Back in the SWAC
by Nik Bannister
At a certain arena in Birmingham, Alabama, by the name of Fair Park, and on an
unseasonably warm day on the second Saturday of the third month of the year
2002, the Southwestern Athletic Conference welcomed both pomp and
The “pomp” of course, was the triumph of the Alcorn State Braves, coached by
SWAC Coach of the Year David Whitney; and the “circumstance” was what
runner-up Alabama State Tigers endured after facing a disheartening 70-67
loss to the Braves.
The Tigers watched Whitney’s Braves outscore them 41-35 (including a key
free throw by guard Jeff Cammon with four seconds left) in the final period
to ensure a ticket and a brand new pair of shoes to the Big Dance.
Once Alcorn State got to Dayton, Ohio to face Siena, they instantly became
wallflowers. The Braves only enjoyed a slow dance as they watched the
Saints march on to the second round with an 81-77 victory.
One Bulldog, one Brave and three Tigers (oh my) made up the 2002 SWAC’s
All-Conference Team. Seniors Desmond Cambridge of Alabama A&M and Marcus
Fleming of Alcorn State also were members of the pre-season all-conference
team. Last season, Cambridge scored 50 points against Texas Southern and
Fleming was the leading scorer on the Braves’ squad and tourney MVP. The
remaining three receiving first-team All-SWAC honorees returning to the
hardwood this season will be junior guard Ra’kim Hollis (Texas Southern),
sophomore forward (Grambling), and junior center Alvin Pettaway (Alabama
“Out with the old, and in with the new” is the phrase that pays in the SWAC.
University of Arkansas Pine-Bluff and Prairie View experienced coaching
changes at the end of the season. An expected departure from UAPB’s former
coach Harold Blevins has been executed and Golden Lions’ assistant coach Van
Holt will attempting to free UAPB from that last place residency they
occupied last season.
Prairie View didn’t have to look to far either when they ousted former coach
Elwood Plummer. Once Plummer’s contract was not renewed, University of
Houston’s assistant coach Jerry Francis was hired.
Southern’s head coach Ben Jobe will be leading the Jaguars into a season
where they can go nowhere but up. The Jags suffered through a dismal 7-20
season overall where they could not even enjoy one winning streak.
Texas Southern, Grambling, Alabama A&M, Alcorn State, Jackson State and
Mississippi Valley will also be enjoying the company of the old as they
return with the same coach and the same goal-to take the SWAC.
Alcorn State will surely miss the play of Fleming and Alabama A&M will have
nothing but memories of Cambridge. The two have left an impact on their
respective programs. One can only hope that the schools’ record can be as
such. Also leaving a footprint in the SWAC’s sandbox are Greg Burks of
Prairie View, D’Jamel Jackson of Miss. Valley and Tryone Levett of Alabama
State. Ah, the woes of graduation.
With all of these changes, one can definitely expect to see a courtside
metamorphosis throughout the SWAC. The question is which SWAC “caterpillar”
will turn in to the biggest butterfly, or which one will just stay in their