The TranSouth Athletic Conference men’s basketball coaches have tipped Crichton College as the preseason favorite for the upcoming 2007-2008 men’s basketball season.
Crichton, in just their second season in the TranSouth last year, claimed the regular season title and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament for the first time in school history. The Comets, under Head Coach Jeff Walker, gathered 111 points and 11 of the first place votes.
Lambuth University impressed a year ago in their first season in the TranSouth and earned enough votes (105) to place second on the preseason list. Union, who advanced to the NAIA Elite Eight last year, made the third place position with 100 points. Trevecca returns nearly a full roster and are picked fourth with 72 points. The Trojans are followed by Martin Methodist, Cumberland University, Lyon College, and the poll rounds out with Freed-Hardeman, Bethel College, Mid-Continent and newcomer Blue Mountain.
Crichton College, Lambuth University, and Union University all earned bids to the NAIA National Tournament. Crichton College received the first of the two TranSouth automatic berths to the NAIA National Tournament; the other went to the Union University. Lambuth acquired an at large bid to the tournament. Crichton and Union both advanced to the NAIA Elite Eight before being eliminated.
The conference sees a eleventh member join the ranks this year. Blue Mountain College will field a men’s basketball team for the first time under the leadership of Jerry Conner. Conner is one of three new faces in the conference this year on the sidelines. Winston Bennett, a former University of Kentucky and NBA player, has taken over the Mid-Continent University program. Andy Sharpe is the new mentor at Martin Methodist after a successful season at Emmanuel College.
In each of the last four seasons the regular season title has come down to the final weekend of conference play. In addition, the conference tournament confirms the depth of the conference as upsets continue to happen throughout.
The team capsules below allow a peak into how each team will look this season. After reading we think you’ll agree the conference looks to be even deeper this season and the regular season title will more than likely go down to the wire again. Every conference game will be a challenge and the conference tournament will be full of surprises again.
Below the coaches poll you’ll find a capsule on every team in the conference.
TranSouth Men's Basketball
Coaches Preseason Rankings
1. Crichton College 111 (11)
2. Lambuth University 105
3. Union University 100
4. Trevecca Nazarene 72
5. Martin Methodist 68
6. Cumberland University 65
7. Lyon College 56
8. Freed-Hardeman 53
9. Bethel College 32
10. Mid-Continent 25
11. Blue Mountain 14
Votes were given with a value of 11=1 point and 1=11 points
BETHEL COLLEGE WILDCATS
McKENZIE, Tenn. - The Bethel College Wildcats enter the 2007-2008 campaign looking to build upon last season’s return to the TranSouth Athletic Conference. Bethel is coming off a 14-18 overall record and a 5-13 mark in conference play. The Wildcats return four veteran leaders from last year to compliment their incoming freshmen and junior college transfers. Derek Demaree a 6’7” senior, Leroy Bell a 6’1” junior, Akinflarin Sessi a 6’8” junior and Brian French a 6’6” junior return to lead a new looking Bethel Wildcats. Also returning for the Wildcats are senior Hrjove Devcic, a 6’3” guard and Clint Blackburn a 6’1” shooting guard.
New to the Wildcats are several junior college transfers that will contribute this season. Leon Sowell, a 6’4” senior, transfers from NCAA D-II East Central University (Okla.). Antoine Lassesne, a 6’7” junior from Prince George CC in Washington D.C., is new. Helping out in the backcourt will be Jackson State CC transfer Brennan Ward and Shorter College (Ark.) transfer Artomie Dixon. Rounding out the frontcourt for the Wildcats is 6’7” Holmes CC transfer Octavious Thompson.
The freshmen class brings excitement to McKenzie with the arrival of three outstanding freshmen. Deonte Carlisle, a 6’5” forward from East St. Louis, Ill., who brings athleticism to the frontcourt. Justin Cockrell, a 6’2” combo guard from Orlando, Fla., will contribute this season. Rounding out the freshmen class is 6’4” guard Jason Church from Paragould, Ark. Head Coach Jeff Britt and the Bethel coaching staff feels this version of the Wildcats has a chance to build upon last season’s efforts.
BLUE MOUNTAIN TOPPERS
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. – The Blue Mountain College Toppers are filled with enthusiasm as they are poised to make history this year by becoming the first men’s basketball team in the 135-year history of Blue Mountain College. The Toppers know that they face a daunting task with the excellent caliber of competition exemplified in the TranSouth Conference. but if youthful exuberance, tenacity, and hard work count, the Toppers should provide some interesting evenings for their opponents.
Blue Mountain will be looking to a core group of players with community college experience to set the tone for the incoming freshmen. It starts with 5’11” point guard, Josh Whitson who was a two-year starter at Northeast Mississippi CC. Long-range bomber Jon Estes (6’0”) led East Mississippi CC in scoring last season and 6’4” swing man Brad Pressley was a solid performer at Northeast Mississippi CC. The tallest of the Toppers is 6’9” Tyler Markham who played for two years at Bevill State CC in Alabama. Another point guard is 6’1” junior Kenny Whitis from Phoenix, Ariz., where he gained three years of experience leading the run and gun system employed by the Toppers while playing for Topper Coach Jerry Conner at Shadow Mountain HS. Another Arizona product that will be counted on heavily will be 6’2” sophomore swing man Ryan Seymour who was MVP on a powerhouse Mesa Mountain View HS team that captured two consecutive Arizona Class 5-A state championships. Heading up a group of four freshmen is 6’3” inside man J.C. Hayles from South Pontotoc HS (Miss.).
The Toppers are new to the system and new to each other, but they are extremely excited to be part of a history making season at Blue Mountain.
CRICHTON COLLEGE COMETS
MEMPHIS, Tenn. – Crichton looks to improve on last years 29-7 season that resulted in a TranSouth Championship, top ten ranking and a trip to the Elite Eight in the NAIA National tourney.
Coach Jeff Walker returns seven (7) of his top nine (9) players and has added an impressive recruiting class. All-American candidates Slyvannia Watkins and Stanley Brownlee highlight the returning starters, which include; Zarko Brankovic, Derek Boykin (back from ACL surgery). Jonathan Bohanna, Demario Chaffin and Michael Sapp were part-time starters who logged significant minutes in Coach Walker’s 9-10 man rotation.
The incoming recruits are what lead us to believe the 2007-2008 squad will be significantly improved. Six foot-five inch wingman, Dontaye Hinton leads a stellar class that includes 6’2” Austin Peay transfer, Brandon Burney, 6’5” Emanuel Wimbush, and 6’2” Rico Seay. Hinton, Burney and Wimbush should all challenge for starting positions with Seay pushing for minutes. This should make it extremely difficult for Coach Walker to find the 10 man rotation to play his up-tempo style. In only their third season in the NAIA, the
Comets are positioned to be in the forefront of the National Championship picture, and anything less would be a disappointment. Coach Walker is excited about this year’s version of the Comets, “This year’s squad should improve over last year’s team. We have increased our size, speed, and depth. Our player’s are starting to understand the work ethic and intensity it takes to win a National Championship. Last year’s exit in the Elite Eight was disappointing to us all and we are striving to be much improved.”
CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
LEBANON, Tenn. - Head Coach Lonnie Thompson enters the 2007-2008 season with great anticipation as he will be returning 11 players from last season’s 15-15 campaign. Nine of the eleven returnees saw valuable playing time last season.
Coach Thompson will be leaning on junior guard Thomas Douglas (14.5 ppg, 1.5 spg) and the return of 6’7” senior swingman DeCorey Young (who was averaging 12.5 ppg and 6.0 rpg before being declared academically ineligible for the second semester of last season).
The Bulldogs will also return the services of 6’8” senior Kevin Bufford, who led the team in total rebounds and blocked shots last season. Junior transfer guard Rontreal Braxton will be looked upon to make an immediate impact as well.
FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
HENDERSON, Tenn. - After returning nearly everyone from last year’s squad, Head Coach Jason Shelton and the Freed-Hardeman University Lion basketball team will look to improve on its seventh place finish in the TranSouth Conference.
With only two seniors on this year’s team, the Lions will look to several underclassmen to step up and carry the load. In addition to returning seniors, Brent McPherson (8.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg) and Faruk Basic (3.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg), two-time All-Conference junior guard, Kristoffer Smith (15.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg) returns to lead a team that finished 9-23 on the 2006-2007 campaign. Junior Shun Trevillian (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg) will join Smith in the backcourt as FHU’s only other double digit scorer.
All-Freshman performer Zack Frey (9.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg) also returns to help carry the load in the paint. Coming off of a knee injury last season, junior guard Michael McCutchen, along with 6’4” freshman guard Jesse Moulton, should give the Lions more of an outside threat.
Shelton has also added 6’7” redshirt freshman forward, Daren Currie to the line up in an effort to add to the speed and athleticism of a young Lion team looking to make a run in the physically challenging TranSouth Conference.
LAMBUTH UNIVERSITY EAGLES
JACKSON, Tenn. - Coach Kevin Burton begins his fourth season at Lambuth Eagles. His last two squads have appeared in the NAIA National Basketball Tournament compiling a mark of 48-16.
Several players return from a 2006-2007 squad that finished 25-8 and ranked No. 18 in the NAIA.
Returning are: Jeremy Weddle a 6’1” senior who averaged 17.4 ppg, 4.3rpg and 3.2 spg and was a TranSouth Athletic Conference first team selection. Kierren Lovick a 6’6 senior who averaged 13.7 ppg, along with 6.3 rpg. Steve Gray is an Eagle who really came on strong in the second half of the season is back. The 6’4” senior averaged 8.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg and shot 53% from the field. Senior A. J. Adams and Michael Beasley return. Beasley is returning after having a a ruptured Achilles tendon. He is a great three-point shooter. Also returning is 6’7” junior Youssoupha Sene. He provides a great defensive inside presence for the Eagles.
Several newcomers who could provide immediate: Trey Pearson, a 6'2" guard from South Fulton, Tenn. who was the TSSAA's Class A Mr. Basketball his senior year and later played at Ole Miss and Murray State. Glen Dandridge, a 6’6” senior transfer from the University of Missouri was a top 100 player out of high school. He prepped at Mount Zion Christian Academy, N.C. Antawn Coby a 5’8” junior transfer from Jackson State CC, Tenn. averaged 18.6 ppg and 5.0 apg as an All TJCCAA Western Division selection last year. Corey Webster a 6’0” freshman from Auckland, New Zealand. He captained Westlake HS to the New Zealand National Championship in 2005 and 2006. Lance Smith, a 6’7 sophomore and Antwan Long, a 6’0 freshman from Tennessee State Champions Liberty High School in Jackson. Point guard, Derrick Brooks is a 5’9” Baltimore, Md. will provide depth in the backcourt.
Coach Burton said, “I am excited about the potential of our team. We should have a chance to compete nationally again. Our depth should be really solid and we should have great versatility in our player combinations.”
LYON COLLEGE SCOTS
BATESVILLE, Ark. – The Lyon College Scots, who finished last season 12-19 overall and were 3-15 in TranSouth play during the 2006-2007 season, are hoping for a turnaround season in 2007-2008.
After last year’s finish in the second division of the TranSouth Conference the Scots are looking to experience as a key to a 180-degree turn of fortune.
The Scots will return four of five starters (three of which are seniors), including its top two scorers -- senior guard Jonathan Donaldson (15.7 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and senior forward Levi Taylor (13.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Lyon also returns junior forward Preston Butts and senior point guard Trey Salley to the starting lineup. North Pulaski High School (Little Rock, Ark.) guard Quinn Cooper, an Arkansas High School All-State selection, is the team’s top newcomer.
|Martin Methodist's Howard|
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. - New RedHawk men’s basketball coach Andy Sharpe will be patrolling the sidelines this season in Pulaski. Sharpe brings with him ten newcomers to go along with six returnees.
Sharpe placed his Emmanuel College Lions (27-11) in the Southern State Athletic Conference Championship game last season. The team just missed on a trip to the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City, Mo. with a 2-point overtime loss to SSAC Champion Auburn-Montgomery. Senior point guard and second Team All-TranSouth selection Eric Howard returns along with his 10 ppg, six apg, and four spg average. Junior shooting guard Jacob McKissack returns and brings with him a 15 ppg average and is always a threat to break a game open with his shooting ability. Guards Everett Bills and Chris Murdock also return and carry seven ppg averages.
Heading the list of newcomers is Memphis sharpshooter and Emmanuel College transfer Carlton Peete. Slowed by a broken arm last season, Peete looks to end his college career on a high note. Mark Mangum joins the RedHawks after two successful years in the junior college ranks. Mangum is a true play maker and will look to push the pace offensively and spear-head the RedHawk defense. Julius Virgo (Volunteer State CC) and Elijah McNary (Redlands/IU Southeastern) will be looked to in the post to provide an offensive and defensive presence.
Martin Methodist is coming off a 20-12 season and hopes to implement a new philosophy and secure a place among the TranSouth elite and play for a championship.
MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
MAYFIELD, Ky.. – Mid-Continent University men’s basketball has a whole new look as they enter the second season of competition in the TranSouth Athletic Conference.
The Cougars got a new head coach in Winston Bennett and a whole new style of play. MCU returns six players from last season’s squad. Sophomore forward Sinisia Korkut (6’4”), sophomore center Ansil Williams (6-5), and a very athletic sophomore guard Tiron Peoples (6’2”) are the most notable returning players and will be depended on heavily by Coach Bennett and his staff. These veteran players will also provide leadership to a very young Mid-Continent team.
The Cougars will have plenty of new faces when the 2007-2008 season begins. Stephen Wilson (6’1” junior, guard), Marlon Robinson (6’4” junior, forward), Zane Meehl (6’2” sophomore, guard), Casonova Brown (5’9” junior, guard), and Hermann Kona (6’4” sophomore, forward) will look to bring success to the Cougars in TranSouth Conference play. With the size and athleticism of this years team MCU looks to push the pace and tempo of every game.
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Trevecca men’s basketball team returns three seniors (Collins Onyando, Josh Helton, and Marcos Salvi) who have all had a significant four-year impact on the program. They have a combined record of 68-29 overall and are 27-13 in TranSouth play. They have reached the NAIA National Tournament Sweet Sixteen on two occasions and have two regular season conference titles. The Trojans return 11 of 13 players from last year’s team and more than 93% of their offense.
Trevecca head coach Sam Harris is excited about this year’s team. “We had 12 players around campus this summer enjoying the camaraderie and building relationships that will last forever. They all have worked hard and are determined to make this season a success.”
Onyando is the go to guy, but marked improvement to the rest of the post players will give Onyando some rest. Onyando has already set the single season and career blocks record. Another first team all-conference senior is Helton who is a four year starter that has been consistent his entire career and a deep threat. Salvi is a three year starter who can produce offense in a hurry. Two other seniors who transferred to TNU are Ricky James and Adam Drake. James has the ability to create offense and plays good defense. Drake always contributes when on the floor.
Brian Oduor leads a talented junior class. Last year he was one of the most improved players in the conference. Oliver Ong’ara has improved his skills on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor. Christopher Harris has grown another two inches and worked on ball handling. De'Jon Everson is a junior college transfer who will bring defensive pressure on the ball as a point guard. The sophomore class includes Matthew Elliott might be the most improved player over last year. Christopher Little has gained confidence in his game. Dennis Miruka has seen vast growth in his ability around the glass.
The two freshmen are Jeremy Dixon, who can play a couple of positions and will swing inside and out, and Tyler Watkins, who is a great standstill shooter.
UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. – The 2007-2008 season for the Union University men’s basketball team will have a much different look that the last season’s squad. Union graduated five players, including 56 of the team’s 83 points per game last season. Several newcomers will get the opportunity to play and contribute immediately along with the five returners that helped Union advanced to their second NAIA National Tournament Elite Eight in the program’s history.
Ryan Merriman is the team’s lone senior. He averaged three points per game and made 21 three pointers for the team and was a key player in Union run to the NAIA quarterfinals. The returning junior class is made up of Brian Lake and Tony Brown. Lake averaged 12.6 ppg and 7.6 rpg and led the team with 62 made three pointers. Brown missed the final nine games of the season after posting 11.2 points and 4.0 assists per game. Tacuma Alexander and Brandon Lay return as sophomores. Alexander started the final 17 games of the year and earned TranSouth All-Freshman honors. Lay joined the team in February and has worked hard to earn his spot on this year’s team.
Leading the way for the newcomers is junior college All-American Matt Neaville. Neaville, a junior this season, set the junior college record with 17 made three pointers in a game and was fourth in the nation last season with 26 ppg. Sophomore Keith Tollivar earned his spot this season as a walk-on after working out with the team last season.
Three freshmen will look to make an early impact. Antoine Joseph, Veljko Petrovic, and Roland Banhoro each join Union as international players.