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Ohio Valley Offseason Update

October 29, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments

Ohio Valley Conference Offseason Update

by Adam Shandler

Change is good, or so it is said. Two new programs in the OVC get new coaches this year. And with new coaches comes new assistants. Two other schools make the conference jump after long stints in the Atlantic Sun.

Sometimes no change is good, too, as is the case with Morehead State and their top scorer ,who reconsidered a jump to the NBA. Ricky Minard’s decision to play out his senior year may energize the conference this season.

But first, let us take a “Peay…”

Austin Peay

Benefit Game: On August 5 of this year, former Louisville standout Marques Maybin was paralyzed from the waist down in a tragic motorcycle accident. APSU and Louisville have teamed up to play a benefit game at Freedom Hall on December 20 that will raise $15,000 for the Marques Maybin Medical fund. The agreement between the two schools has Louisville donating $10,000 to the fund on behalf of APSU, with an additional $5,000 being donated by the Daniel Pitino Foundation.

Maybin was a Clarksville, Tennessee native, where Austin Peay is located.

The benefit game will be a reunion of sorts between the schools. Louisville bumped the Governors from the first round of last season’s NCAA Tourney, 86-64.

Bracket Bustin’: The 2002-03 OVC Champs have been selected by ESPN to participate in the network’s Bracket Buster Series on February 21st. The kooky thing about the Bracket Buster is that opponents are not determined until three weeks before the event.

Big Ink: The Governors, who already return all five starters from last year’s club, got just a little better. Dave Loos and company have recruited Brandon Harriford, a 6-2 guard from Nashville who earned all-America honors at an AAU, 19-and-under tournament in Jacksonville, Fla. Harriford averaged 26 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds with the AAU Tennessee Thunder, and 18.5 points, 6.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds as a senior at Hume-Fogg High School.

Eastern Illinois

Bringing In Barry: Former Iowa State standout and journeyman coach Barry Stevens joins the Panther coaching staff after 17 years of playing and coaching hoops. Stevens was a two-time, first-team Big 8 (yes, Big 8 back then) selection and a second-round draft pick of the Denver Nuggets in 1985. Rick Samuels’s new assistant spent time as both a coach and scout in the CBA and played pro ball overseas in five different countries.

Stevens replaces Jack Owens, who resigned from the program in June.

Domercant Hopes to Dominate in Turkey: All-America forward Henry Domercant, the No. 2 scorer in all of NCAA D-I hoops last year, has signed a contract with Turkish team Karsiyaka. Domercant closed out his senior year averaging 27.9 ppg and cemented his place in NCAA history as its 26th leading scorer of all-time. The OVC’s all-time leading scorer (2602) is only the 11th player in NCAA history to finish in the Top 5 in scoring in three straight years.

Eastern Kentucky

Whoa, Mamadou!: Eastern Kentucky coach Travis Ford beat the buzzer of the spring signing period by landing three new recruits. The class is highlighted by 6-5, 220 pound forward Mamadou Diakhate of St. Mary’s High School of Manhasset, NY. Diakhate is a three-time all New York State All-Star, a three-time New York Catholic League selection, a 2003 All-Wendy’s Classic Team member and a 2002 ABCD Camp honoree. Also an all-MSG high school selection, Diakhate chose EKU over George Washington, Manhattan and St. John’s.

Diakhate will be joined by incoming freshman Julian Mascoll, a forward from Clearwater, Fla., and transfer swingman Terrez DeWalt of St. Catharine College in Kentucky.

Jacksonville State

Out of the Sun and Into the Valley: 2003-04 will be a year of transition for JSU Gamecocks. Coach Mike LaPlante’s club will join the Ohio Valley after a successful 20-win season as a member of the A-Sun. The Gamecocks, who lost their three top scorers from a year ago, will play 16 conference games.

LaPlante Gets Planted: Head coach Mike LaPlante led the Gamecocks to their most successful season in Division I history, so JSU decided to keep him around…for another five years, anyway. LaPlante’s 2002-03 squad went 20-10 and finished fourth in the Atlantic Sun conference. Last year’s campaign was the best since the Gamecocks joined Division I in 1995-96.

VanMeter Named Assistant: In mid-August, Mike LaPlante brought on Joel VanMeter to help him with bench duties. VanMeter is a veteran of the JUCO coaching circuit, having spent three years guiding preeminent programs in Florida, Iowa and Kentucky.

Morehead State

Minard Returns: OVC Player of the Year Ricky Minard made a whole lot of Eagles fans a lot happier when he removed his name from the NBA Draft list. Minard, who was a junior last season, will return for another year of Eagles hoops and possibly more accolades. An AP honorable mention for All-America attended NBA pre-draft camp in Chicago, but had second thoughts about pro-ball in mid-June.

Former Wildcat Assists at Morehead: Allen Edwards, a four-year letter winner and two-time NCAA champion at Kentucky, joins the Eagles staff as an assistant. The 27-year-old Edwards was a special assistant under Tubby Smith last season and had short stints in the CBA and IBL. Edwards will replace Stew Robinson, who will rejoin mentor Bobby Knight at Texas Tech. Knight coached Robinson at Indiana.

Murray State

Mighty Mick: The Racers get a whole new coaching staff this year. Mick Cronin, a former assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under both Bob Huggins at Cincy and Rick Pitino at Louisville will lead the racers with three brand new assistants. Cronin, a heralded recruiter, was responsible for bringing one of the top classes to Lousiville last year – a class which included C-USA Freshman of the Year Francisco Garcia.

Cronin, who arrived in April, is the fifth-youngest coach in D-I hoops (31). He replaces Tevester Anderson who bolted to Jackson State after leading the Racers to a 17-12 mark in 2002-03.

Hot Ticket: The Murray State box office has already seen an increase in ticket sales. With flexible payment plans and two more home games than last year, tickets are “racing” out of the booth. Additionally, the athletic department added 100 new season tickets before the season ticket packages were released.


Defecting: Like Jacksonville State, the Samford Bulldogs also make the jump from the Atlantic Sun Conference to the OVC. The ‘Dogs return their most of their key contributors, but if they want to stay competitive, they’ll have to score more: 64 points a game in this league may not cut it.

One Of Their Own: Samford head coach Jimmy Tillette announced the hiring of former Bulldog Lee Burgess as an assistant coach. Burgess’s functions will be mainly administrative as he will handle travel plans, scheduling and film exchange. The 2000 grad was a member of coach John Brady’s 1999-2000 team, which is the only Samford squad to go to the dance.

Southeast Missouri State

Newbies: Coach Gary Garner inked two new recruits that should give his club substantial help this season. One of them is a big man, 6-10 JUCO transfer Randy Holbrook from St. Louis and Odessa (Texas) CC. Holbrook was one of the top 100 high school players in the nation while a senior in 2000.

Terrick Willoughby, a 6-4 guard/forward out of Biloxi, MS, is one of the Top 100 players of his home state. There’s some drama here. Willoughby originally signed with Murray State during the early signing period last fall, but when there was a coaching change, Willoughby reconsidered.

Familiar Face Returns: Mark Bernsen, the head coach of Missouri-St. Louis and a former SE Missouri State head coach, returns as an assistant under Garner.


Going Flatt: UT-Martin’s hoops program is celebrating the transfer of NC State guard Justin Flatt. Flatt must sit out this season but will have three years of eligibility left. The 6-4, 188-pound guard from Savannah, TN averaged over 27 ppg, 8.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds in high school. He was heavily recruited by UT-Martin his senior year but opted for the bright lights of the ACC instead.

Tennessee State

Sins of the Past: This just in. Apparently last year’s head coach (until January 8 anyway) did more than just threaten his assistant, Hosea Lewis, and bring a gun into Gentry Arena. Nolan Richardson III committed some other no-nos as well, and it’s going to cost the Tiger program. On October 24, the NCAA slammed TSU hoops with a hefty three-year probation for violating rules regarding tryouts, off-season practices, coaching staff limitations, recruiting inducements and unethical behavior under Richardson. Oh, and leaving the toilet seat up.

Because TSU is a repeat offender (with violations in 1999 with its football program), the Nashville school is being considered a repeat offender by the NCAA infractions committee. Under the decree, the Tiger hoops program loses one scholarship both next year and the year after, its recruiting period will be cut short for two years and on-campus recruiting visits will also be limited.

Cy’s The Guy: And guess who gets to be the leader of this circus act. Enter Cy Alexander, who spent the last 16 seasons at South Carolina State. Alexander turned the Bulldogs into a consistent MEAC contender after nine losing seasons, but Ms. Phillips believes that in addition to the winning, Alexander brings a credible, no-nonsense face to the program. They’ll need it.

Tennessee Tech

New Faces On The Bench: Coach Mike Sutton added two new assistants to his bench. One of them knows all about recruiting: Garrick Respress. Respress spent the last year working as a corporate recruiter for a firm in Atlanta but kept his basketball smarts up as Executive Director for the Georgia Pride AAU youth team. Upon graduating from Georgia State in 1997, he helped coach Lefty Driesell as an administrative assistant.

Dexter Williams, who has been involved in coaching for the last 13 years, goes to Tech after two seasons at Birmingham Southern.

JC Is New DBO: The Tech programmed also named a new Director of Basketball Operations. Jason Clark, who has worked camps with the likes of Tubby Smith and Steve Lavin, spent the last five years coaching high school and middle school ball and was a grad assistant at Arkansas and UAB.


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