Men's Red River Hoops: Looking Ahead
Lions Big Guns Aiming for Big Wins
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Red River Athletic Conference, always a respected league nationally, could be in the spotlight all season. With two teams ranked in the NAIA's top four, and four squads rated in the Top 40, this could be a red-letter season for the 12-team basketball conference.
New member, LSU-Shreveport, and perennial power Texas Wesleyan University, are the RRAC flagship carriers. Texas College and Our Lady of the Lake University are among the teams receiving votes. The race for the men's basketball championship ought to attract a lot of attention over the next nine weeks.
SAGU will host the RRAC Tournament, March 3-5
Southwestern Assemblies of God University, who hope to make noise themselves, will host the Red River tournament during March 3-5. Only the top eight clubs qualify.
This year, however, #1 in the nation could be on the line during the single-elimination event!. Plus, the games played in the Sheaffer Full Life Center during the tourney will be broadcast in high definition by SAGU Sports Live.
LSU-Shreveport, ranked #2 in the most recent NAIA Coaches Poll, is the lone unbeaten team. The Pilots are 11-0 overall and are in a three-way tie atop the Red River with a 4-0 mark. Texas Wesleyan, 11-1 and ranked #4, just suffered a 72-64 setback on December 30 at the University of St. Thomas. The UST Celts are 7-8.
Texas College has won all four of their league games and bring a 6-4 mark into 2011. Wiley College is fourth at 3-1 in the RRAC and 7-6 in all games. There are three teams knotted with 2-2 conference records, including Our Lady (6-5), Paul Quinn College (7-5) and Jarvis Christian College (5-8).
SAGU (3-6), Bacone College (6-5) and University of the Southwest (6-5) are in eighth place with 1-3 records. Langston University (0-9) and Huston-Tillotson University (0-13) have yet to get untracked at 0-4.
This season teams will play 22 conference games, so the race will be longer than ever. Here are the current standings and a summary of the dozen who are in the hunt.
Red River Athletic Conference
|SCORING||SHOOTING %||REB AVG|
|LSU-Shreveport||4-0||11-0||87.9 - 69.2||.495 - .403||43.7 - 35.7||7.7 - .378||.630|
|Texas Wesleyan||4-0||11-1||83.4 - 62.1||.487 - .341||49.0 - 35.5||6.5 - .364||.629|
|Texas College||4-0||6-4||72.6 - 74.1||.429 - .421||36.0 - 39.4||5.1 - .311||.708|
|Wiley College||3-1||7-6||76.0 - 72.0||.459 - .407||39.2 - 38.2||4.5 - .333||.614|
|Paul Quinn||2-2||7-5||75.3 - 70.2||.456 - .382||48.6 - 36.6||4.8 - .309||.610|
|Our Lady||2-2||6-5||89.1 - 84.5||.428 - .479||44.0 - 41.4||7.5 - .327||.623|
|Jarvis Christian||2-2||5-8||72.4 - 82.1||.420 - .442||35.5 - 40.0||6.3 - .311||.641|
|Bacone College||1-3||6-5||71.8 - 71.6||.438 - .429||35.9 - 38.4||4.7 - .329||.642|
|Univ of the SW||1-3||6-5||77.9 - 80.1||.447 - .429||43.3 - 40.5||4.2 - .313||.678|
|SAGU||1-3||3-6||75.6 - 82.6||.388 - .430||35.1 - 44.8||7.8 - .370||.775|
|Langston||0-4||0-9||68.7 - 82.8||.348 - .474||37.2 - 44.0||6.3 - .328||.674|
|Tillotson||0-4||0-13||75.5 - 85.5||.396 - .474||38.6 - 42.3||7.0 - .326||.673|
Teams are listed in the order they are on the RRAC website. www.RedRiverConference.com.
Key: Shooting Percentage is for that team and their combined opponent's pct. Rebounds per game for each team and how many rebounds opponents average against them. 3PG is Three-Point field goals made per Game, and their shooting percentage beyond the arc. FT% is each team's combined total.
Head Coach: Chad McDowell. Last Year: 28-6, 14-4 (GCAC). Home Gym: The Dock.
Team: The Pilots are the best shooting team in the RRAC and have scored 80 or more in 8-of-11 games. The guard-oriented team is second to Our Lady in points per game at 87.9. Only Texas Wesleyan rebounds the ball better than the up-tempo Speedboats.
Players: Four score in double figures, led by Eric Young, a 6'3 guard from Houston. He scores 15.0 ppg and yanks down 7.1 boards per game. Derrick Parker, a 6'7 forward from Minden, La, is the hub at the Pilots' helm, scoring 14.7 as well as their athletic rebounding leader. His 9.7 rpg avg. is third best in the league. He has also rejected 15 shots. Corey Bingham, a 6'3 guard, averages 14.4 ppg and 3.4 assists per game and has stroked 28 three-pointers at a 43% accuracy rate. Bingham's hometown of Lynn, Mass., is north of Boston. Brance Davenport has 21 treys, a 13.0 ppg avg., is riding a 10-game double-figures streak and has sunk 94% of his FT's. Guard Greg Shyne adds 8 ppg.
Points of Interest: Pilots have won 89% of their home games over past seven seasons. McDowell brings a 182-53 career record in those years. Jake Greene is a deadly sniper, hitting 52% beyond the arc. He has 14 threes. LSUS plays 11 of their final 18 games in The Dock.
Texas Wesleyan Rams
Head Coach: Terry Waldrop. Last Yr: 24-10, 16-4. Sid Richardson Ctr.
Team: The beefed up Rams could be a Dodge truck rather than a mountain mammal with their fortified rebounders. Wesleyan easily has the Red River's best scoring and shooting defense and is +14 in grabbing caroms. Coupled with a power game inside and effective 3-ball guns, Waldrop has a solid unit.
Players: Seasoned veteran Jeremy Mayfield, a 6'10 banger out of Dallas, buckets 10.1 ppg and clutches 8.0 boards. The senior has swatted 18 shots. Ty Gough, at 6'9, 265, resides in the lane scoring 9.3 and gobbling up 8.4 boards per outing. Helping anchor the lane is 6'7 combo guard Jonathan Blake, who adds 10.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Roaming on the outside are a trio of guards, led by Philadelphia native Brian Wanamaker, a 6'3 senior who is fourth in the RRAC in scoring at 17.2. Bryce Hill, a 6'1 guard from Clovis, NM, has quietly netted 11.7 ppg. Along with Jeremy Smith, a 5'11 point guard from DeSoto, who averages 9.9 ppg, the Rams have a backcourt that has generated 29, 23 and 15 triples. Wanamaker is gunning them at .547 accuracy. Smith is second in the league in assists, facilitating teammates to the tune of 6.1 apg.
Points of Interest: The Rams have gone 2-2 against LSU-Shreveport the past two seasons; 1-2 at The Dock. They play there on January 10 before a Valentine's Night rematch in Ft. Worth. TWU has just eight home games in their final 18 dates. Wesleyan won the NAIA national championship following the 2005-06 season, in which they dropped their RRAC tourney opener to SAGU, then caught fire. The Rams went 5-0 in the national spotlight to win TWU's version of King of the Mountain.
Texas College Steers
Head Coach: Marquet Norfleet. Last Yr: 22-10, 15-5. Gus F. Taylor Gym.
Team: The Steers had great highs in 2010, winning seven straight and moving into the NAIA ranking. They blew a huge second half lead at Southwestern in a disheartening loss, and then rolled to the RRAC tournament title game by winning 9-of-11. Against Bacone in the final they lost a six point lead in a double overtime loss to end the season. They are hungry to avenge that finish but are rebuilding in some areas. In their 4-0 league start they have won three close games, which is a great sign.
Players: Having to replace Trey Manning at the point was a main focus during the offseason, though 5'10 Jamal Robertson (3.40 assists per game) is filling the void well. LaDarren Williams, who is 6'8 and from Arlington, Texas has upped his game this winter. The intimidating power forward is scoring 10.8 ppg and showing a shooters touch. But his real benefit is on the glass where he is averaging 8.2 boards and an NAIA-leading 3.60 blocks per game. Veteran forward Jacobie Bias 12.5 and guard Marshall Taylor 11.7, both at 6'4, are the top scorers.
Points of Interest: The Steers are eighth in three-points, but are #2 in the RR in free throw percentage. Defensively they are forcing 19.1 turnovers per game, which is fourth best. Nine of their final 19 games are at home. They have one critical stretch where 9-of-12 games are out of the Rose City.
Wiley College Wildcats
Head Coach: Andre Payne. Last Yr: 16-16, 10-10. Alumni Gym.
Team: The team from the Wonderland of Lights has shown the ability to light it up on offense. The Wildcats are fifth in the league in scoring (76.0 ppg) though much of it has come without relying on the 3-ball. Wiley is shooting well and are fifth in limiting opponents to make just 40% of their attempts. Plus, they are getting it done on the boards, where they yield just 38.2 per game. Their lone league loss was to Paul Quinn, 77-67, at home.
Players: Coach Payne has a quiver full of arrows on offense, though only one player is in double figures. Adrian Fontenot is eighth in the RRAC with a 15.4 scoring norm. The 6'5 forward, who calls Houston 'home,' is shooting 54% from the field and 73% from the foul line. Marquis Wright, a wiry 6'2 forward from Compton, Cal, is producing 9.6 ppg, while 5-foot-8 guard Freddie Haynes is tossing 9.0 ppg. Haynes and 6'3 Brandon Lott have each stroked 14 trifectas to lead the team.
Points of Interest: The Cats have won four of their last five games. Wiley has 10 players scoring over five ppg. The team needs to make hay while the sun shines this month, during a nine-game stretch where seven are in Marshall. They are followed by six consecutive away games.
Paul Quinn College Tigers
Head Coach: Marco Borne. Last Yr: 6-22, 3-17. The Tiger's Den.
Team: These Tigers get after it on defense, yielding 70.2 ppg (third best behind TWU and LSUS) while holding enemy shooters to 38% from the floor (second only to TWU) and surrender only 36 rebounds. The team is growling on the boards, as only TWU hauls in more rebounds. Shooting on the foul line and outside the three-point barrier have hindered them so far.
Players: Paul Quinn is paced by junior forward Mitchell Thompson, who is fifth in the RRAC in scoring at 17.1 ppg, and second in snaring rebounds with 10.5 per game. He is making 62% of his field goal tries. Guard Edwin Opoku contributes 11.9 ppg and 3.6 assists per outing. Another guard, Eddrin McCain and forward Derrick Harris are scoring 10.4 and 8.5 ppg respectively. Harris has bagged 17 treys, making 57% of his attempts, while McCain has added 15 threes. Jamarcus Little, a forward, chips in 8.3 points and 7.4 boards. McCain is the Real McCoy at the point. His 7.75 assists per outing is the best in the country.
Points of Interest: The Tigers only league losses have come against LSU-Shreveport and Texas Wesleyan. PQC surely has to be considered the most improved or most pleasant surprise so far this season. They have already surpassed their 2009-10 win total.
Our Lady of the Lake University Saints
Head Coach: Russell Vanlandingham. Last Yr: 19-11, 16-4. Mabee Gym.
Team: The Saints of San Antonio were co-champions with Texas Wesleyan in their inaugural RRAC campaign. They were just a few points from winning the title outright, had it not been for a 2-point loss to Texas College, a four-point defeat at USW and a regular season-ending 87-85 setback at Texas Wesleyan, whom they routed by 19 earlier. OLLU had won 11-of-12 before the loss to the Rams, then dropped their opener in the RRAC tourney to Wiley. The season of promise also saw them hand LSU-Shreveport their first loss, by 11-points, after the Pilots started the year 9-0.
Players: Vanlandingham has been reloading the Blue Halos, who remain too hot for most defenses to handle, scoring 89 ppg. Streak shooting Robert Martinez, a 6-foot guard from Houston, is Our Lady's next top point producer at 11 ppg. Brazilian guard, Ricardo Zanini, at 6'6, scores 9.8 ppg while Eddie Ortiz, a six-footer, buckets 8.8. Ortiz has 28 triples, Martinez 21 and Zanini 19 treys.
Points of Interest: OLLU is averaging 7.5 three-pointers per contest, current third in the RR. A year ago they were #1 in the nation making 8.7 threes per game. The Saints are forcing 25 turnovers per game, which leads the league. Their defense, otherwise, has been more porous than desired.
Jarvis Christian College Bulldogs
Head Coach: Keith McKinnon. Last Yr: 3-26, 2-18.
Team: Rebuilding and posting more wins than last winter already. The Bulldogs are knocking down 6.4 3-bombs so far, but are 9th in overall shooting accuracy. In committing 20 turnovers a game, they one of three teams making 20+ miscues (OLLU, TxC). On defense, however, the K9's are squeezing 18.2 turnovers from opposing offenses.
Players: Rashad Norman, a 5'11 guard out of Dallas, tops a balanced attack by registering 12.7 ppg. Another 5'11 performer is Brian Lockett, and 6'2 Sage Malone are both contributing 10.1 ppg. Anthony Crump, a 6-foot-5 inside presence from Western Michigan (Muskegon), nets 9.8 ppg, with Maurese Jackson, adding 9.0 ppg. Jackson is 6'7 and hails from Chicago. Crump has 24 threes, while Malone and Lockett each have drained 15 triples. Jackson and Crump are ripping down 5.5 and 5.4 rebounds per game.
Points of Interest: As recently as two seasons ago the Bulldogs were 26-8 and 14-4 in finishing second to Texas Wesleyan.
Bacone College Warriors
Head Coach: Alan Foster. Last Yr: 19-10, 12-8. Palmer Center.
Team: Led by MVP Ronnie Battle (24.5 ppg), Bacone won last year's RRAC Tourney to earn a berth in the NAIA national tournament. Minus the graduated Battle, the Warriors have labored to put points on the board, averaging just 71.8 ppg. They have countered by coaxing 19.8 turnovers on defense, rating second to Our Lady in forcing opponents to cough up the ball. It has translated in a 71.6 points allowed.
Players: Fueling the Warriors offense are a pair of guards; 6'2 junior James Scott and 5'11 senior Chad Tyler. Scott, of Gary, Indiana, is pouring in 15.8 ppg, while Tyler, of Houston, buckets 15.5 and has fired 27 treys. Jeff Ayisire has been a big addition. The 6'5 forward scores 9.1 ppg and leads the Tribe on the glass with 6.4 rpg. LaCharleston Tumblin, at 6'6, and Terrance Roby, a 6'8 beast in the paint, provide muscle and moxie inside.
Points of Interest: BC is one of six teams in the Red River to score more points than they yield. Coach Foster's Big Reds were 7-12 last season before reeling off 12 consecutive wins to win the RRAC tourney.
University of the Southwest Mustangs
Head Coach: Jerry Voight. Last Yr: 12-16, 10-10. Maddox SLC, The Stables.
Team: The Mustangs continue to be one of the league's most prolific scoring teams. They are doing that by making 45% of their shots, which, like their 77.9 ppg, is fourth best in the conference. USW's strength is winning the battle of the boards. The Ponies aren't forcing many turnovers (15.9) and are making a league low 4.2 three-pointers per game.
Players: One of the most dominating players in the Red River is Demetrius Evans. The 6'5 forward who hails from the Windy City, is a force to be reckoned with. Evans is netting 20.6 ppg by making 52% of his shots and has drawn 97 free throws, where he has converted 78%. He averages 6.7 rebounds per contest. Three others are averaging 10 ppg; guard Marvin Storey, Jr., 6'5 forward Reggie Matthews and Michael Darden, a 6'3 guard. Storey runs the Pony Express by dishing 5.0 dimes per game. Chris Avery, a 6-foot guard who calls Bellflower, Cal 'home,' adds 9.7 ppg while swishing 22 triples.
Points of Interest: The Mustangs blew a double-digit lead in a loss at SAGU, fell by four at Paul Quinn and were on the wrong side of a 101-100 decision against OLLU. Last year they won 9-of-11 in midseason, yet had a pair of chilling skids, dropping eight in a row and finished the season falling in 8-of-9 matches.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University Lions
Head Coach: Dr. Jerry Boone. Last Yr: 13-21, 8-12. Sheaffer Full Life Ctr.
Team: SAGU is sixth in scoring (75.6), making up for 38% shooting by knocking down 7.9 trifectas per game (17th nationally) and have cashed in on 77% of their trips to the charity stripe. In making 213-of-275 FT's, they lead the NAIA. The Lions are pressuring opposing guards, wringing 17.7 turnovers. Their Achilles heal has been in overall team rebounding. SAGU is 12th with their average of 35.1 boards per game and 12th in allowing opponents 44.9 rpg.
Players: The Purple Pride have both the leading scorer in the RRAC in 6'1 junior guard Ronald Horne (21.1 ppg), a Waco native, and 6'5 forward Duce Ward, who leads the entire NAIA with 13.1 caroms per game. Ward is also totaling 12.9 ppg. Horne is the playmaker, distributing three helpers per game. Matt Allbritton, a 6'5 guard/forward, and Jared Gibson, a 6'3 guard, are three-point marksmen who are averaging 12.6 and 11.6 ppg respectively. Horne and Gibson have triggered 23 three-balls, with Allbritton wristing 19. Peter Dutton, a 6'4 guard, has been activated, and joins Craig Grigsby by adding 17.0 and 8.8 ppg. Dutton jacked 5-of-9 trifectas in his first game.
Points of Interest: The Cats have five players who are good over 70% of the time when shooting free throws. In 2005-06 the Lions earned their first NAIA tournament berth when they finished second in the RRAC tourney.
Langston University Lions
Head Coach: Greg Webb. Last Yr: 8-18, 6-14. C.F. Gayles Fieldhouse.
Team: Laying a new foundation at Langston is Coach Webb's season game plan. The Lions have narrowly missed four victories, losing in single digit setbacks, including a double overtime, one-point defeat against Wiley. LU is seventh in stroking three-balls, making 6.3 per outing. They are getting outboarded by nearly seven rebounds a game. Perhaps a contributing factor to their early season woes has been meshing in a large cast of new players.
Players: After their top four scorers, the Lions depth hasn't produced as much offense as needed. Eric Harris, a 6'3 forward from E. St. Louis, Illinois, and 6'5 forward Curtis Thompson (Houston) are setting the pace with 14.3 and 14.0 ppg. Bayshon Payne and 6'7 Brooklyn, NY product Anthony Jones are adding 10.9 and 10.0 ppg respectively. Thompson and Payne have each made 14 threes. Jones is grabbing 7.1 boards, with Harris pulling down another 6.7.
Points of Interest: To right their ship in January, Langston has a tough road to hoe. Seven of their nine games this month are away from the friendly confines of the Gayles Fieldhouse.
Huston-Tillotson University Rams
Head Coach: Elwood Plummer. Last Yr: 12-16, 12-8. Mary E. Branch Gym.
Team: Putting the clamps on enemy offenses is the focused area needing growth for the Rams. HTU is producing only 11.1 turnovers per game, while making over 19 miscues. A positive has been the club's ability to tickle the twine from beyond the arc to the tune of 7 treys per contest. Coming up short in rebounds, 42.4 for opponents to 38.6 for the Rams.
Players: Tillotson has two hoopsters in double figures on offense. James Black, a 6'2 senior guard from Killeen, Texas, leads the troops with 17.9 ppg. That ranks him #3 in the RRAC. Black tops the team in threes with 22. He also lays claim to 5.0 rebounds per night. Jerald Ardoin adds 12.4 ppg. The 6'6 junior forward out of Beaumont, Tx has a 7.6 rpg average, which rates #8 in the league. Rex Kyles III and Ardoin each have 15 triples.
Points of Interest: Plummer is the conference's newest head coach. His first year at the helm brings a big challenge of rebuilding a Rams team that tied for fourth last year. Their record is quite deceiving as eight of their losses have been by less than 10 points, five of them by 5-or-less.