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March 4, 2010
Spartanburg, S.C. - Upstate head coach Eddie Payne put a cap on his 25th year as a head coach in college basketball, one that had several bright spots, not the least of which was a monumental event which occurred away from competition. The Spartans came to play every game and battled to the end of the season. Along the way, Payne won his 375th career game, young players continued to develop and a defensive power emerged as the go-to player on both ends of the court as senior Nick Schneiders became one of the most heralded players in the program in a number of years.
While play on the court dominated the scene in 2009-10, perhaps the biggest news of the year came before the first game ever tipped off. In front of nearly 400 spectators and news media, Upstate announced a more than generous $4 million gift from Mrs. Dodie Anderson to renovate the Hodge Center. The gift, a show of continued support from Mrs. Anderson for the basketball program, Athletics Department and University, will completely renovate the Hodge Center and will provide Upstate with new seating, lights, floor, scoreboards, sound system and scorer's tables.
"We needed to give the Hodge Center a face lift to match the rest of the buildings on campus," said Mrs. Anderson on the day of the announcement. "When you look around, the campus is beautiful. The facilities are grand and the Hodge Center needed improvements to assist the teams in building a Division I program. The improvements will help in recruiting. I think Upstate serves a real purpose and it's nice to think about helping young people become successful. It's fun to be involved with the types of people you work with on projects like this."
Payne led Upstate to what was once again a very demanding non-conference schedule. The Spartans played at Nebraska and Indiana to open the season, and faced marquee opponents in Wichita State, Miami, UNLV and Arizona State, carrying the Upstate name across the country. The team traveled more than 12,000 miles round trip to play its 17-game road schedule, playing in 10 different states throughout the country. Upstate also made three television appearances on the year, playing on the Big Ten Network (Indiana), Fox Sports Arizona (Arizona State) and CSS (Mercer).
Upstate also gained notoriety through the performance of 7-3 center Nick Schneiders. A native of Rietberg, Germany, he entered the season knowing he would be the go-to player on both ends of the court. He not only lived up to the expectation, he surpassed it. He led the team in scoring and rebounding, while also ranking among the league leaders in both categories. He finished the year averaging 12.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. But, his forte was blocking shots and he did that to the tune of a school record 88 blocks on the year to lead the A-Sun. At the conclusion of the regular season, his next closest competitor stood a full 39 shots behind him.
By season's end, Schneiders had amassed 205 blocked shots in his career, topping the 200-mark late in the season. He is the only player in school history to reach 200 blocks and surpassed the old career mark of 136 by 69 over the effort put forth by former all-time great Kevin Harrington (2000-04). He also finished his career ranked among the career leaders in games started (10th, 81), free throws attempted (10th, 387), rebounds (12th, 577), free throws made (18th, 207), field goals attempted (19th, 705), games played (19th, 110), points (23rd, 837), rebound average (23rd, 5.2) and field goals made (25th, 315).
What's more remarkable about those numbers is that the majority of his stats were achieved over the last two years. When Schneiders came to Upstate in 2005, he had just started playing basketball. After sitting out a year as a redshirt, he played sparingly as a freshman in 2006-07 and averaged just 18 minutes per game as a sophomore. He flourished as a junior and senior, scoring 645 of his 837 points, grabbing 381 of his 577 rebounds, and blocking 167 of his 205 blocked shots in just the last two seasons. A standout on the hardwood, he also proved to be accomplished off it. He was selected as an ESPN the Magazine/CoSIDA Second Team All-American in 2010 and was one of 20 student-athletes from throughout the NCAA to have art on display at the 2009 NCAA Convention in Washington D.C. He also finished his career with the top two blocked shots efforts in school history (88 in 2009-10 and 79 in 2008-09), while holding the single game school record with seven blocks on three different occasions.
After taking three straight close losses to Indiana (69-61), Winthrop (49-46) and UNC Greensboro (76-70), Upstate won its first game of the season in convincing style, a 78-56 thrashing of Stetson on Nov. 30. It marked the earliest A-Sun game for the Spartans in their first three years playing in the league. The night was monumental as Upstate finished the game shooting 61 percent from the field, marking the first time a Spartan team had shot over 60 percent in a game since the 2002-03 season. The team went 8-for-12 from the three-point arc, the highest shooting percentage from downtown in a game in the Division I era.
While the Stetson win was a much-needed reprieve from a brutal early schedule, it would also be the only win in the first 15 games of the season. Despite the 1-14 mark to start the year, Upstate played much better than the record would suggest. The Spartans lost nine of those games by 10 points or less. Upstate put on a solid showing while hosting its first ever regionally telecast game in the Hodge Center, a thrilling 60-57 loss to Mercer in the A-Sun's Game of the Week on CSS.
Upstate got back on the winning track with a 66-62 overtime victory over Kennesaw State at home and recorded back-to-back wins with a dominating 64-50 win at North Florida. Upstate claimed a 68-64 win at Kennesaw State in early February, sweeping the season series from the Owls. The sweep was the first for Upstate as a member of the A-Sun. The Spartans picked up additional league wins over Lipscomb and Florida Gulf Coast.
Upstate's six wins in the A-Sun marked the second-highest league win total since the Spartans transitioned to NCAA Division I as members of the league in 2007. The mark trailed last year's eight wins in the league and improved by two over the five victories in 2007-08.
The following are a list of accomplishments from the 2009-10 season:
Schneiders Named Academic All-American
Schneiders Breaks All-Time Blocked Shots Record
Schneiders Breaks His Owns Single-Season Blocks Record
Looking Inside The Record Book
Schneiders Tops A-Sun, Ranks Nationally In Blocks
Racking Up Win No. 650
Payne Reaches 375 Wins
Spartans Earn First A-Sun Sweep
Uzochukwu Leads Spartans In Double-Doubles
Upstate Plays Tough Non-Conference Schedule
A Division I First
Chavis' Record-Setting Night
An Offensive Explosion