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SWAC Preview

November 10, 2002 Conference Notes No Comments

Southwestern Conference Preview

by Nik Bannister

Will this season really be that “SWAC”tacular?

Will defending Southwestern Athletic Conference champs Alcorn State University Braves get scalped in the tourney this year? Or will Alabama State get mad enough in March? Will A&M need new dogs to learn old winning tricks? Better yet, who will be spectators at the championships?

Whether it is a coaching change or lineup change, all ten teams in the SWAC are rebuilding. We’ll just have to wait until March to see who has erected the strongest foundation.

1. Alcorn State Braves
It is said that after this year, SWAC Coach of the Year David Whitney is retiring. Will the Braves give him one more trip to the NCAA Tournament? After the departure of star forward Marcus Fleming, one only wonders if the Braves can do it again. But with four seniors returning, the task shouldn’t be hard at all.

2. Alabama State Hornets
If there is any team in the SWAC that has a true chance of stinging the Braves, it is Alabama State. The Hornets were outscored in last season’s championship match-up, but Hornets are preparing to do big things this season. Senior center Adam Pettway was third in the conference last season in field goal percentage (.510) and had 24 blocked shots and averaged seven rebounds per game.

3. Mississippi Valley State Delta Devils
It’s getting hot in little bitty Itta Bena, Miss. But the Delta Devils are keeping cool as a fan with big time players returning. Perhaps the team to beat in the SWAC; MVSU led the SWAC with 258 three-pointers last season. They were also in the top five in conference scoring offense, free throw percentage, steals, offensive rebounding, and so on… The list is endless.

4. Grambling State Tigers
Although Alcorn State is slated for the number one spot in the conference, don’t sleep on Grambling State. Last season’s Player of the Year Paul Haynes is returning and according to the SWAC Psychic Hotline, he should receive the same honors in March. On the offensive end, Grambling has Haynes and defensively, the Hotline has named 6-9, 220 lb. Tigers forward /center William McDonald SWAC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. The senior from Auburn Hills, Mich. had 65 blocks last season, along with 161 total rebounds.

5. Texas Southern Tigers
It’s funny how people in Texas like everything big. Look at the Astrodome, Reliant Stadium, or Texas Stadium. Look at the ranches, heck, look at the state of Texas! But for some reason, Texas Southern b-ball can only be looked at as mediocre. Although Rak’kim Hollis, the 6-3, 190 lb. junior is back again to bring the ball up the court for the Tigers, the “biggest” baller at TSU will only be able to do so much. Hollis was third in the SWAC in scoring averaging 18 ppg., in which a contributing factor was the 52 three-pointers Hollis put up last season. Look for another season of ho-hum from TSU.

6. Alabama A&M Bulldogs
No more bark or bite for the Bulldogs. Last season, they led the SWAC in scoring offense and finished second in scoring defense, thanks to their “Big Dog” Desmond Cambridge. Cambridge led the SWAC in scoring with 20.2 ppg., but he’s gone now, so expect very little from A&M.

7. Jackson State Tigers
The team everyone loves to hate should be the team everyone will love to beat. JSU has a 6-5, 250 lb. linebacker (oops, I meant forward) named Cliff Walker, but he is going to have to indeed tackle all others to get the Tigers a respective spot in the standings.

8. Southern Jaguars
Coach Ben Jobe has SWAC Newcomer of the Year Nicholas Egland, who led the Jags in rebounding and field goal percentage, and he has senior Victor Tarver, who led the Jags in scoring with an average of 15.8 ppg. They even have senior Brian Johnson, who happens to be the NCAA’s longest leaper (track and field) last year. But Johnson is going to have to have a higher vertical to get Jobe a berth in the SWAC Tourney in March.

9. Prairie View A&M Panthers
The Cat is back! Or are they? Prairie View is going to go through some real rebuilding this season. Senior guard Greg Burks is returning to an optimistic Panther squad this season, but they can find solace in the fact that former U of Houston assistant coach Jerry Francis has taken the helm at PV, and although he’s no Clyde Drexler, you don’t need a “trailblazer” to make new paths to winning.

10. Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions
Even with a new coach, the only way that UAPB will get to the tourney is if they buy a ticket. There is just too much revamping needed. Former assistant coach Van Holt is now the man in charge, but as in most programs (unless you are at Indiana and your name is Mike Davis), a complete “360” is practically unheard of-especially in the SWAC.

All-Conference Team:
G – Greg Burks, Prairie View
G – Rak’kim Hollis, Texas Southern
F – Paul Haynes, Grambling State
F – Nicholas Egland, Southern
C – Adam Pettway, Alabama State/William McDonald, Grambling State

Player of the Year:
Paul Haynes – Grambling


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