NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The TranSouth Athletic Conference men's basketball coaches have confirmed defending champion Martin Methodist College is the favorite to win the 2011-2012 TranSouth Championship. The RedHawks reached the Fab Four at the 2011 NAIA Championships. MMC received all seven of the eight first-place votes.
Union University picked up the other first place vote, and finished in second place in the voting with 55 points. Freed-Hardeman was seven points back in third with 48 points. The rest of the poll had, in order, Cumberland University, Bethel University, Lyon College, Mid-Continent University, and Blue Mountain College.
Joining the MMC RedHawks at the 2011 NAIAChampionships were fellow conference members Union University and Freed-Hardeman University. The Bulldogs of Union made the conference championship game.
|TranSouth Men's Basketball|
2011-2012 Preseason Coaches Poll
1 Martin Methodist ... 63 (7)
2 Union University ... 55 (1)
3 Freed-Hardeman ... 48
4 Cumberland University ... 38
5 Bethel University ... 32
6 Lyon College ... 21
7 Mid-Continent ... 19
8 Blue Mountain ... 13
( ) = First Place Votes
All eight TranSouth coaches return this season, solidifying the quality of play expected during the 2011-2012 season.
To help you prepare for the upcoming season, you'll find a season preview, provided by each schools sports information office, of each TranSouth women's basketball team.
BETHEL UNIVERSITY WILDCATS
MCKENZIE, Tenn. - The Bethel University Wildcats return two starters and eight letterman from last year's squad. Bethel returns two of their top scorers and rebounders 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, 6'7 Center Erin Harris (5.2 ppg, 3.3 reb), 6'7 Forward Javis Williams (10.7 ppg, 5.7 reb), 6'1 Guard Jarvis Palmer (14.5 ppg, 5.3 reb), 6'1 Guard Sylvester Sipp (4.7 ppg, 3.1 ast), and 6'1 Guard Chris Walker. The sixth senior, 6'6 Forward Darnell Moore, transfers in to Bethel from Columbia College in Missouri. He is a high motor player and workhorse on the glass. He brings a veteran presence on the floor, as well to the locker room.
Junior and sophomore returnees are 6'7 Forward Tyler Holt, 6'5 Forward Caleb Hardy (7.4 ppg, 3.8 reb) and 6'8 Center Walt Andrews (1.3ppg).
Along with Darnell Moore, Bethel has brought in ten more newcomers. At the guard position the Wildcats have brought in 6'1 Junior Bryan Ware Jr. (Roane State Community College), 6'0 Junior George Coleman (Dyersburg State Community College), 5'10 Junior Derek Williams (Mercer County Community College) and 6'4 Freshman Justin Williamson (Dyer County H.S.). Newcomers at the forward and center position will be 6'7 Freshman Dylan Basham (Madisonville North Hopkins H.S.), 6'5 Freshman Gabriel Martins (Sao Paulo, Brazil), 6'7 Freshman Pablo Diaz (Hendersonville Christian Academy), 6'8 Junior Stephen Gillette (Guilford Technical Community College.), 6'5 Junior Josh Swing (Shelton State Community College), and 6'3 Sophomore Mark Vaughn (Mid Continent University).
The 2011-2012 non-conference schedule begins early this year with a late October game with West Virginia University - Parkersburg at Baker Fieldhouse. The Wildcats will go on the road this year to play The University of Virginia Wise, Virginia Intermont College, Brescia University, Missouri Baptist University, Logan College, and Williams Baptist College. Bethel will face Temple Baptist College, University of the Cumberlands, Central Baptist College, Missouri Valley College, Williams Baptist College, Rust College, and Wilberforce University at home this season. The Wildcats will also go on the road this year for two exhibition games with NCAA Division I opponents University of Tennessee at Martin and Murray State University. Head Coach Jeff Britt says, "Our schedule has simply again become one of the toughest in recent seasons. We are going to learn quite a bit about our character and team during this time."
Coach Jeff Britt states that, "I am excited about the challenge of forming a new team from the returning and new players we have added to our program. Hopefully we can pull together as a unit, represent our school, trust each other, and have a great season."
BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. - Blue Mountain College returns eight experienced players, including four starters from last year's 8-22 team - the first under head coach J.D. Parker. The Toppers also have five freshmen and five transfers on the roster this year.
"We've got some skills with more athleticism," Parker said. "Now, we've just got to get it all to mesh. Our returning players are a lot more familiar with our system now, and once the new ones make the adjustments I think we'll be OK."
Jarvis Fisher, a member of the conference all-freshman team a year ago, averaged 10.4 ppg in his first season. He'll be joined by part-time starters Tyler Shaver (7.8 ppg), DeVante Pulliam (4.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg), Corbin Harris (4.3 ppg).
Ethan Ellis, a three-year letterman, returns for his season season and will joined by redshirts Michael Chatham, Chris Whitten and Jake Keller.
Newcomers include freshmen Shane Butler, Toby Roelfsema, Bruno Santana, Josh Willilams, Kevin Daniels, and Gary Copeland. Transfers include former junior college players Cody Garrett, Jermael Bingham, and Jonathan Luster, and Zach Carnell, from Delta State University.CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
LEBANON, Tenn. - Only six player's return for 10th-year Cumberland head coach Lonnie Thompson in 2011-12, but many of the newcomers should step in and play valuable minutes for the Bulldogs.
Seniors Michael Sweat and Andrew Ayodeji along with junior Lamar Brinkley will likely begin the season as starters and be joined in the lineup by newcomers Jerret Towns and Johnny Williams.
Sweat averaged 10.6 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds per game last season, earning TranSouth Conference Player of the Week honors twice. He posted a career-best 31 points at Trevecca Nazarene and netted 15.0 points in two regular season meetings against Martin Methodist.
Brinkley recorded 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds per outing last season, scoring many of his buckets on offensive rebounds under the basket. Ayodeji averaged 7.4 points and 1.5 rebounds as the primary point guard for much of the 2009-10 season for the Bulldogs. The Amityville, N.Y., native redshirted last season.
Senior Kyle Upton, who played in all 30 contests and started nine a year ago, posted 6.7 points and 1.2 assists per game last season for CU, while senior Josh Pierce, started 21 games last year. Both players will see plenty of action off the bench in the early going in 2011-12.
Junior Adam Barnett made 18 3-pointers in 17 games in 2009-10 but only played in seven contests last season, , and sophomore Terry Williams continues to learn the ins and outs of the post position.
Towns, a Birmingham, Ala., native who spent one season at Moberly Community College in Missouri before transferring to Tennessee State last season, should add scoring punch and another physical presence on the frontline for the Bulldogs.
Williams, a senior also from Birmingham, played the last three seasons at Auburn Montgomery, registering 8.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season and 7.0 points and 3.8 rebounds as a sophomore. He and Charles Stewart, another Birmingham native who spent the last two years at Feather River Community College, will handle the bulk of the point guard duties.
Several other newcomers should see significant opportunities for playing time this season, including freshman Moritz Dern from Marburg, Germany. Ajuma Jaramogi, a 6-foot-10 senior who transferred from Rogers State in Oklahoma, is currently injured but expected back just after the start of the season, while Daniel McFadden, a 6-3 guard who redshirted last year at Birmingham Southern, will likely return closer to the Christmas break.
FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
HENDERSON, Tenn. - For the third year in a row, the Freed-Hardeman University Lions came within a game of winning the program's first-ever conference championship. In fact, last year the Lions came within just a few seconds of it.
FHU advanced to the conference championship for the third consecutive season but lost to Martin Methodist College on a last-second 3-pointer. However, the Lions earned their second trip in the last three seasons to the NAIA National Tournament, where they lead No. 8 Azusa Pacific (Calif.) University for most of the game before falling behind late. The Lions will look to get over that hump this season to win their first conference championship and earn their first win at the NAIA National Tournament.
Leading the offense will be third-team All-American Kyle Teichmann, who averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game last season. He was the only sophomore among the 30 players selected to the All-American squads.
Anthony Sampson is the only other returning starter. The 5-foot-3 point guard is a crowd favorite no matter where he plays due to his size and exciting style of play. Last season, he averaged seven points and five assists per game.
Juniors Jonathan Milewski and Michael Young and sophomores Daniel Gravatt and Reggie Gilmore all return after playing key reserve roles last season. Young is a hard-nosed player who provides an instant spark off the bench while Milewski is a dangerous threat from 3-point range. The 6-foot-7 Gravatt is versatile enough to play in the post and on the perimeter; his athletic ability gives him a chance to be an impact player as he develops. Gilmore improved significantly during his freshman season and should give the Lions solid rebounding and defense at the four spot.
Several freshmen will be relied upon to contribute right away starting with redshirt freshmen Chandler Mack, Vinnie Dotson and Ben Meis. A long and athletic three-man, Mack is a player with tremendous upside that could prove to be a major key to FHU's success. Dotson, a 6-foot-5 post, is an adept shot-blocker and worked hard to improve his offensive repertoire during his redshirt season. Meis will give the Lions another threat from behind the arc.
True freshmen Orlando Bass, Mark Brown and Debrell McLemore will also be needed to fill valuable minutes. Bass is a lockdown defender while Brown has been a pleasant surprise in the pre-season as a scorer and defender. McLemore gives the Lions depth at point guard behind Sampson.
Sophomore transfer Verkeneo Mann (Decatur, Ala.; Tennessee State Univ.) will join the lineup in January and should make an immediate impact with his athleticism and scoring ability.
The Lions' non-conference schedule will be a challenging one with six games against teams that played in the NAIA National Tournament last season.
LYON COLLEGE SCOTS
BATESVILLE, Ark. - The Lyon Scots head into the 2011-12 season with a good group of returning players. They also have a great recruiting class that should add depth and athleticism to the Scots team. Last year's Scots had an overall season record of 9-21 and a record of 2-14 in the TranSouth Conference.
Seventeen-year Lyon College Head Coach Kevin Jenkins is excited for this year's season. He believes that after last year the team has learned "how to handle adversity and developed a winning attitude". He is looking for last year's players to become a more veteran group and looking for this recruiting class to jump in and do great things for the program.
Among some of the key players that are expected to lead the team are junior Slater Belew (Chattanooga, TN) and sophomore transfer Christian Blount (Marianna, FL). Both Belew and Blount are forwards. Some other key players to watch for this season are sophomore Anthony LaBellarte (Nixa, MO) and senior Brandon Cowart (Bryant, AR) who lead the team last year at the point guard position. There is also senior Jake Worlow (Mountain Home, AR) and sophomore Aaron Farris (Mountain View, AR) who were key players on the inside for the Scots last season. Sophomore Daniel Ritchie (Montgomery, AL) rounded out the team last season as a guard and small forward for the Scots.
The Scots open the season on Tuesday November 1st against Victory University in Memphis, TN. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. - The MMC men's basketball team returns a number of key players for the 2011-12 season, as they look to defend their TranSouth title and return to the NAIA National Tournament under the direction of head coach Andy Sharpe.
"Our team slogan this season is ‘UNSATISFIED'", remarked head coach Andy Sharpe
. "Although we experienced a great deal of success last season, much of which had never been experienced by any other Martin Methodist team we fell short of our ultimate team goal: win the national championship. Because we left Kansas City with our hunger for a national championship unsatisfied, it has not been difficult to motivate our guys to gear up for another run this season."
The RedHawks enter the 2011-12 season, coming off of a historic 34-3 season that reached the NAIA Fab Four, and finished the season ranked fifth. MMC returns an experienced and dynamic backcourt duo in James Justice and Ree McCrory, both All-American selections last season. The returning TSAC player of the year, Justice, ranked in the top ten of several NAIA categories, including steals and assists, while McCrory returns as the team's leading scorer with 14.8 points per game during last season's performance.
Returners LaQuantis Stewart
, E.J. Kirby, and Cameron Hall
will join the returning starters as familiar faces,with Stewart averaging 13.7 points and 5.7 rebounds, and Kirby averaging 7.3 off the bench last season. Coupled with five returning seniors, MMC brings in a host of new talent including several junior college transfers and a true freshman.
The RedHawks open their season at home, hosting Auburn University-Montgomery on Monday, October 31st.
MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
As the Mid-Continent University men's basketball program enters its fifth season under head coach Winston Bennett, the Cougars look to turn the corner and bounce back from an 11-20 record in 2010-11. The Cougars have re-vamped their squad, bringing in talent at all positions, and the team appears to be as talented and exciting as ever. The Cougars' mix of youth and experience should bode well for the team as they approach a difficult schedule in the always tough TranSouth Athletic Conference.
Mid-Continent will have a trio of talented players running the point this season. Reggie Elkins returns, and he has been impressing coach Bennett in the early going. "Reggie is growing in maturity on the basketball court," noted Bennett. "He needs to continue that trend, and if he does, he will be a key piece of our squad this season." Elkins, however, is not the only one Bennett will use to handle the ball. Marcus Johnson and Larry Thompkins II both join the team this season, transferring in after enjoying successful careers at the junior college level.
The Cougars also have a mix of good shooters who will vie for playing time as the shooting guard. Matt Fraliex returns to the mix, coming off a 2010-11 season that saw him post a three-point shooting percentage in excess of 44 percent. He is joined by Lee Ames, an athletic guard who can shoot as well as put the ball on the floor. Chris Tilman brings a left-handed shooting presence to the mix, while Maurice Bynum is showing great growth in his all-around game.
"Obviously, Matt is a key piece for us," Bennett said, "but we have some other options as well. Bynum is working hard to diversify his game, transitioning from being just a great shooter, to being a great scorer. Lee gives us a guy who can shoot, but can also put the ball on the floor and go to the basket, and we are working to instill more confidence in Chris, so that he can help us more."
The Cougars will be without their second leading scorer from 2010-11, with Chris Ferguson out for the beginning part of the season, leaving a need for players to step up at the forward positions. Gavin Scott will also miss the first portion of the schedule, but the Cougars have a developing young corps of forwards, led by veterans Antonio Davis, Marcus Bowins, and Kendall Geanes. Charles Peden, Ryan Randolph and Conrad Gholson will be factors for the Cougars as well.
"Missing Ferg is tough for us," Bennett explained. "We do have several guys, however, who are developing into good options for us as forwards. Charles Peden is a player who has shown a high basketball IQ in the preseason. Antonio is a hard-nosed player, who brings a football mentality to the court, and Kendall provides aggressiveness as well as a good mid-range shooter for our offense. Bowins can step out and shoot the three, and he is improving his post moves as well.
Gavin is a versatile player for us - a lefty who can put the ball on the floor. Conrad is a good pick-and-pop shooter, and his size helps him in the rebounding game, and Ryan Randolph is a hard worker who comes to the gym and does whatever he can to get better every day."
Once Ferguson, and Brent Butler get back for the Cougars, Mid-Continent will add them to a rotation of post players that includes newcomer Steve McBurrough. McBurrough is a big body in the post, standing 6'9" and weighing in at 265 pounds. He transferred in from Montreat College, where he averaged 7.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game during the 2010-11 campaign.
"Steve is a player we will rely on a lot this year," Bennett noted. "He is a big man in every sense of the word, and he has shown that he can contribute at the collegiate level. Brent is improving as a big man as well. He's developing a more aggressive mindset which we think will serve him well this season."
"We always make the non-conference schedule a bear," Bennett noted. "Some coaches feel like it's important to schedule in some easy wins to build confidence early in the year, and while there is something to be said for that, we prefer for our guys to be battle tested when we get to the TranSouth schedule."
Bennett and his staff wasted no time in scheduling tough opponents to open this season, opening the season on the road on October 29 at St. Catherine College who finished second in the Mid-South Conference last season. The University of the Cumberlands - who finished last season's Mid-South Conference Schedule 13-5 - makes a pair of appearances on the Cougars' pre-conference schedule, as do the Bearcats of McKendree University - an NCAA Division II opponent. The Cougars will twice take on the Grenadiers of Indiana University-Southeast - last season's Kentucky Intercollegiate Conference champions - before the Christmas break.
In terms of the TranSouth schedule, things are no different than normal, with tough opponents night-in and night-out. The Cougars open the TranSouth slate on January 5 at Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville, Tenn. The Trojans are one of two TranSouth teams - along with the Union University Bulldogs - who are beginning the transition to NCAA D-II affiliation. Freed-Hardeman and Bethel remain strong, and the RedHawks of Martin Methodist are looking to defend their TranSouth title from 2010-11.
"This conference schedule is a tough order every year," Bennett said. "From top to bottom, there are no easy games in the TranSouth. Bethel is much improved, Martin Methodist is the defending champions, Trevecca, Cumberland, Union and Freed are all strong, and even Blue Mountain is a dangerous team."
"The biggest thing we need this season is support," explained Bennett. "It's always huge to have the home crowd behind you, and it makes a world of difference to these players. They are working hard to get to where we want to be, and we're really excited about the prospects of the 2011-12 season of Mid-Continent basketball."
UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University men's basketball team enters the 2011-12 season under the leadership of David Niven, now in his third season as head coach. The Bulldogs are looking to continue the momentum of last year's TranSouth regular season co-championship and a 14th appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. However, Union will do so with an almost entirely new squad.
Union returns three players, two of which started last season. Four Bulldogs graduated last season, including Stan McNeil, who was selected to the TranSouth All-Conference team. They bring back two returning starters who saw a significant amount of playing time, Skyler Vaden and Antoine Hall. Union will look to several players among the group of ten newcomers to contribute to this season's success.
Union has four seniors this season, two of which are returning for a senior year of action. Vadenand Hallstarted for Union last season, with Vadenstarting in 32 of the 33 games and Hall starting in 30 games. The returning seniors will be called upon this season for leadership. Two newcomers round out the senior class. David Lane and Leventrice Gray transferred to Union for their last season of college basketball. They will both be expected to contribute in major ways to this team.
The junior class is made up of one returning player and three newcomers. Samuel Danache played in all 33 games last season for Union. Dani Marti, AJ Roberts and Anthony Freeman, Jr. round out the junior class and will be called upon often to help the Bulldogs this season and next year.
The freshman class is the biggest class on the Bulldog roster with five players. Paul Valdor is a red-shirt freshman who sat out last year and spent that time in practice working on his game. Four true freshmen make up a large portion of the Bulldog roster this season. They include Giosha Koguashvili, Pedro Faller, Will Duncan and Eric Leisey. Each will have opportunities to contribute to the program early in their careers.
Once again, Union faces a tough non-conference schedule this season with teams that have participated in the national tournament in recent years. Of Union's 14 non-conference games, 12 will be played against national tournament teams Belhaven (Miss.), McKendree (Ill.), William Carey (Miss.), Tougaloo (Miss.), Emmanuel (Ga.) and Campbellsville (Ky.).
Union will also face an improving TranSouth Conference, who boasted Martin Methodist as a national tournament semifinalist last season. Union, Martin Methodist and Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) all advanced to the national tournament.
Coach Niven and second year assistant coach, Trevor Lydic will work hard to build this team and merge the newcomers into the Union system. This talented squad hopes to be playing for a ninth TranSouth title and a 15th appearance in the national tournament in March. Union is playing in their final season of NAIA competition as the school looks to begin its NCAA DII membership process in 2012-13.