Basketball season gets underway this week for Spring Hill College, the University of Mobile and the University of South Alabama. Here’s a quick glance at the upcoming hoops campaign.
Spring Hill College women — Head coach Karen McConico will have five returning starters this season. Among the seniors is 5-foot-11 center Leah Washington, who has been named to the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s preseason all-conference team. The three-year starter averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds as a junior.
Also preparing for their final season are forwards Carmy Johnson (Faith Academy graduate) and Alishia Drayton-Lewis plus guard Brittney Davis.
“Our four seniors have a new mindset and they have a mature attitude about the upcoming season,” McConico said. “They really want to go out with a bang and they see that the talent of our newcomers can help them do it.”
Other veterans are 6-foot-1 sophomore forward Tiffany Valentine and junior guards Jennifer Clark and Jewel Hill. Forwards include junior college transfer Angel Carthen and freshmen Windee Johnson and Katie Krout. Guard Johnta Hughes is another former JuCo player. Freshmen looking for playing time are Elise Reilly, Nora Brooks, Daja Walker and Hannah Fillmore.
The Lady Badgers are projected to finish four in the West Division. They open their season Nov. 11, hosting West Alabama.
University of South Alabama women — The sky’s the limit for the Lady Jags after coming off a season that included a 10-win improvement from the previous year. Head coach Terry Fowler’s squad is picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt Conference.
Named to the Preseason Coaches’ Poll are junior guard Marquita Daniels to the first-team roster and junior center Chyna Ellis to the second-team unit. USA also returns a starter in senior guard Colby Davis along with seven of its top nine scorers.
Daniels led USA in scoring with 11.3 points and was third in the league in steals with 2.3 per game. Ellis topped the Sun Belt in blocks with 2.73 per game, while averaging 8.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game. Davis was second on the team with an 8.9 scoring average.
Other veterans are forwards Erin Autio, LaNeetra Guillory and Christen Carter; guards Genesis Perrymond and Alyese Givens; plus center India Hall.
USA’s schedule includes three teams that played in the postseason (Florida, Jacksonville, Southern) plus North Carolina State. The season starts Thursday with an exhibition game at home versus Auburn-Montgomery.
“We feel like we are at the time in our program where we need to step up and challenge ourselves more in nonconference play to have ourselves better prepared for Sun Belt Conference play,” Fowler said.
University of Mobile women — Billy Evans will enter his fifth year at the helm with a young roster. Despite half of the roster being filled with freshmen, UM is still picked to finish fourth in the Southern States Athletic Conference.
Helping to receive this notice is the future of senior guards Starla Daggan (led team with 16.6 ppg, 56 steals), Sydney Westry (Faith Academy graduate) and Kali Koenig (13.4 ppg, 53 steals). Other veterans are senior forwards Kerrie York (3.6 ppg, 21 blocks) and Alicia Curry (5.5 ppg), junior guard Noelle Morris and sophomore guard Alexis Fletcher. The Lady Rams open at home Nov. 2 versus Selma and Nov. 7 against Carver Bible College.
University of South Alabama men — Head coach Matthew Graves has eight returning players who earned letters. This has helped the Jags to be picked sixth in the Sun Belt Conference rankings.
“The biggest thing I like about this team is the team chemistry these guys have shared,” Graves said. “I feel like this is a group that is starting to jell and bond a lot quicker than we’ve had in other years.”
Leading the way is Ken Williams, who is on the all-SBC second-team squad after averaging 15.5 points per game last year while handing out 106 assists. Other seniors include Georgi Boyanov (10.4 ppg, 7,4 rpg), Nick Stover (10.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg) and Don MuepoKelly (4.7 ppg). Also looking to contribute are Shaq Calhoun, Dederick Lee, Herb McGee, John Pettway, Trhae Mitchell, Josh Ajayi, Nik Marijan and Kevin Morris.
The Jaguars open play Friday by hosting the University of Mobile.
Spring Hill College men — As the Badgers continue in their journey to be full members of NCAA Division II, head coach Aaron Niven will have a roster full of newcomers when they open play Thursday at Jacksonville State.
“We have a long way to go, don’t get me wrong,” he said, “but it’s been a great start. When you don’t have to teach effort, half the battle is done and these kids are just wired that way.” In the preseason Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association, SHC is picked seventh in the West Division.
Veterans back are senior Chris Hamilton at guard; juniors Jack Morrissey at guard, Matevz Rojc at forward and Walter Massey at forward (LeFlore High, 9.1 ppg, 7.0 rpg); plus sophomores Jared Holland at guard (Baker High, 4.5 ppg, 72 assists), Chase Shellman at forward (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Quinn Sutton at forward.
Transfers include guard Deandre Lacy (Bishop State), guard Andrew Dotson (New Hampshire) and center Brandon Fischer (LeMoyne College). Freshmen include guards Shawn Moore, Adnan Bajrami and Gresyn Rogers, and forwards William Loyd, Jeffrey Pharr and Ryan Little.
University of Mobile men — Head coach Joe Niland knows what awaits his Rams this year. Not only do they face two NCAA teams in exhibition matches, four of their NAIA opponents played in the national tournament last season.
“We are playing a challenging nonconference schedule, with the likes of Dillard, Carroll College and, of course, crosstown rival Spring Hill,” said Niland, whose team is projected to finish eighth in their league. “This should help prepare us for probably the deepest NAIA basketball conference in the country in the Southern States Athletic Conference.”
The top returning players for Mobile are Brandon Barnes (9.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists, third in SSAC with 1.8 steals per game) and D.J. Hill (6.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals).
Niland is counting on several newcomers. These include Will Stanford (averaged 27 points, 8 rebounds in high school), Darius Curry (averaged 18 points, 9 rebounds in high school) and Logan Adams (transfer from West Alabama). Other seniors include Peter Myers, B.J. Fisher, Myron Chapman, Lawrence Pierce, Mario Butler and Dillon Pollard.
After having played two early games, the Rams travel to USA this Friday night.