2023-24 North Carolina Sports Network
NC Basketball Spotlight, 10-Year Snapshot:

By Evan Rogers
North Carolina Sports Network

School: Gardner-Webb

Location: Boiling Springs, N.C.

NCAA DI Member Since: 2000-01

Conference: Big South Conference

Big South Member Since: 2008-09

Big South Ranking Amongst 32 Leagues (KenPom): 22nd (2023), 24th (2022), 28th (2021), 30th (2020)

NCAA Tournament Bids: 1 (2019)

Conference Titles: 1 (2019 in Big South)

Conference 1st-Place Finishes: 1 (2005 in Atlantic Sun)

Head Coach: Tim Craft (46 years old, 11th season at Gardner-Webb)

As A Player: none at NCAA level (2000 Florida graduate)

Record At Gardner-Webb (Through Dec. 15): 176-156 (.530) in 10+ seasons

Previous Head Coaching Experience: none at NCAA level

College AC Experience: Pensacola JC (2002-04); Gardner-Webb (2004-07); Auburn (2008-10); East Carolina (2010-13)

Assistant Under: Rick Scruggs, Jeff Lebo

2022-23 Record: 15-16, 10-8 (4th in 10-team Big South)

2023-24 Preseason Prediction (Coaches/Media): 4th in 9-team Big South

2023-24 Record (Through Dec. 15): 5-6, 0-0 Big South

2023-24 Midseason Ranking (KenPom): #202 nationally (5th in Big South)

Upcoming Schedule Highlights: Appalachian State in Greensboro (12/16), at Chattanooga (12/19), at Akron (12/21), at VCU (12/30)

Big South Opener: at High Point (1/6)

Gardner-Webb has become a consistent presence in the upper echelon of the Big South Conference over the past five years.

Under 11th-year head coach Tim Craft, the Runnin’ Bulldogs have produced winning conference records in four of the last five seasons. Gardner-Webb also reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history during that stretch — in 2019, when the Bulldogs lost to Virginia in the first round.

With the return of four of his top six scorers from last season — all guards — Craft is hoping to lean on his experienced playmakers on the outside to lead Gardner-Webb to another successful season.

“We graduated our front line but really returned most of our perimeter players,” Craft said. “Guys that play the one, two and three, most of those guys are back — pretty much all of them. All these guys have really taken steps forward, starting with some of our older guys.”

Atop the pecking order of Gardner-Webb’s talented guard room is DQ Nicholas. A second-team All-Big South honoree a season ago, Nicholas leads the Runnin’ Bulldogs in assists and ranks third in scoring this year.

Starting alongside Nicholas are seasoned veterans Julien Soumaoro, Caleb Robinson and Lucas Stieber (a nephew of Virginia coach Tony Bennett). The quartet of guards are responsible for nearly 60 percent of the Runnin’ Bulldogs’ scoring output so far this season.

“Lucas Stieber is a senior, and he’s really improved his confidence level to be more of a scorer, not just a passer,” Craft said. “He’s a great leader for our team.

“Julien Soumaoro is going into year three with our program. Started for us last year (and) is just a terrific guard that can do a lot of things. He’s playing with great confidence right now in terms of practice. I’m excited for him to take some steps as a player this season.”

During early nonconference play, after dropping road games to Arkansas (86-68) and Baylor (77-62), Gardner-Webb bounced back with impressive victories over Weber State (62-61) and Western Carolina (82-77), although the Runnin’ Bulldogs have struggled offensively in many games.

2023-24 Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs
(5-6, 0-0 Big South; through Dec. 15)


G Julien Soumaoro*, Jr. — 27 mpg, 14 ppg, 2 rpg, 42% FG, 63% FT, 35% threes, 24/19 ATO, 1 block, 14 steals
(5-11/175); 3-year GWU contributor; Woodstock (Mass.) Academy; Cardinal Hayes HS, Bronx, N.Y.

G DQ Nicholas*, Sr. — 27 mpg, 11 ppg, 3 rpg, 37% FG, 64% FT, 30% threes, 31/15 ATO, 2 block, 7 steals
(6-1/180); 2022 SE Missouri State transfer; 2023 2nd-team All-Big South; Meadowcreek HS, Atlanta, Ga.

G Lucas Stieber, Gr. — 26 mpg, 6 ppg, 4 rpg, 32% FG, 68% FT, 19% threes, 22/8 ATO, 4 blocks, 5 steals
(6-3/206); 2023 backup; 2022 Wisconsin-GB transfer (2-year starter); from Southwest HS, Green Bay, Wis.

G Caleb Robinson, Sr. — 23 mpg, 14 ppg, 6 rpg, 43% FG, 71% FT, 28% threes, 9/14 ATO, 3 blocks, 11 steals
(6-4/200); 2023 backup; 2022 Catawba transfer (1st-team All-South Atlantic); Core 4 Prep, Lake Arthur, La.

F Cheickna Sissoko, Sr. — 12 mpg, 4 ppg, 4 rpg, 41% FG, 80% FT, 2/10 ATO, 8 blocks, 7 steals
(6-9/236); 2023 redshirt; 2022 Academy of Art transfer; also Pensacola State JC; from Bamako, Mali

Key Reserves

G Brendan Mykalcio, Jr. — 16 mpg, 6 ppg, 4 rpg, 48% FG, 70% FT, 33% threes, 8/8 ATO, 4 blocks, 7 steals
(6-7/208); 2023 reserve; 2022 redshirt; The Patrick School via Don Bosco (N.J.) Prep; from New City, N.Y.

G Shahar Lazar, R-Fr. — 14 mpg, 4 ppg, 2 rpg, 41% FG, 90% FT, 25% threes, 5/5 ATO, 1 block, 2 steals
(6-2/215); 2023 New Mexico State transfer (redshirt); Israeli Junior National Team; from Emunim, Israel

G Darryl Simmons II, Fr. — 15 mpg, 4 ppg, 1 rpg, 46% FG, 75% FT, 41% threes, 13/7 ATO, 0 blocks, 4 steals
(5-11/160); 2-time prep national champion at Putnam Science (Conn.) Academy; from Detroit, Mich.

G Quest Aldridge, Sr. — 14 mpg, 4 ppg, 2 rpg, 33% FG, 40% FT, 31% threes, 8/15 ATO, 0 blocks, 5 steals
(6-4/185); 2023 backup; 2022 Belmont Abbey transfer (2-time all-conference); Mt. Tabor HS, Winston-Salem, N.C.

F Isaiah Richards, r-Jr. — 13 mpg, 5 ppg, 4 rpg, 77% FG, 67% FT, 3/6 ATO, 3 blocks, 3 steals
(6-10/225); 2023 La.-Lafayette transfer (3-year backup); Commonwealth (Mass.) Academy, Brooklyn, N.Y.

F Ademide Badmus, Jr. — 15 mpg, 3 ppg, 4 rpg, 44% FG, 30% FT, 6/10 ATO, 3 blocks, 4 steals
(6-7/257); 3-year GWU contributor; 4-year starter at Lynn English HS, Lynn, Mass.

*—returning starter (started at least 50% of current team’s games last season)

Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs
10-Year Snapshot

Season — Overall, League (Place), Postseason

2022-23 — 15-16, 10-8 Big South (4th), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2021-22 — 18-13, 11-5 Big South (3rd), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2020-21 — 11-15, 10-10 Big South (5th), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2019-20 — 16-16, 11-7 Big South (3rd), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2018-19 — 23-12, 10-6* Big South (3rd), NCAA 1st Round (Tim Craft)
2017-18 — 14-18, 9-9 Big South (5th), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2016-17 — 19-14, 11-7 Big South (4th), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2015-16 — 17-16, 10-8 Big South (5th), no postseason (Tim Craft)
2014-15 — 20-15, 10-8 Big South (6th), CBI 1st Round (Tim Craft)
2013-14 — 18-15, 10-6 Big South (4th), no postseason (Tim Craft)

*—conference champion

NOTE: Please visit the North Carolina Sports Network’s 2023-24 profiles and 10-year snapshots for all 19 Division One men’s basketball programs in North Carolina.

Appalachian State Mountaineers, Sun Belt Conference

Charlotte 49ers, American Athletic Conference

Davidson Wildcats, Atlantic-10 Conference

East Carolina Pirates, American Athletic Conference

High Point Panthers, Big South Conference

NC Central Eagles, Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference

North Carolina A&T Aggies, Coastal Athletic Association

UNC Asheville Bulldogs, Big South Conference

UNC Greensboro Spartans, Southern Conference

UNC Wilmington Seahawks, Coastal Athletic Association

Western Carolina Catamounts, Southern Conference