The Basketball Preview

The sudden arrival of November brings many good things with it. Thanksgiving is just three weeks away and it’s a great time for sports.

The Bearkat volleyball team looks to make a deep run in the playoffs with a young teams that’s on fire. The football team is still in contention for the Southland title with three games left to play. But best of all, the start of a new basketball season is just under way.

Sam Houston State’s 2008-2009 men’s basketball team finished 18-12 overall and 12-4 in conference play, leading them to a Southland Conference Western Division title. Sam Houston State looks to defend its Southland Conference title and win in the playoffs after a short outing last season.

“I feel very confident this year,” guard Ashton Mitchell said. “We were missing a post presence last year and I feel like we recruited well in needed areas. I’m excited about this season and I’m ready to get started.”

Sam Houston State looks to make its eighth consecutive Southland Conference post-season appearance in the Southland tournament. With eight returning lettermen, including last season’s NCAA Division I level top scoring duo in guards Ashton Mitchell and Corey Allmond, the Bearkats have all the right pieces to win in the 2009-2010 season.

The Bearkats lost key contributors from last season in two-year starting forward DeLuis Ramirez and All-Southland center Barkley Falkner to graduation. But Sam Houston State added depth in the offseason with some new faces to replace the departing players.

The Bearkats added two new freshman players in forward Kelly Lawson and center Aaron Thompson.

Lawson was a two-time All-District 22-5A player at Pearland with state playoffs experience. Thompson was an All-Region, All-State, three-time All-District, and two-time District 5-3A “Defensive Player of the Year” at Burkburnett. The two will add fresh legs and defense to a deep Bearkat team.

Sam Houston State also added two junior college transfers in forwards Gilberto Clavell and Trevon Charles.

Clavell was North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference “Defensive Player of the Year” and a junior college All-Region selection in his time at Collin County Community College. Charles was an All-Western Junior College Athletic Conference player at Western Texas College last season. These two physical players will add attitude to this Bearkat team.

Forward Marco Cooper will also get more time this year. Cooper, who was red-shirted last year, is a University of Delaware transfer who can provide points and rebounds to this team.

“We’re excited and ready to get started,” said Head Coach Bob Marlin. “We’re two deep in every position and we have an experienced backcourt. We also have versatility. We can play small and we can play big.

“These guys work hard and hopefully we’ll grow as the season goes along and have a chance to play for a championship come Spring.”

This year’s team captains will be Allmond, forward Preston Brown, and forward Josten Crow. Brown and Allmond are returning starters from last season. Crow will also see significant playing time this year after a strong finish to last season.

“We’re getting ready, going back to the lab to work,” Crow said. “Last year ended with disappointment so this year we’re focusing on defense and branching out from there. We’ve got good chemistry and we want to build on that to become a better team everyday.”

One of the main points of emphasis for the team coming into the season is defense. Last season’s team allowed opponents to shoot for 44 percent from the field and may have been the major factor in their tough loss to UTSA last post-season.

The Bearkats have worked in both individual and team workouts emphasizing defense and rebounding. The team is not focusing less in other aspects, but is simply focusing more in depth on improving the play of the team’s defense in all areas.

“We’re going to score,” said Allmond. “We’ve got shooters all over the floor and we penetrate well. It’s going to be tough to guard us, it’s just a question of how we’ll guard them. We need to focus on stopping people from scoring on us.”

The Bearkats will play 13 non-conference games, which include six at home and seven on the road. Sam Houston State opens the 2009-2010 season November 14 at home, when they host LeTourneau at the Johnson Coliseum.

Following the LeTourneau game, the Bearkats will play Texas College at home before hitting the road for four straight road games. Of the away games includes a visit to the historical Rupp Arena in Lexington, KY, where the Bearkats will face John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats.

Following the Kentucky game, Sam Houston State will head to Ohio to play Cleveland State before traveling to Cancun, Mexico to partake in the Cancun Classic. In Cancun, the Bearkats will take on Oral Roberts and either Rider or Florida A&M.

Another notable non-conference game takes place near Christmas, when Sam Houston State hosts Florida International. NBA Hall-of-Famer Isiah Thomas begins his coaching tenure at Florida International this season and will bring his team to Johnson Coliseum in late December.

The Bearkats will begin conference play on Jan. 9 when they host defending league champion Stephen F. Austin. Along with Stephen F. Austin, Nicholls State and Texas A&M-Corpus Christi look to be tough Southland opponents this season, as well.

According to the predictions of several major national preseason publications and web sites, the Bearkats are projected to defend their conference title and make a run at a championship this year.

Athlon Sports, The Sporting News, Blue Ribbon Magazine, Rush the Court.Net and Rivals.Com College Basketball all pick Sam Houston State to win the West Division because of depth and returning experience.

According to the preseason coaches’ poll, which was released yesterday, Sam Houston State, Nicholls, and Stephen F. Austin will be the teams to beat in the Southland Conference for the 2009-2010 season.

The Bearkats received the most first-place votes with seven and had the highest points total with 61. Stephen F. Austin received 58 points and collected five first-place votes.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi had 57 points total with four first-place votes. Nicholls’ also had four first-place votes and 56 points total in the coaches’ poll. Southeastern Louisiana had three first-place votes and 48 points total.

This year’s Bearkat basketball team will definitely be fun to watch and will certainly make a run at defending their conference title.

The action starts next Saturday, November 14 with Sam Houston State hosting LeTourneau at home.

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