Eckerd College was rolling right through its first eight games of the season. The Tritons were undefeated, uninjured and brimming with confidence heading into a mid December showdown with Sunshine State Conference rival Tampa.
Then came the bad news.
Not only did the Tritons fall to the Spartans, but they ended up losing senior guard Steve Berg. Berg was suspended from the team and banned from the campus for one year after violating school rules.
Neither coach Tom Ryan nor athletic director Bob Fortosis could comment on why Berg was suspended, but Ryan said it was an oncampus incident and not related to grades.
Berg, who led the team with 16.2 points per game, transferred to Greensboro College in North Carolina to finish the basketball season. Greensboro is coached by former Eckerd player and assistant Bryan Galuski.
"Obviously my relationship with Tom helped," Galuski said. "I recruited Steve out of high school. He expressed interest in coming here and I knew with his character that he would fit in on this team. He's been nothing but a positive influence for us."
Berg, who leads Greensboro with 18.2 points per game, did not return phone calls about his suspension. With Berg gone, the Tritons had to find ways to fill the scoring gap. Surprisingly, they didn't miss a beat. Eckerd rattled off six straight wins after Berg's dismissal. They are currently 16-6, 6-4 in the SSC.
Despite losing their top 3-point shooter, the Tritons have found ways to score. Matt Cenatus has stepped up with 15.4 points per game. Arkansas State transfer Andre King-Holland has filled in at point guard and done an admirable job. He averages 12.3 points per game and has been named the SSC's player of the week multiple times.
"Andre is playing about how we expected him to play," Ryan said. "We figured he'd be a double-digit scorer per game and run the offense well. That's what he's done."
King-Holland said he is used to running the offense as a point guard. What he needed to get used to was not having Berg to fill some of the scoring load.
"With Steve gone I knew I needed to step up," King-Holland said. "As a point guard, it was nice having Steve over there because I knew I could get him the ball and he would be money. So with him gone I have to look for the shot more. I'm getting comfortable with that."
Eckerd still has key conference matchups left, including Saturday at Florida Southern and Feb. 25 against Lynn.