NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The TranSouth Athletic Conference men's basketball coaches have tipped Union University as the preseason favorite for the upcoming 2010-2011 men's basketball season.
Union, in their second season under new head coach David Niven, won the conference regular season and tournament championship last season. Union received the conference's automatic bid to the NAIA Championships last season.
This year the Bulldogs, who are led by Preseason All-conference Stan McNeil, are picked by eight of the league's coaches to win the title again. The Bulldogs received ten more points than second place Freed-Hardeman University. The Lions are led by Ken Bingham and Jesse Moulton, both made the Preseason All-Conference team.
Trevecca Nazarene is picked third while Cumberland University and Martin Methodist round out the top five. Trevecca junior Michael France leads the TranSouth Preseason All-Conference team. The Bulldogs of Cumberland received the league's other first place vote. The CU Bulldogs are led by two members of the Preseason All-Conference team in Walter Simon and Lindal Yarbrough.
Mid-Continent, Lyon College, Bethel University, and Blue Mountain round out the rest of the teams in the poll. Chris Ferguson of Mid-Continent, Andy Lee of Lyon, and Lakendrick McCullum of Blue Mountain also
made the Preseason All-Conference team.
J.D. Parker at Blue Mountain College is the lone new coach this season in the TranSouth.
More times than not in this decade the conference regular season title hasn't been decided until the final week of play. Last year was not different and as the coaches' poll indicates most see this year playing out in the same dramatic fashion.
Below you'll find a capsule on every team in the conference.
BETHEL UNIVERSITY WILDCATS
MCKENZIE, Tenn. - The Wildcats return five starters and eight letterman from last year's squad. Bethel returns their two leading scorers and top rebounder from last season. Five of the eight returnees are seniors, so the team has a good mix of veterans to go with the newcomers.
Heading the Wildcats returning cast will be five of the six seniors on the roster, 6-9 Center Alexander Emelyanov (3.4 ppg, 2.1 reb), 6-10 Center Robert Jeffers (1.7 ppg, 1.3 reb), 6-6 Forward Daniel Doyle (5.5 ppg, 5.5 reb), 6-7 Forward Donald Harris (14.7 ppg, 4.8 reb), and 6-1 Guard Andre Crudup (15.6 ppg, 4.4 reb). The sixth senior, 5-10 Guard Freeman Pinkney, comes to Bethel from Union College in Kentucky. He is a very smart, quick player who can distribute the ball and knows how to play in this league.
Junior and sophomore returnees are 6-7 Forward Erin Harris (5.9 ppg, 3.4 reb), 6-1 Guard Chris Walker (2.6 ppg, 2.0 reb, 2.2 ast), and 6-7 Forward Tyler Holt (1.2 ppg,).
Along with Freeman Pinkney, Bethel has brought in eight more newcomers. At the guard position the Wildcats have brought in 6-0 Sophomore Sylvester Sipp (Shawnee CC.), 6-1 Sophomore Jarvis Palmer (Forrest City, Ark.), and 6-1 Freshman E.J. Perry (Westmoreland H.S.). Newcomers at the forward and center position will be 6-6 Freshman Aaron Hyndman (Creek Wood H.S.), 6-5 Freshman Caleb Hardy (Carlisle County H.S.), 6-7 Junior Javis Williams (Mercer County Community College), 6-8 Freshman Walt Andrews (McEwen H.S.), and 6-3 Junior Rafael Strayhorn (Jackson State CC).
The 2010-2011 non-conference schedule will be a challenging slate for the Wildcats. The Wildcats will go on the road this year to play Virginia Wise, Virginia Intermont, Brescia University, Berea College, East-West University, Harris Stowe, and Lambuth University. Bethel will face William Woods, Calumet of St. Joseph, Lindenwood-Belleville, and Victory University at home this season. The Wildcats will also go on the road this year for two exhibition games with NCAA Division I opponents UT Martin and Murray State. Head Coach Jeff Britt says, "Our schedule this year is one of the toughest we may have had here, we are on the road quite a bit this season. Hopefully it will pay off by the time the TranSouth season begins. Our players have to be ready to play every night."�
Coach Jeff Britt states, I'm excited about our group this season. It is always a new challenge at the start of the season, and hopefully we can get better in every aspect of the game this year. We want all of our players to be student-athletes first and set a great example on and off the floor, and to develop to be successful young men in life."
BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. - " Along with a new coach and a new style of play comes a new perspective in men’s basketball at Blue Mountain College.
"This is a good group of guys who are really giving a good effort," says Toppers coach J.D. Parker, who will soon launch his first season as head of the BMC program. "They've bought into our system and we're seeing some good things happen already. If we lay up to our potential we'll be competitive."�
Parker, who replaces Jerry Conner, will have six new players on the BMC roster to complement the play of Lakendrick McCullum, a TranSouth Athletic Conference preseason pick.
McCullum, a 6-4 senior forward, averaged 15 points and 9.6 rebounds for the Toppers last year. Renell Collins, a 5-7 senior guard, also returns for his senior season after leading BMC in scoring a year ago with a 16.5 per game average" and a TSAC season high 48 points against Bethel. Also returning is Josh McCalmon, a 6-2 senior guard who averaged 11.5 points a game.
"Lakendrick has been working hard on his free throws and his mid-range shooting,"� Parker said. He's also spent a lot of time in the weight room, and I think he's going to be able to get some things done for us."�
The talented group of newcomers include DeVante Pulliam, a 6-4 freshman forward, and Jarvis Fisher, a 6-0 freshman guard.
Parker, who built the Ecclesia College program from scratch and compiled a 64-55 record in four years, is no stranger to the TSAC. A four-year letterman at Lyon College, he knows exactly what awaits the Toppers this year.
"There are some great teams and some extremely good players in the league,"� he said. "For BMC to compete and give ourselves a chance to win we have to play smart. We don't have the ability to have bad mental games.
"So far, though, our guys have shown me they're willing to do what it takes to build a strong program."�
CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
LEBANON, Tenn. - There will be some big shoes to fill at Cumberland University this year as the Bulldogs look to replace the reigning TranSouth Conference Player of the Year and two-time All-American Brandon Springer.
Despite the loss of one of the most decorated basketball players in Cumberland history, head coach Lonnie Thompson feels the Bulldogs are poised to make a run at the conference championship and improve upon their fifth place finish in the conference a year ago.
"I think based on our returners and what we've added, we could easily be in the top three in the league," Thompson said. "We're going to compete every night, there's no question."
The Bulldogs will look to senior point guard Lindal Yarbrough, who joined the club after Christmas last season, to run the offense again. The Nashville, Tenn., native and transfer from Middle Tennessee, averaged 8.2 points per game and had an assist-to-turnover rate of 1.5.
Also likely returning to the starting five for Cumberland will be Walter Simon and Lamar Brinkley. Simon, who was named to the TranSouth All-Freshman team last year, was the only Bulldog besides Springer to average double-digit scoring with 10.9. The 6-foot-9 forward from Dresden, Germany also averaged 6.6 rebounds per game.
Brinkley, a sophomore from Nashville, Tenn., totaled 9.4 points and 5.4 boards per contest last season. CU returns a total of nine letterwinners from last years club that went 12-17 overall and 9-7 in the league and welcomes six newcomers including some that are expected to be big contributors.
FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
HENDERSON, Tenn. - After narrowly missing out on a bid to the NAIA National Tournament last season, the Freed-Hardeman Lions are eager to earn another trip to Kansas City in 2011.
Though a solid nucleus returns, the Lions did graduate two-time All-American Zack Frey along with two other starters, Logan Greer and Kirtiss Brown.
Leading the talented roster of returning players are Ken Bingham and Kyle Teichmann. Bingham (6-4; Sr.) was named the TSAC Newcomer of the Year last season after averaging 15.4 points per game and shooting 83.1 percent from the foul line. Teichmann (6-6; So.) earned Freshman of the Year honors, averaging 12.3 points and 5.7 rebounds per game.
Also returning in the backcourt are Jesse Moulton (6-4; Sr.) and Anthony Sampson (5-3; Jr.). Moulton led the team in 3-pointers made (66) while averaging 11.4 points per game.
Sampson, meanwhile, came into his own midway through the season to lead the team in assists (4.1 per game) and steals (1.6 per game) while posting three games with double digits in assists.
Those two will be joined by Brian Pearson (6-3; Sr.), Cedric Austin (6-0, Sr.), Jonathan Milewski (6-0, So.) and Michael Young (6-2, So.) to give the Lions a deep and talented backcourt.
Versatile forward Vincent Barnes (6-3, Sr.) elevated his level of play last season and will be counted on as a key contributor in the frontcourt this year, as will James Haddix (6-9, So.).
The Lions also hope for contributions from freshmen Daniel Gravatt, who can play multiple positions, and power forwards Reginald Gilmore and Vincent Dotson.
Head coach Jason Shelton, who begins his sixth season, will test his team with its non-conference schedule with six games against teams which played in the national tournament last year.
LYON COLLEGE PIPERS
BATESVILLE, Ark. - The Lyon College Scots head into the 2010-11 season with five returnees, a batch of promising newcomers and an optimistic outlook.
Last season was a down year for Lyon College with the Scots suffering through a 7-23 season and a 2-14 finish in league play. But this season, spirits have been lifted with the influx of nine newcomers and the return of two league-recognized starters.
"We should be a lot stronger this year,"� said Scots' Head Coach Kevin Jenkins, who enters his 16th year at the helm. "We put in a lot of work in the weight room and we should be improved in our shooting ability. This year, we should be able to put more points on the board.
Sharpshooting All-TranSouth Conference guard Andy Lee is back to wreak havoc from the perimeter and All-TranSouth Freshman team honoree Slater Belew returns at forward.
Lee, a senior from Fort Smith, Ark., averaged a team-high 13.9 points per game in 2009-10, was third in the league with a 40.8 3-point shooting percentage and earned a fifth-place finish in the conference with 71 treys made. Belew (Chattanooga, Tenn.) put up 11.5 points per game and 5.2 rebounds per game in his first year.
Senior Brandon Cowart (Bryant, Ark.) rounds out the returning starter trio at the point guard position and the Scots have the added starting experience of senior guard Quinn Cooper (Little Rock, Ark.) and junior forward Jake Worlow (Mountain Home, Ark.).
Scots' freshman newcomers Kip Kelly (Pea Ridge, Ark.), Anthony LaBellarte (Nixa, Mo.) and Daniel Ritchie (Montgomery, Ala.) are all expected to contribute to the team's performance this season.
"We should have more depth this year in general,'�said Jenkins. "Kelly is a long athletic three man who can shoot the three and create his own shot,"�said Jenkins. "Anthony is athletic, can defend well and can run our offense well and Daniel can shoot and gives us added strength on the perimeter."�
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. - After an 18-13, 6-10 (TSAC) season in 2009-10, MMC men's basketball Head Coach Andy Sharpe has his eyes set on improvement in 2010-11 with a plethora of new additions for the RedHawks.
Sharpe has added new leadership with the hiring of assistant coach David Sharpe, while bringing in eight new faces to his players. Seniors Tripp Howell (Dalton, Ga.) and Chris Goodwin (Hendersonville, Tenn.) highlight the four returners, while Nello Giordano (Junior/Brisbane, Australia) and Tanner Andrews (Sophomore/Collinwood, Tenn.) also rejoin the RedHawks on the hardwood this season. Goodwin, a 45 percent three-point shooter averaged 14.2 points per contest, while Howeel averaged 13.8 minutes of playing time in 2009-10.
Newcomers include five junior college transfers, while two freshmen guards Kyle Howe-Tipene and Brandon Hunter will look to fight for playing time. Division I transfer Chris Leggitt (Senior/Meridian, Miss.) joins MMC from Troy University, looking to make immediate impact for his final season as a 6-7 forward.
The RedHawks begin their 2010-11 campaign at Atlanta Christian on October 25th before competing in the Emmanuel College Classic and Brewton Parker Classic in late October. MMC will then open at home on November 9th, hosting Auburn-Montgomery.
MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
MAYFIELD, Ky. -- When Mid-Continent basketball takes the floor for its 2010-11 opener against University of the Cumberlands, Nov. 2, you will need a program to identify all the new players. MCU lost 12 seniors from a team that earned the number two seed in the 2010 TSAC Tournament and placed third in the NCCAA Championships, and just two players return.
Winston Bennett begins his fourth season as coach, preaching a mix of character, defensive aggressiveness, rebounding, quickness and athleticism as keys for winning. Bennett, the 2009-10 TSAC Coach of the Year, guided MCU to school records of 24 victories and 12 conference wins.
"I am optimistic about 2010-11," exclaims Bennett, whose players are not only new to his program but to each other. "This season is about building team character and coming together to achieve team goals such as winning the TSAC regular-season title and the conference tournament."�
Bennett's core group set to execute his plan includes two returning players from last season: junior forward Chris Ferguson (6-9. 190), and MCU's only senior, forward Brian Reid (6-8, 215). A versatile player, Ferguson averaged 6.5 points and a team-leading 7.2 rebounds, including a school-record 26 boards vs. Indiana-Southeast. Reid averaged 2.7 points and 2.4 rebounds.
The new cast includes 6-5 redshirt sophomore Matt Fraliex (Caldwell County HS), who transfers from Murray State and gives the Cougars a consistent three-point threat. Four community college transfers contribute size and athleticism: 6-11 Brenton Butler (Alabama Southern CC), 6-4 Kendall Geanes and 6-5 Tim Bryant (Malcolm X College, Chicago) and 6-1 Chris Tillman (Neosho County CC, Kan.).
Sophomores 6-1 Tyler Huston (Ashland City, Tenn.) and 6-2 Antonio Davis (Morganfield HS) move up from MCU's JV team, and six freshmen are battling for playing time: 6-4 Lance Buckler (Leitchfield, Ky.), 6-3 Maurice Bynum (Brownsville, Tenn.), 5-9 Reggie Elkins (Brighton, Tenn.), 6-1 Christian Jernigan (Elizabethtown, Ky.), 6-0 Lyle Rommelman (Paducah, Ky.), and 6-3 Mark Vaughn (Milan, Tenn.).
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The Trevecca men's basketball team comes into the 2010-2011 season with a deep, talented athletic roster that has hopes of getting back to the NAIA National Tournament.
Eleven players return from last season's team, but new players need to make contributions to overcome the loss of the most accurate 3-point shooter in the program's history. Matthew Elliott is now a graduate assistant for Coach Sam Harris.
Taking over the team leadership mantle this season will be 6-1 junior Michael France, fresh off a season in which he earned All-TranSouth First Team honors, averaging 17.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game and adding 63 assists, 52 steals, and 21 blocked shots. "Mike is definitely going to have to be one of our leaders," says Coach Harris. "But he does it in a quiet way, more by example and how hard he works." France also shot nearly 50% (49.7) from the field, including 66 of 154 3-point attempts (42.9%), and was one of two Trojans "along with Elliott" to start all 31 games.
Two other double-figure scorers return: 6-7 junior Keith Morris (12.4 ppg) and 5-11 sophomore Marquise Rudolph (10.0 ppg, TranSouth All-Freshman Team), along with the lone senior on this year's roster, Jeremy Dixon, who averaged 9.0 points and 4.6 rebounds and shot 46% (29-63) from 3-point range. Three other returning players also made contributions last season: 6-8 sophomore JP Nyadaro (6 ppg, 5 rpg), 6-1 junior Camden Jordan (3.4 ppg, 15 3-pt FGM), and 6-0 sophomore Peyton Henry (48 assists, 13 starts). The other returning players are 6-8 sophomore Pascal Permis, 6-11 sophomore Milos Macura, 6-4 sophomore Antony Odour, and 6-3 freshman Blake Carden, who was redshirted last season.
Among the newcomers, there are three freshmen Coach Harris is particularly excited about: Reggie Bates (6-0 guard, Memphis, Tenn.), Bilal Abdul-Raheem (6-4 guard, Piscataway, N.J.), and Kevin Ohen (6-3 guard, Pittstown, N.J.). "The key with Reggie, Kevin, and Bilal," according to Harris, "is getting them to buy in to what we're trying to do as a team. They were all superior players in high school, but we've got to get them to make that adjustment to our team-oriented style of play."�
The other new additions to the Trojan roster this season are a pair of 6-4 forwards: junior Colton Booher (Olney CC) and freshman Ryan Eilermann (Franklin, Tenn.). "We're going to need at least one or two of these newcomers to step up and help us replace Matt," says Harris. "But I like our depth, and we'll be able change up our defenses a lot more, press, and play up-tempo."�
The schedule for this year's team is daunting, with non-conference November matchups with Cincinnati Christian and University of the Cumberlands (Trevecca Classic), Campbellsville, and Lindsey Wilson (Lindsey Wilson Classic) and a Thanksgiving trip to perennial NAIA-power Southern Nazarene's tournament. Late December brings a pair of tough games to bring in the New Year with Shorter College and Lee University (Shorter College Tournament.) And then there's the always difficult grind of the TranSouth Conference season, which Harris says will be wide open this year. "Everybody lost key players," Harris says, "so the key is going to be how they incorporate their newcomers into their system. We have a lot of guys back, and we're much more athletic than we've been recently, so I think we'll be in the mix."�
UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University men's basketball team enters the 2010-11 season with a new excitement. It is David Niven's second season as head coach of the Bulldogs. Union is coming off of back-to-back TranSouth Conference Titles and a second straight appearance in the NAIA National Tournament.
Union also welcomes in Trevor Lydic who is in his first season as assistant coach at Union after spending the last three years at Pearl River Community College.
Union graduated five players, including NAIA All-American Greg Truvillion. However, a solid group of three returning starters will help Union with a run at a third straight conference title. Union also brings in four impact newcomers to the floor this season, led by redshirt sophomore guard CJ Davis.
Stan McNeil returns after being named a second team all-conference performer in 2009-10. Samuel Danache returns for his sophomore year after being named to the TranSouth all-freshman team a year ago. Antoine Joseph and Roland Banhoro join McNeil as the three returning starters from last season.
Niven says, "We're excited about 2010-11. We have a great group of returning players along with a solid recruiting class. It should be a fun year at Union!"
The senior class has four players, including three players that are completing their fourth year at Union. Joseph, Banhoro and Veljko Petrovic each look for their third conference title. Joseph and Banharo have started during their career and will be called on to be leaders in their final season. McNeil returns after leading Union last season in three pointers made.
Three juniors, all newcomers to the program, will look to make immediate impacts this season. Shane Burrell, Skyler Vaden and Antoine Hall will also see plenty of action this season as they look to help offset the offensive lost last season to graduation.
The sophomore class has four players, all of which were at Union last season. Danache, Daniel Kelley and Brady Sheppard return and will look to take advantage of increase opportunities to contribute this season. Davis was a red-shirt last season, but is expected to play a major role in Union's success from the point guard position this year.
The lone freshman on the roster in Jacob Owens who will work to increase his skills and contributions to the program over his first season.
Union again will navigate through one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the NAIA. Union faces NAIA powers and national tournament participants including McKendree (Ill.) twice, Life (Ga.) twice, Campbellsville (Ky.) twice, William Carey (Miss.) twice, Faulkner (Ala.) and Tougaloo (Miss.) once.