braswell@postandcourier.com

Murray Garvin knows that getting South Carolina State back to the basketball prominence it enjoyed a decade ago is no easy task.

Garvin took over as the Bulldogs’ head coach when Tim Carter stepped down late last season. S.C. State was 2-7 with Garvin as interim head coach while the Bulldogs finished 6-24 a year ago.

“There’s a saying in coaching that the seat 12 inches over (on the bench) is a whole different monster, and it is. All the decisions you have to make as a head coach are much easier to make as an assistant. I’ve enjoyed (the transition) and look forward to the future. It’s truly a blessing.”

The last winning season S.C. State enjoyed was 2009-10, and the last time a Bulldogs team advanced to the NCAA tournament was 2002-03 under Cy Alexander.

“It’s a process and we’re working hard. But we don’t compete against those guys from the past,” Garvin said. “We’re just trying to get better every day, with our practice habits, what we do in the weight room, how we handle ourselves on campus and in the classroom.

“Coach Alexander and some of the guys who followed him had great success. That indicates it can be done. When we look up and see the banners and championships from the past, it motivates the young men in the program and myself to go out and try to achieve greatness. We can win the tournament, the regular season title, because it’s been done. It’s great motivation for us all.”

S.C. State has four returning starters, led by 6-10 senior forward Matthew Hezekiah, who averaged 12.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a year ago. Darryl Palmer, a 6-7 sophomore out of Timberland who averaged 9.5 points and 5.9 rebounds, also returns. Garvin said Palmer performed extremely well for S.C. State during a summer tour in the Bahamas.

Shaquiell Mitchell of Baptist Hill, a 6-4 sophomore who averaged 5.5 points and 4.3 rebounds off the bench, has been moved back to point guard. Adama Adams, a 6-1 senior guard, also gives S.C. State proven scoring, averaging 9.6 points last season.

The Bulldogs face a formidable non-conference road schedule this season, traveling to Marshall, Nebraska, Clemson and South Carolina.

“There are no easy games on the Division I level, or in college basketball period,” Garvin said. “But what an experience for the young men in our program and the exposure it can give South Carolina State.”

S.C. STATE SCHEDULE

DATE OPPONENT

Nov. 4 Claflin 7:30 p.m.

Nov. 8 at Marshall 7 p.m.

Nov. 10 St. Andrews 6 p.m.

Nov. 12 at Michigan 7 p.m.

Nov. 17 at Nebraska 2 p.m.

Nov. 19 at Nebraska-Omaha 7 p.m.

Nov. 23 Voorhees 6 p.m.

Nov. 26 Nebraska-Omaha 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 3 at Clemson 7 p.m.

Dec. 7 Georgia Southern 6 p.m.

Dec. 17 Coastal Carolina 7:30 p.m.

Dec. 23 at Jacksonville 7 p.m.

Dec. 30 at Coastal Carolina 7 p.m.

Jan. 3 at South Carolina 7 p.m.

Jan. 8 Maryland-Eastern Shore 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 11 at Morgan State 4 p.m.

Jan. 13 at Coppin State 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 18 Florida A&M 6 p.m.

Jan. 20 Bethune-Cookman 7:30 p.m.

Jan. 25 Norfolk State 6 p.m.

Jan. 27 Hampton 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 1 at Florida A&M 4 p.m.

Feb. 3 at Bethune-Cookman 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 8 at Delaware State 4 p.m.

Feb. 15 N.C. Central 6 p.m.

Feb. 17 N.C. A&T 7:30 p.m.

Feb. 22 Savannah State 6 p.m.

March 1 at N.C. Central 4 p.m.

March 3 at N.C. A&T 7:30 p.m.

March 6 at Savannah State 7:30 p.m.

March 10-15 MEAC Tournament, Norfolk, Va. TBA