Keydets.
Middleton practiced for an hour on Tuesday, his first workout since the second half of the Belmont game Nov. 23. The team went on without Middleton for another 90 minutes.
"Everything conventional you play against them won't work. VMI is one of those games you where you have to be on point," Peele said. VMI is 6-1 and coming off a 151-92 win over Division II Central Penn College on Monday night.
"I have to tell my guys 'Everything you've been told to this point, forget about it',", Peele said in getting ready for VMI.
Coach Duggar Baucom's Keydets are unlike any team the Eagles will face all year. They have led the country in scoring each of the last four seasons and are averaging 99.4 points per outing this year. Keith Gabriel and Stan Okoye are both scoring 20-points per game.
VMI attempted 43 3-pointers on Monday. Winthrop has put up 67 through six games.
Winthrop placed Robbie Dreher back into the lineup last week following a suspension at the start of the season. The sophomore's defense and ability to score are a big plus for Peele. Dreher had a career-high 20 points Nov. 22 to lead Winthrop to its 83-74 win over Wake Forest - the team's fourth win against an ACC school.
The Eagles make a short trip over the mountains to play at Liberty on Saturday night and will host Jacksonville on Dec. 12.
Peele said he knew when he was putting the 2010-11 schedule together it was going to be important to get a home game following four NIT games played in Winston-Salem, N.C. He tried to get an agreement with The Citadel to play at the Coliseum, instead of Lander, but that fell through.
The Eagles have 13 home dates this season. The only two non-conference Division I opponents that will play in Rock Hill are Jacksonville and a mid-February ESPN BracketBuster foe that has yet to be announced.
The best non-conference two-game road trip in four years is set for Dec. 20-22 at Dayton and Kentucky, respectively. Dayton is 5-1 and No. 10 Kentucky was 4-1 heading into Tuesday's game versus Boston.
Not since the 2006-07 season has Winthrop had a two-game road swing of this caliber. Winthrop had a pair of quality road trips that season. They won at Mississippi State, 74-63, followed by an 11-point setback at No. 22 Maryland. A couple weeks later the team won at Northern Illinois, 72-62, before dropping an overtime game, 82-79, at No. 12 Wisconsin.