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Byington makes instant impact on JMU men’s basketball program

Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 11:15 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Mark Byington made an immediate impact on the JMU men’s basketball program in his first season as head coach.

Byington was hired on March 20, 2020 in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Once his team took the floor in November of 2020, the Dukes surprised many with their play during the 2020-2021 season. James Madison went 13-7 overall and 8-2 in CAA play, a performance good enough to earn the Dukes a share of the conference’s regular-season title and the #1 seed in the CAA Tournament.

“When I got the job, I think in my opening press conference, I said the plan is to win right away and I don’t know if people believed me or if I was just saying that,” said Byington. “Everybody wants to win now. So what we were able to do was find some like-minded guys that had common goals.”

JMU’s performance in Byington’s first season is even more impressive when factoring in the program’s last-place finish in the CAA during the 2019-2020 season.

“I mean everybody exceeded expectations as far as our players and our success,” said Byington.

The first-year head coach earned praise from fans and is seemingly beloved by many of his players.

“We want to win for him,” said JMU freshman guard Terell Strickland. “When a coach puts himself in the same shoes as us and relates with us then we want to win for him too...he has the same chip on his shoulder that he recruited his players for.”

James Madison was able to have success by leading the CAA in scoring at 78.1 points per game and limiting opposing offenses to just 31.5% shooting from the field, the top mark in the conference. However, the Dukes struggled from the free throw line during the 2020-2021 season, shooting a CAA-worst 66.7%.

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