The game of basketball was invented more than a century ago, simply to give athletes something to do in the winter. From its humble beginnings, basketball has grown into one of the world’s most popular sports.
Mobile’s local colleges have already tipped off their seasons. The following is a brief glance at those teams.
• The women’s squad at the University of Mobile enters the year ranked 22nd in the NAIA standings. The Lady Rams won 23 games last season, picking up the Southern States Athletic Conference tournament title and earning a bid to the national playoffs.
Head coach Billy Evans must replace first-team All-American Deonica McCormick, but coming back are SSAC all-division players Molly Speed (7.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg), a 5-11 junior guard, and Jakela Johnson (7.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg), a 6-3 senior post player. They are joined by all-freshmen team guard Kali Koening (5.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg). Also producing this season have been Jammieca Hudson and Raven Lyons.
• The Rams, coached by Joe Niland for the 16th season, are coming off a 14-16 record. Top returnees are SSAC all-freshman honoree C.J. McGill (8.6 ppg), a 5-7 guard, and senior Cody Scott (9.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), a 6-6 forward. Also contributing this year are Will Hornsby and Piers Carroll.
The women and men play at home Friday against Blue Mountain in their conference openers.
• The USA men are looking to bounce back from an 11-20 record. However, they will have to do it without departed players Augustine Rubit and Mychal Ammons. They combined for 44.6 percent of the team’s rebounds and 38.2 percent of the scoring.
“I’m very excited about my second year in the Sun Belt,” said head coach Matthew Graves. “I’m looking forward to the improvements that we can make to our program, and excited to be competing in what looks to be another outstanding year in the Sun Belt.”
The Jags have two returning starters in guards Barrington Stevens III (5-10 junior, 7.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg, 2.8 apg) and Ken Williams (6-2 sophomore, 9.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 1.6 apg). Williams set a freshman record at the school with 55 3-point shots, while Stevens led the Jags with 86 assists.
Other lettermen returning are forwards Dionte Ferguson (6-6 senior, 3.7 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Georgia Boyanov (6-8 sophomore, 2.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg) and Austin Karazsia (6-8 sophomore, 1.5 ppg, 1.1 rpg).
The Jags next home games will be Dec. 2 against Spring Hill, and then Dec. 6 versus Middle Tennessee. Sun Belt action opens at home Jan. 8 with Arkansas State.
• The Lady Jags have five players back who saw action last season. Senior guard Breanna Hall (5-8) and junior guard Rachel Cumbo (5-9) have each been named preseason third-team all-SBC. Hall was second on the team in scoring last season (10 ppg), while Cumbo averaged 8.9 points and was second with 4.3 rebounds.
“I’m really excited about our second season here at South Alabama,” said head coach Terry Fowler, whose club went 8-20 last year. “We have a totally different team than the one you saw last season.”
Other veterans back are juniors Brittany Webb (5-2) and Taylor Jenkins (6-0), plus sophomore Colby Davis (5-9).
• Spring Hill College enters its first year as a member of NCAA Division II and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. “We will adjust well to the changes ahead of us,” said women’s head coach Karen McConico, whose team was 5-23 last season.
Leading the team are 5-6 senior guard Elissa VandeWaa (8.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 115 assists) and 5-7 junior guard Natalie Harper (7.1 ppg). Sophomore guard Brittney Davis led SHC in scoring and rebounding in its opener.
• Coach Aaron Niven’s Badgers finished 7-22 last season, but that is all in the past. “Our opponents this year will basically be blank slates for us,” he said. “Outside of watching film, we really won’t know much about them until we play them, but then they won’t know much about us either.”
Returning with the most experience are 6-6 forward Frederick Gatson, who averaged 11.5 points and 7.1 rebounds last year while also handing out 63 assists; 6-4 guard Robert Drummond (8.4 ppg, 2.8 rpg); 6-1 junior guard Jarrett Calhoun (9.4 ppg, 79 assists); 6-3 junior guard Wesley Pietri (6.1 ppg) and 6-10 sophomore forward Dejan Stefanovic (4.4 ppg, 3.6 rpg).
The Spring Hill men and women next host West Florida Saturday.
Lights, camera, kickoff
USA football fans who cannot make the final road trip to South Carolina can now pick up their TV remotes to catch the game. The Jaguars will visit the Gamecocks Saturday at 11 a.m., and the contest will be broadcast live on Fox Sports South.
This will be the Jags’ second contest this year against a Southeastern Conference team, having fallen to Mississippi State in their home opener. USA has previously played road games at MSU in 2012 and at Tennessee last season.
More honors for University of Mobile
The Southern States Athletic Conference has honored the men and women’s soccer teams from the University of Mobile.
Leading the list for the Rams are SSAC Men’s Soccer Player of the Year Gaetan Massiah and Men’s Soccer Defensive Player of the Year Jubril Lawal.
Xavier Audergon and Gunnar Steindorsson joined them on the first-team all-conference, while Adedapo Adeniyi and Harry McGregor earned second-team nods. Takumi Jeannin and Newton Henry joined Adeniyi as an All-Freshman honoree. First-year head coach Daniel Whelan was named SSAC Men’s Soccer Coach of the Year.
For the Lady Rams, Brian Person was named the SSAC Women’s Soccer Coach of the Year. Rebecca Wynne, Leah Corse, Melissa Beaulieu, Katie Compton and Tyler-Rae Molloy were named first-team all-conference. Saskia Adriance was named second-team, while Cayla Hebert, Savannah Rommel and Rachel Forestell were named to the SSAC all-freshman roster.
• Daphne’s Alex Guillory was one of the three UM cross-country athletes to earn all-SSAC honors. Guillory and Katelyn Osborne were all-conference, while Amie Wimberly was on the all-freshman club.
Guillory finished 16th at the conference championships, with a time of 27:17.24 over the 8-kilometer course.