They define their role as protecting the basket. They mean that and take it quite seriously.
In their key role as those protectors, Georgia State senior centers Cody Paulk and James Vincent are setting Georgia State records for blocked shots and helping their team defense limit the point totals of opponents to provide wins.
The 6-foot-10 Vincent and the 6-foot-3 Paulk apparently don't take kindly to strangers coming into their home territory in the paint. Vincent showed his dissatisfaction with Monmouth University shooters challenging his basket and blocked a school-record-tying nine blocks in that game. He holds down the No. 37 spot in the nation with his 2.38 blocks per game average.
Paulk consistently rejects opponents' thoughts of baskets and had a six-block swat day in the win over Georgia Southern, her fourth game with six rejections. This season, Paulk ranks No. 15 in the nation with her 3.0 blocks per game average.
With her 150th and 151st career blocks in Sunday's win over Kennesaw State, Paulk is rapidly closing in on the school all-time record of 166 blocked shots. She will also begin her climb up the Top 10 in CAA history when No. 162 will move her into 10th place.
Vincent, nicknamed Oak for his massive size, says his job is to stay at home in the paint area under the basket. The Panther Nation student fan section yelled at a team earlier this season to stay away from Oak's tree house and they weren't welcomed in the painted area. "If I can block a shot, I will; if I can alter a shot, that's just as well and I will try; and if perhaps I have to aggressively foul to stop the basket and not allow a three-point play, I will," Vincent noted.
Vincent quickly admits defense is a team effort, not a one-person function. "The first focus certainly isn't to block a shot, but if it is possible, I go for it," he said. "A defender has to be a little bit of a mind reader to react to when the shooter is going to jump and time his jump accordingly. But, the ball has to get to the rim at some point and I want to protect that rim and keep the ball from going in whenever possible."
Paulk, with a serious demeanor and expressionless face in games, describes her role the same. "I stay near the basket and watch both my person and the others positions to know where shots may be coming from," she said. "Actually, most of my blocked shots come from someone else's shooter and I leave my person to jump and block their drives to the basket," she continued. "I stay back from their bodies and use my size so as not to foul. I know I can't be the first to jump and I react to what I see the shooter doing."
Paulk and her teammates' defense are ranked No. 8 in the NCAA by allowing just 31.1 percent of opposing shots to be made, indicative of the pressure and challenging of shots. Vincent and his mates allow just 41.1 percent to be made, but that includes some nationally ranked competition, too. The Panther women allow just 55.3 points a game, while the Panther men surrender just 68 points per outing.
When asked if he remembered one block over another, Vincent cited a recent one from the win over South Alabama in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. "Their big guy was going up for a dunk and when I was going up to challenge I was thinking about fouling him so he couldn't make it and I got all ball and pinned it almost still in his hand against the backboard, then it bounced off his head to my teammate."
When questioned on the all-time shot blocking record becoming hers, Paulk had a good perspective. "If the team wins and we have a good year my senior season that would be the best scenario. Then, if I had that record it would be a memory I could reflect on later when I'm gone from Georgia State," she noted.
Paulk has steadily climbed up the list with back-to-back 56-block seasons, making her the only player in school history to block 50 or more twice, male or female. She'll try to make it a third time this year.
Vincent could top his 36-block season as a sophomore with his 19 through the first eight games of this season as he adds to his 81 total blocked shots. The 81 rank seventh in school history at the moment as he seeks to join only five other Panther men to have 100 blocks in their career.
Vincent, who grew up in Columbus, Ga. and played at Northside High says he was first and foremost a rebounder in high school and didn't block as many shots there as he does now. Hard to imagine that when he had an 11-block game.
Paulk, a native of Gadsden, Ala, says she was a bigger shot blocker at Gadsden City on the No. 4 team in the state. "Since I was 6-foot-3 and all the high school players weren't very big, I got a lot more," she said. Her season average of 6.7 per game was a shade higher than her top individual games of six blocks in college. She, too, had an 11-blocked shot game in high school.
Just a few games into their senior seasons, here is where their shot blocking ranks at GSU.
Blocked Shots, Game
James Vincent 9 vs. Monmouth, 11/19/12
Sylvester Morgan 9 vs. Mercer, 1/23/05
Eric Buckner 8 vs. FIU, 12/1/11
Blocked Shots, Career
Rhian Jones 166 1992-1996
Cody Paulk 151 thru first 6 games of 2012-13
Angela Gresham 127 1984-85, 86-89