The Sam Houston State University Bearkats basketball programs are gearing up for another season of hoops and look to start their new era of reign in the Southland Conference.
The 2018-19 Bearkats squad is loaded with new faces after big names like Christopher Galbreth Jr., John Dewey III and Jamal Williams departed from last season due to graduation or other reasons.
Head coach Jason Hooten talked about getting back into the swing of things with his team.
“We’re getting close to being full basketball mode, but we are not close to being a good team yet,” Hooten said. “We’ve got a long, long, long ways to go, and I think as a coach you just always forget how hard it is when you have seven new people and especially those seven new guys that are going to have to play an integral part of your team. So, we’re not near a finished product by all means. We’ve had one scrimmage. We have another one tomorrow, and then we are going to try to maybe do an intrasquad Thursday night and maybe have it open to the public. Then we’ll get ready for the sixth. It’s going to be a while, it’s going to be a process. I think that defensively, we’ve got a long ways to go.”
Returning to the squad this season and taking over as the defacto “face of men’s basketball” is redshirt senior guard Marcus Harris. He returns to the court this season as the only Bearkat selected to the Southland Conference 2018-19 Preseason All-Conference second team.
Last season, Harris, was reliable on the score card with an average of 9.4 points per game on .369 percent shooting from the field. Harris also was reliable from the charity stripe, converting 77.9 percent from the free throw line.
The Bearkats have a new look, with seven new faces on the roster. One of those new faces that Hooten and the rest of the coaching staff thinks highly of is redshirt sophomore forward R.J. Smith. A transfer from Butler Community College, Smith averaged 13.7 points per game in 30 starts last season. Smith also averaged 7.5 rebounds per game and hit 46.9 percent from the field and 31.2 percent from beyond the arc.
Smith talked about his new opportunity that lies before him this season.
“I’m looking forward to a lot,” Smith said. “I’m a transfer, I came from a junior college. So, just being here, playing in division one basketball is going to be fun. I just can’t wait to play with everyone on the team, they are a great group of guys.”
The men’s squad plays their first game of the season at home with a tip-off of 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 6 at Johnson Coliseum as they take on the East Texas Baptist University Tigers.
With a new head coach in Ravon Justice being hired this offseason, the Bearkat program is optimistic about the future and their hopes to one day see their team get to the promised land of the NCAA March Madness tournament for the first time.
The Bearkats are looking to get over four wins for the first time since the 2015-16 season where they saw the program get to the Southland Conference tournament and end in eighth place with a 14-18 overall record last season.
Justice talked at the Bearkat Madness event about what excites her the most about the upcoming season.
“The thing I’m most excited for is just competing every game,” Justice said. “We want to compete every game and have fun with it.”
Returning to the helm of the Women’s program is junior guard Jenniffer Oramas, who last season averaged 10.0 points per game on 33.5 percent shooting from the field and 30.0 percent from behind the three point line. Oramas also averaged 3.2 assists and 3.1 rebounds per contest in the 26 games she played in last season, 25 of which she started.
Oramas talked about what the mindset is going into this season for the Bearkats.
“Just competing, winning more games,” Oramas said. “I feel like we are really working hard and it’s just all going to pay off.”
Also returning for the Bearkats is senior forward Lydia Baxter and junior guard Rachel Harrell. Baxter last season was the main force down in the key with an average of 7.3 rebounds per game and had three double-doubles last season from points and rebounds.
Harrell returns with one of the best three point percentages on the team with a 30.4 shooting percentage from behind the arc last season. Of her 154 points last season, 123 came from downtown. Harrell also heads into the 2018-19 season with a career 32.6 shooting percentage from three point territory.
The women’s squad tips-off their first game of the season at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 in Baton Rouge as they take on the Louisiana State University Tigers. Their first home game of the season will be at 4 p.m. Nov. 8 at Johnson Coliseum as they take on the Jarvis Christian College Bulldogs.