Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Excellent comments all

It’s nice to know there are people out there, and the responses have been excellent.

Let me comment on your comments.

First, on the schedule. The JSU officials I’ve talked to are adamant that the Gamecocks will not play nine games this year.

“We’re going to have 11 games,” one told me. "We've got enough choices at hand."

I’ve heard Maine bandied about. You’re right, it would make an intriguing matchup if only for whatever feel-good factor there might be from the JSU fan perspective if the Gamecocks were to win.

(But remember, it will be one year late, and how many of the impact players from either team in that selection show drama will be back. It’s kind of like last year’s proposed volleyball trip overseas to reward the players for the previous NCAA Tournament season; those who most made it possible wouldn’t be playing).

Still, like the Furman games, Maine would create interest.

I think McNeese State is a potential target. That’s the team the JSU coaching staff always used as the bar when the Gamecocks were in the Southland. And Georgia Southern is itching to play the Gamecocks again.

If it’s the Southern Conference, you crave, Wofford would be a quality fit and don’t forget JSU athletic director Oval Jaynes has Appalachian State ties and JSU coach Jack Crowe is close with Appy coach Jerry Moore.

Feasability is the big factor here. Those teams you're talking about have to have an opening, and in the correct spot so not to derail any conference title hopes. And then the game has to fit in the JSU scheduling philosophy; that is attracting somebody to play at home this year to impact the home-road balance. And if it is on the road, you don’t want to spend a fortune to play it.

And, above all, remember, it’s all well and good to play these kinds of games, but it does no good unless you win them.

As far as Perrilloux’s future, barring any undisclosed complications, I would suspect he’ll come back. I also suspect the NFL report will tell him he hasn't played enough to project in this year’s draft. True, he has ability not seen in these parts, but he’s really only played one year as a college starter.

Keep those (insightful) comments coming. Just keep all others.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New podcast up, with a request

The latest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up, and there's a special request for your opinion in this week's edition. More on that in a minute.

This week Al and I talk about how the JSU men's basketball team turned a six-game win streak into a two-game losing streak, and how they hope to turn that around in tonight's visit from Berry College before diving into the meat of the conference schedule against Eastern Illinois on Saturday. Also, we talk about the women's team finally scoring its first two wins this season against Division I teams before falling prey to N.C. State in a big way.

Then we get into the still-developing football schedule for 2009, and that's where your opinion comes in. JSU officials have said they want to beef up the schedule to better impress the playoff selection committee in case they wind up in a situation at season's end like they did this year. Plus, the UTC series has been delayed at least year. That leaves Jax State with two games left to play. Who would you like to see visit Paul Snow Stadium, or where do you think the Gamecocks should go? Should they line up against the Championship Subdivison's elite (A la Appalachian State), or look for middle-of-the-pack teams more like themselves (think Coastal Carolina or Nichols State)? Or, should they play for the pocketbook, and schedule another Georgia Tech-style game against one of the upper-tier Bowl Subdivision squads?

Let us know by posting a comment here, or e-mailing me at Be sure to tell us what specific teams you'd like to see them play, and why. And don't forget, there are two openings on the schedule. We'll discuss your picks on the podcast when we get enough suggestions to work with.

In the meantime, click the player below to hear this week's episode.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Is anybody there?

Sometimes when I look at the empty response box on the blog, I can’t help feeling like the John Adams character played by William Daniels in the musical “1776.” If you know the show, you know the scene, where Adams/Daniels looks out to the world as he contemplates the question of independence and wonders “Is anybody there? Does anybody care?”

In an effort to spark some conversation, here are a few questions to ponder for the new year:

Does anybody care if Ryan Perrilloux comes back for his senior season or comes out for the NFL Draft?

Does anybody care if the Gamecocks fill their future football schedules with teams that would bring some appeal to the playoff selection committee?

Does anybody care if the JSU basketball team gets the services of Brylle Kamen this year? The 6-7 freshman still supposedly waiting a decision from the NCAA over his status as an international player?

Does anybody care?

Is anybody there?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

There's something happening here

JSU administrators appear to be making the moves necessary to make their non-conference schedule more appealing to the folks who sit in the NCAA playoff selection committee. What those moves are, you'll have to wait until they decide they're good and ready to give it to you.

It takes an Act of Congress (or at least the State Attorney General) to get any substantial insight into the athletic program, so don't look for your hot stove to ever get really hot. If the Gamecocks have any more midyear football signings other than independently confirmed commitments of Mississippi JUCO running back Jamal Young and former Auburn punter Patrick Tatum, school publicists say they aren't likely to release them until around Christmas. Other teams make those announcements when they happen.

By the time the official word gets out, you've forgotten there were signees. Or the newcomers have been on campus for a while and already made the acquaintance of fans and fellow students. So who's being served here?

What's all this have to do with future football schedules? Well, JSU athletics director Oval Jaynes said Wednesday night the Gamecocks have football games scheduled "through 2013, 2014," but he wasn't prepared to make any announcement or drop any hints to stoke the interest until the contracts were signed. School publicists are were the same way.

This is what we do know.

1. The Gamecocks' entourage to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame ceremonies in New York last week engaged in numerous conversations with their peers about the possibility of playing games. It would be only a guess to say some were successful.

"We've got some opportunities," Jaynes said.

2. One thing those future schedules won't have are non-Division I games. "We're not playing any Division II or Division II teams on the schedule," Jaynes said.

That's a clear shot at the two non-DI games that prevented UT Martin from any serious playoff consideration and a veiled shot at the weak non-conference schedule of Maine, the team that bumped JSU from the last playoff spot.

3. The Gamecocks have guarantee games still with Georgia Tech (next year) and Ole Miss (in 2010), but you already knew that.

4. There will be no Chattanooga game next year because of a scheduling conflict, but there will be games in 2010, 2011 and 2012, Jaynes said. So the Gamecocks are looking for a game for 2009 and they're not immediately prepared to say who's under consideration.

"We tried every way we could to work with Chattanooga (for 2009)," Jaynes said, but noted an unnamed OVC team didn't want to change to accommodate the move.

Could there be a Maine in the Gamecocks' future? Now wouldn't that be interesting, a year after the fact. The Gamecocks did start a home-and-home with Furman the year after they played in the playoffs.

Perrilloux's future for JSU

If you want another indication JSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux is coming back for his senior year, those inside the program said when the player went home at the end of exams last week he left his stuff here in Jacksonville.

He has to at least come back to get it, right?

While some players have said Perrilloux will come out for the NFL Draft this June -- he was expected to ask the NFL Advisory Board for an evaluation of his draft prospects -- JSU coach Jack Crowe "fully expects" the quarterback to return.

If he does return, don't expect any loosening of the reins during this off season. Once Perrilloux got here amid reports of a troubled LSU past, he was continually shadowed by coaches, administrators or teammates, which created some underlying resentment. "Babysit" was the word heard more than once.

Crowe said his quarterback met all of the non-football requirements put before him "that had any major consequences." But there still were what he called "inconsistencies of a minor nature" that if stacked up over time could become major.

(For his part, Perrilloux said during the season he didn't mind the structure.)

"He was micromanaged, that made the inconsistencies tougher," Crowe said. "He needs to become a better leader for this team from just his day-to-day influence, because his influence was basically an on-the-field influence. He's got to become more of a day to day positive influence.

"He's a leader in his nature, but he's got to take on the total responsibility of being a leader. It's no different than than (defensive end) Duane Tolbert. This time last year I had the same questions about Duane Tolbert. I brought him in and had a very serious discussion with him ... and with (running back) Daniel Jackson.

"I'm not going to have any different conversation with Ryan Perrilloux. Now, where did those two guys go? They went to another level. (Perrilloux) has got to accept the responsibility of being a senior and all the things that go along with it or he's going to be a distraction to this football team."

Perrilloux said the night the Gamecocks were snubbed by the NCAA selection committee the team had a new focus. They won eight games, but were denied a spot in the playoffs by Maine, one of five CAA teams that made the playoffs.

"We have a new goal to look forward to," he said. "We were 6-5 the last three years and we went 8-3 this year, so we have a new goal. We feel like if we don't get eight or more wins, we weren't productive. We'll come out and work hard on the things we didn't do well this season and continue to get better."

And that goes for him as well.

"Of course I'm upset we didn't win a championship and didn't make it to the playoffs, but I felt like I went out there and played my hardest week in and week out and I think the team did the same thing," he said. "That's all you can ask for a player or person to do -- their best.

"I definitely tried as hard as I could. Jacksonville State is a good program and hopefully next year we'll come out better than we did this year."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

New podcast up

The latest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. Al and I go over all the math (OK, some of the math ... OK, very little of the math ... we're writers) in JSU's high RPI rating and how their opponents' wins and losses are moving them up and down. And we look ahead to Wednesday's matchup at even higher-rated UAB.

Click the player below to hear the latest episode.

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Hoops on the tube

According to's college basketball schedule, Jacksonville State's game at icy Iowa State on Saturday will be part of the network's Full Court Package and can be seen on

Before the Gamecocks go to Iowa, however, they have to take care of some business called UAB.

It'll be an emotional game for JSU guard Jonathan Toles, no doubt. Toles was hoping to follow his pro-playing twin brothers Ronell and Donell Taylor to UAB, but the Blazers chose another guard over him in the recruiting process. He'll talk about that in Wednesday's print edition of the Star.

It isn't immediately known if freshman forward Brandon Crawford will be available to play against the Blazers. Team officials are hoping he will, but it likely will be a game-time decision.

Crawford hurt his knee in a game-day practice hours before the Gamecocks' OVC opener at Tennessee Tech Dec. 6. That day, by the way, was the last time UAB played.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Keeping track

No one really believes Jax State could beat Kansas, but that's what comparing scores would lead you to believe after UMass knocked off the Jayhawks Saturday.

Under that line of thinking, JSU beats UMass, UMass beats Kansas, so JSU beats Kansas. Keep dreaming. There's a reason coaches don't compare scores when talking about common opponents.

But it did help the Gamecocks in their RPI. After of noon Sunday, the Gamecocks had elevated to No. 42 in and, in games through Sunday, No. 66 in

UAB, Wednesday's opponent, is No. 31 and No. 30 in the two polls, respectively. Iowa State, their Saturday foe, is 177 and 150.

Kansas, by the way, was No. 147 in and No. 86 in rpiratings on Sunday. Still, they're 25 and 23 in the AP and coaches polls, respectively.

If the Gamecocks beat UAB and Iowa State on the road this week, do you expect they'll start getting votes in the big boys' polls?

Exhibition counted for a lot

Even though the game didn't count on their record, there was a lot about Saturday's exhibition win over Reinhardt that was good for the Gamecocks.

(1) It was a game to be played, so they had some live activity before playing UAB in a game that will count Wednesday night; if it weren't on the schedule at all, the Gamecocks would go 11 days between games.

(2) It allowed them to shake off the mental cobwebs after a week's worth of semester finals that impacted their practice routine.

(3) It gave them another chance to put their product in front of the home folks, a rare feat for a team that has only five home dates before the new year.

That last point may be the biggest plus for the future of the program.

"We've been on the road so much, to have a home game and have some people come in and be able to look at this team give the effort that they've been giving ... they'll know a little bit about what they can expect in January and February," JSU coach James Green said. "It's kind of a program situation, where people can come in and be a part.

"I really think that's going to be crucial come league play, how involved will our fans be? How enthsiastic will they be? Will they be our sixth man?"

There will have to be a lot more of them to have an impact. The Gamecocks' last two home outings drew a listed crowd of fewer than 800. Of course, one was played the afternoon of the Iron Bowl when students were on Thanksgiving break and the other was played on a Saturday afternoon following exams.

Their next home date doesn't bode well for a good draw either -- it's the Tuesday between Christmas and New Year's against another non-Division I foe.

The Gamecocks do offer more appealing games to open 2009. They start the new year with conference home games against Eastern Illinois (Jan. 3 on ESPNU) and SE Missouri (Jan. 5), teams that given their play to this point in the season they should be favored to beat.

Monday, December 8, 2008

New podcast up

The latest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. Al and I talk about the red-hot Gamecock men's basketball team's rise in the RPI rankings, and look ahead to their games against Reinhardt and UAB.

We also talk about what's gone wrong with the women's team, which picked up its first win last week, but is 1-7 following a Saturday loss to Tennessee Tech.

Click here to load the file in your browser, or visit the XML page here to subscribe. Or, just do it the easy way and sign up through iTunes. There's also a player on this page, over on the right hand side, where you can push a play button and listen.

If you have comments or questions you'd like us to address next week, send me an e-mail at

Charging for a game that doesn't count

If the JSU basketball team's early season winning ways have piqued your interest and you're planning to check out its next home basketball game, 4 p.m. Saturday against Reinhardt, be prepared to dig into your wallet.

JSU designated the game as an exhibition after the schedule was announced (because the Gamecocks have too many non-Division I games on their regular season schedule). But because the game is included in the regular ticket package, they're charging to see it -- at regular ticket prices. The Gamecocks' preseason exhibition with West Georgia was free.

The Gamecocks' next home game after Saturday is Dec. 30 against Berry. It's a game JSU will count, but Berry has designated as an exhibition.

Their stock is rising

After spending virtually all of last year languishing near the bottom of the publicly available basketball RPI rankings, Jacksonville State is now living in the upper atmosphere.

The Gamecocks, who have the best overall record in the Ohio Valley Conference through Sunday’s games, are the highest rated OVC team in both the and indexes.

They are No. 66 in rpiratings and No. 67 in realtimerpi. Murray State is second on both lists at No. 88.

The Gamecocks are also the top OVC team in the Sagarin ratings (No. 97).

What’s next? Getting points in the AP or Coaches poll?

The JSU women, meanwhile, are No. 330 out of 340 teams in the list and No. 333 on the realtimerpi list.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A chance to step up

If Brandon Crawford’s knee injury becomes a prolonged absence to the Jax State basketball team, freshman Stephen Hall just might be called upon to pick up the slack.

The Gamecocks got hit with their first serious bit of adversity in the James Green Era when Crawford, their leading scorer, sustained what team officials would only call a “right knee injury” during a game-day practice Saturday before the Gamecocks’ OVC opener at Tennessee Tech. He did not play in the game.

Since no one would say specifically what the injury was, it can only be assumed it’s anything from a sprain to a tear to a simple bump. The latter seems unlikely considering Crawford left the building after the game on crutches and a sleeve.

Green didn’t want to give a prognosis of the injury after the game, deferring to the team’s training staff. He appeared, however, prepared to move ahead even if Crawford isn’t available.

Luckily for the Gamecocks, they have the luxury of time to allow Crawford to heal. They don’t play a real game again until Dec. 17 at UAB. They do have an exhibition with Reinhardt on Saturday.

“I don’t know much about it until we find out a little more, but it is a nice break,” Green said, “but I’ve always been of the philosophy, not that we don’t care about guys being hurt or discipline reasons or whatever, you’ve still gotta go play. We’re going to do whatever we have to do to go play, and I thought our guys did a good job of that (Saturday).”

If Crawford isn’t back quickly, Hall, also a 6-6 forward, proved his ability against Tech to give comparable quality minutes.

Hall, an early signee who kept his commitment through the coaching change, scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds against the Golden Eagles. His previous career highs were 18 points in the double overtime victory at Georgia State and eight rebounds against VMI.

“I think Hall and (Nick) Murphy had more production (in Crawford’s absence), probably had more minutes to get more production,” Green said. “I don’t know how many minutes we played (Amadou Mbodji) and Geddes (Robinson), but it appeared just from me looking at their minutes (in the box score), Geddes’ minutes probably weren’t as many as he normally gets, but part of the reason is they had (big players) stepping up shooting 3s, and we thought we needed to get out there and cover them a little bit better being smaller.”

It also would help the Gamecocks' inside presence if they could get 6-7 Brylle Kamen back. He has been out since the season began for administrative reasons pertaining to his status as an international student. He reportedly has fulfilled a suspension for games played overseas, but his paperwork, according to JSU officials, remains clogged up in the NCAA process.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tootle being watched

JSU junior right-hander Ben Tootle already is on the radar screen (and radar guns) of the most major-league scouts. Friday, he was named to the college Player of the Year watch list.

The Oxford product was named to the preseason Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Award Watch List as announced by the College Baseball Foundation.

After leading JSU to the OVC regular-season title, he went to the Cape Cod League in the summer and was simply sizzling. Regularly hitting the radar gun in the high 90s and ocassionally hitting 100, he went 3-3 with five saves and a 1.97 ERA in 22 relief appearances.

After that summer, Baseball America called him the fourth best prospect on the Cape and ESPN listed him as the 13th best prospect in the country.

Award winning runner

JSU distance runner Lesley Binning was among the six athletes named Ohio Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete winners Friday morning.

She was selected from a group of 19 finalists -- among them, JSU punter Zach Walden -- by a vote of OVC Faculty Athletics Representatives. Honorees must have performed athletically with distinction, earned at least a 3.25 grade point average and conducted themselves in an exemplary manner. The award is based on achivements during the 2007-08 school year.

The other winners were Austin Peay's Carrie Burggraf (track and field), Murray State's Amber Guffey (women’s basketball), Eastern Illinois' Brian Morrell (baseball), Tennessee Tech's Bradley Thompson (football) and UT Martin's Andrey Yesipov (men’s tennis).

Binning is in her fourth year at JSU and has been the team’s No. 1 distance runner. She was All-OVC in track in 2007 and 2008. She was third in the 10,000 at the 2008 OVC Outdoor Championships after finishing seventh in the 5,000 meters at the Indoor Championships. She also holds school records in the indoor 3,000 and 5,000, and the outdoor 5,000 meters. In four years with the cross country squad, she set program records for both 5K and 6K.

In the classroom Binning has a perfect 4.00 grade point average in exercise science/wellness, health and physical education. She has been a recipient of the OVC Medal of Honor three times, the OVC Commissioner’s Honor Roll three times and the JSU President’s List three times.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Murphy's law

The last time out, Nick Murphy showed signs of being the Nick Murphy he was last year. That can only be a good sign for the Gamecocks.

The sophomore forward who led the Gamecocks in scoring last season had his most productive game of this young season in JSU’s 80-61 victory over Norfolk State. He played a season-high 25 minutes and scored a season-high 18 points.

He had only 15 points in his previous three games combined.

Some might say it has taken the native New Yorker a while to get used to what new coach James Green wants, but Murphy pegged his slow start on aggravating the ankle injuries that have plagued him for two years and kept him from being “as bouncy and mobile” as he’d been in the past. He hurt both of them last year and fractured his right ankle two years ago.

“It wasn’t really like it was slow in this offense,” Murphy said. “I had a little injury and I was recovering slowly and slowly.

“I was feeling good that night. He (Green) did tell us in the locker room that he had a feeling someone was going to step up. He kept looking at me. I had the feeling and I know he had the feeling I was going to have a good game.’

Green said he never had a question about Murphy‘s approach. Murphy may have gotten off to a slow start, but the Gamecocks were fortunate guys like Brandon Crawford, Jeremy Bynum and Jonathan Toles picked up the slack and got those minutes, so he couldn’t simply play his way through it.

“Nick Murphy has been a warrior, he has been into winning, he has tried to do everything we’ve asked him to do, from preseason conditioning on,” Green said. “I just think it‘s something that happens to players. Some players get off to better starts, and at different times.

“I know he had a great year last year. People always talk about sophomore jinxes. I don‘t know if he had a little sophomore jinx, where people pay a little closer attention to you when you‘re a sophomore … When he puts another couple games together then we’ll say he turned himself out of it. One game won’t do it for me and I know it won’t do it for him, but I know it tells him he still can.”

Murphy‘s good friend, Geddes Robinson, had a big game for the Gamecocks against Norfolk State, too. Robinson scored 17 points against a Spartans, a team that had several players they faced in the schools and playgrounds growing up in the Bronx.

You’ll be able to read more about the bond Murphy and Robinson have forged in an upcoming edition of The Star.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Helping hands

There are a lot of reasons Jacksonville State is taking a 4-1 record into tonight’s game at Norfolk State. Perhaps the biggest is the Gamecocks’ ability to get the ball in the hands of the players who can put the ball in the hole.

Going into tonight’s action, the Gamecocks rank third in Division I in assists. They average 20.6 assists per game, right behind Sam Houston State (21.8) and North Carolina (21.3).

The Gamecocks have 145 buckets and 103 assists. No telling what that figure would be if they counted “coach’s assists,” getting the ball to a guy who doesn’t get the basket but gets fouled in the process.

“We preach about sharing the ball,” JSU coach James Green said. “Obviously, we’re better when we play well together.

“For it to be early in the year and us to be able to play very unselfish and share the basketball and move the basketball and get it in the hands of people who can score and in the position they can score it is a credit to our guys.”

And to senior guards DeAndre Bray and Jonathan Toles in particular. Bray leads the OVC in assists at 7.2 per game. Toles is tied for second at 5.0.

“I’m sure our last game against VMI probably helped that, in the fact VMI is a team that was pressing and trapping full court, half court, and we were able to get through that and find people around the basket,” Green said.

But the Keydets haven't been the only team to turn up the pressure on the Gamecocks. Georgia State, Umass and South Carolina all trapped them as well.

“For a team that’s young overall, having two senior guards who have handled the ball fairly well for us I think has been our strongest deal to be able to combat the pressure,” Green said. “We could easily be 1-4 instead of 4-1 for a lot of different reason, but the biggest reason (they're 4-1) is we’ve been able to play against a little pressure and handle it.”

New podcast up

This week's edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. Al and I discuss the dramatic rise in the stock of the Gamecocks' men's basketball team, which posted big wins over UMass and VMI in the last week. They take on Norfolk State tonight, of course.

Stock in the women's team, to continue the market analogy, is plummeting as the women are out to an 0-6 start. Al says they hope to reverse that trend with a home date tonight against DII West Georgia.

And we go over whether, why and when JSU quarterback Ryan Perroilloux might declare for the NFL draft.

Click here to load the file in your browser, or visit the XML page here to subscribe. Or, just do it the easy way and sign up through iTunes. There's also a player on this page, over on the right hand side, where you can push a play button and listen.

If you have comments or questions you'd like us to address next week, send me an e-mail at

Monday, December 1, 2008

Instant impact

James Green may be looking for “5 or 6 guys” to give his JSU basketball team consistently good minutes every night. So far, Brandon Crawford and Geddes Robinson have.

Crawford was named OVC Freshman of the Week for the second time this season for his efforts in the Gamecocks’ two wins last week.

The 6-foot-6 forward who has a reputation for playing big in big games averaged 17.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists in wins over UMass and VMI. He hit a four-point play in the final 30 seconds of the UMass game to cut JSU’s deficit to one and give the Gamecocks a chance for that upset.

Crawford currently leads the Gamecocks in scoring with a 16.4 average. He’s shooting 55.8 percent from the floor, including 55.6 from 3-point range.

“We’re short right now, but he’s shown that he’s played above the level of a freshman, not just because he’s made plays, but because of the confidence he’s gone and done it with,” Green said. “He looks like a guy that’s midway through his sophomore year right now in these first games.”

JSU players have won Freshman of the Week honors each of the first three weeks of the season. Robinson won it last week.

Robinson is the Gamecocks’ second-leading scorer, averaging 13.6 points a game. He’s also their leading rebounder with a 9.0 average. That’s 22.6 points and rebounds in an average of 24.4 minutes a game.

“He’s not a 40-minute guy, but probably one of the most productive guys in the country with what he gets done in the minutes he plays,” Green said.

That’s because he plays at only one speed.

“Coach always tells me I have to have a motor, so that’s what I try to do, just start going out there and getting it,” Robinson said. “I just try to spark the team so we can get the W. Whatever they need me to do, I just try to pick the extra slack up.”

Who have been some other newcomers woh've made instant impacts in the JSU basketball program? Walker Russell immediately comes to mind.

Changing expectations

OK, so it’s still early in the season, but four straight wins – the longest winning streak since the end of the 2005-06 season – may start some people rethinking their opinion about the Jacksonville State basketball team.

The Gamecocks are 4-1 going into Tuesday’s game at Norfolk State. They’ve beaten Georgia State in double overtime, beat UMass by scoring the last six points in the final 28 seconds, and held the nation’s top-scoring team to 44 points below its scoring average.

And after hovering around the bottom of the RPI all last year, the Gamecocks are now 191 on the most recent list. They’re the third highest OVC team in the RPI – behind Austin Peay (13) and UT Martin (159) -- not bad for a team picked last by the league coaches.

“I know things, as well as they go up, they can go down, but I do feel good about what I’ve seen,” Green said. “I know we haven’t been perfect and I know there are some areas that we’ll be better, so whether we can go play games and feel like we’ve got a chance to win, I think we’re there.

“Now, whether we can show up every night and play that way, that’s what concerns a coach, because you have (off) nights. But if you have enough guys … and we can always find 5 or 6 guys that play good valuable minutes for us, then we can have chances to win.

“When you’re trying to build a program, you want to figure out how you can be competitive every night and so far we’ve done that. And fortunately we’ve won while we’ve done that.”

The last time the Gamecocks started off this well, they went 20-10. The last time they won back to back road games was 2005-06, when the eventually made the OVC Tournament semifinals.

Which team will this one eventually come closest to becoming? Or will it fade as the year goes on?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Familiar names changes sports

A name familiar to JSU basketball fans made the transaction wire today.

Not only is Dave Dagostino changing schools. He's changing sports.

The former JSU women's basketball coach, who had been an assistant women's coach at West Virginia, is now the new baseball coach at his alma mater -- Division III Union (N.Y.) College.

“I had a tremendous experience at Union College as a student-athlete and as a coach,” Dagostino said in the university's announcement of his hiring. “The Union College community holds a very special place in my heart and I am extremely appreciative of the opportunity to work with Jim McLaughlin and the entire Union College family on re-establishing the proud tradition of our baseball program”

Dagostino, who once hit safely in 30 straight games, lettered for four years on the Dutchmen baseball team from 1991-95. He was selected captain and the team’s Most Valuable Player. He was named a Division III all-star.

His resume also includes a stint as Union's assistant baseball and women's basketball coach from 1996-99.

Worth a look

If you can tear yourself away from the Iron Bowl festivities, it might be worth looking into JSU's basketball game with VMI Saturday afternoon.

The Keydets lead the country in scoring and have at least five players averaging in double figures.

It'll make for an interesting contrast to the defensive mindset JSU coach James Green has impressed upon his players.

The two teams played a couple years ago in a tournament at William & Mary and JSU won 87-85. That game started out a shootout, with JSU leading 58-55 at halftime, but settled down in the second half with the teams combining for 59 points.

Dorien Brown basket in the paint with 18 seconds left put JSU 86-85 and Courtney Bradley's free throw at 0:05 brought the final margin.

Twins Chavis and Travis Holmes had 18 and 16, respectively, for VMI in that game -- and they're back. Travis Holmes missed a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Shocked the world

The JSU basketball faithful expected good things from the hiring of James Green as coach, but maybe not this fast.

The Gamecocks became the latest giant killers in the basketball world -- joining, among others, Mercer and (Saturday's opponent) VMI -- when they stunned Massachusetts Monday night 75-74.

Mercer, of course, swept Alabama and Auburn. VMI outgunned Kentucky with 108 points.

JSU, a 17-point underdog, scored the last six points of the game in the final 23 seconds to pull it off. Brandon Crawford hit a big four-point play and Jonathan Toles scored the winning basket with eight seconds left.

“Coach told me to go with it on the last shot,” Toles said. “I wasn’t thinking about getting fouled, because they weren’t fouling me all night, so I just went to the basket and made it. I’ve been waiting for a long time to have the ball for a chance at a game winner. All of the hard work we’ve put in paid off for us tonight.”

It has to be the Gamecocks' biggest victory since moving to Division I. They almost beat Arkansas a couple years ago, but they closed the deal on this night.

Of course, the game that won the Division II national championship was the biggest win they've ever had. What other games would fit into your list of JSU's all-time top 10 biggest basketball victories.

Response welcome.

Monday, November 24, 2008

New podcast up

The latest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. Al and I talk about whether Maine deserved to get into the football playoff field ahead of Jax State, and look ahead to the 2009 season.

We also talk about JSU's big, double-overtime win at Georgia State on Saturday, and look ahead to Monday night's tip-off at UMass.

Click here to load the file in your browser, or visit the XML page here to subscribe. Or, just do it the easy way and sign up through iTunes.

If you have comments or questions you'd like us to address next week, send me an e-mail at

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now the waiting game starts

With all the games that impact its playoff future in the books, Jacksonville State will put its hopes in Ohio Valley Conference officials to make its case.

It appears in some JSU circles to come down to a choice between 10-2 Liberty and the 8-3 Gamecocks for one of the final at-large spots.

So, it would appear it's give the playoff field Liberty and give the Gamecocks death.

"I have to leave it to (OVC commissioner) Jon Steinbrecher to be our Patrick Henry," JSU coach Jack Crowe said.

Here's what happened to impact idle JSU's chances Saturday.

Eastern Kentucky won the OVC championship and automatic bid by blocking a UT Martin field goal on the last play of the game. New Hampshire held on to beat beat Maine. Wofford beat Furman. And Liberty beat Elon.

That left Liberty 10-2, but LU has two non-Division I wins and a loss to reclassifying Presbyterian. JSU has won its last three in a row.

Check out Sunday's Star for more.

Moment of truth

The moment of truth arrives for the Jacksonville State football team Sunday at 6 p.m.

That's when the Gamecocks discover if they're in or out of the NCAA playoffs, although I suspect they'll have an inkling several hours before that.

There are compelling arguments on both sides of the issue.

On the FOR side: They will be one of the hottest teams in the country, having won their last three games in a row; if the process is anything like the one in basketball, that accounts for something. They also beat one of the teams from their own league they figure to be competing against (Tennessee State). And they have an impact player in quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.

On the CON side: They lost to two of the teams from their own league they figure to be competing against -- UT Martin and Eastern Kentucky, teams playing each other Saturday for an automatic bid. And Tennessee State beat both of them. The CAA should have an overwhelming number of options, which will reduce spots for everybody else.

I expect the gamecocks to be out and spending the next few days gnashing their teeth over what might have been. Look at it this way -- at least they got another week of practice out of the suspense.

Do you think they're in or out? Post your argument for or against. Beat on the system if you want. As Dr. Frazier Crane said, "I'm listening." How many of you are out there talking?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A winning formula: Early to bed, early to rise

You need to be an early riser if you’re going to play basketball for James Green.

The new Jacksonville State basketball coach has his troops up-and-at-‘em for practice at 5:30.


What can the Gamecocks possibly get done at the crack of dawn that they can’t get done at a more traditional practice time late in the afternoon? A lot, Green says.

“A good keen focus, discipline,” Green said. “When we wake up, we’ve got basketball on our mind. We don’t have that ‘we’ve had a bad day’ (attitude). Things come up during the day that distract us. Not that we can’t come to practice and do a good job (in the afternoon), but I think we’re so clear.

“I think it sets the tone for what we’re going to be about in terms of work and commitment. I think when you’ve got a group of guys who’ll make a commitment to get up in the morning to come in and really go to work, I think when they have some tough moments during the season or within a game, they’ll have something to reflect back on in terms of what they put into it and they’re not going to easily just lay down because of that.”

A lot of teams do the early-morning thing when they have two-a-days early in the season, but Green — taking a page from former Temple coach John Chaney — carries it on throughout the year. He’s done it everywhere he’s been.

Within reason, of course. He won't call a practice early after the team gets home late from a game or the coaches get in late from recruiting. Weekend workouts are usually 7 or 8 a.m. The Gamecocks practiced at 12:30 p.m. Saturday after returning from their season-opening loss at South Carolina Friday night.

“When we first started it, we had conflicts with practice times and I’d rather be consistent with our time,” Green said. “Then we figured out it worked well with guys being up and being ready for class.

“It gives them an opportunity to do some things that normal students do in the afternoon. And it gets them in the bed at night. Sometimes it takes a while for them to realize I need to go to bed around 9 o’clock in order to get up and do this in a professional-like way.”

Green said he hasn’t had any resistance from the players about the early-morning regimen. But then, he’s not the type to put up with any, either.

“Preseason, when he had to get up, no balls, just running and conditioning the whole thing (was tough),” freshman forward Brandon Crawford said, “but 5:30’s not bad any more.

“We’re getting more into the flow of things, so it’s making it easier on us. Instead of coming out and struggling with it, we’re getting used to it. Everything is getting to be second nature.”

Monday, November 17, 2008

MBB: Post help on the way?

The Gamecocks could have freshman Brylle Kamen available as early as their game Saturday at Georgia State.
While officially the 6-7 freshman remains out and JSU officials are hopeful of hearing something official from the NCAA by the end of the week, sources said Kaman has at least satisfied his two-game suspension for two games he played in France before signing on with the Gamecocks.
So, he lost two NCAA games and a bunch of practice time, according to sources, for what amounted to 45 measly seconds of two games overseas in which he didn’t even touch the ball.
JSU coach James Green was unaware of any change in Kamen’s status.
“When we get him Saturday?” he asked quizzically. “I can’t expect anything until I know that he’s going to be (there) and I don’t know that we’ll know an answer to that.”
Whenever the Gamecocks get Kamen back, they know exactly what he’ll add to the team. He’ll give the Gamecocks valuable depth and versatility in the post.
“When you look at (Amadou Mbodji’s) minutes in the last game (32 vs. South Carolina),” Green said, “we want him to be able to play those minutes, but we probably could have used another five minutes of rest.
“Right now, he probably can be very effective playing 28 minutes, so we need some other guys to step up and share some of those minutes, and (Kamen) would be a possibility.”

Friday, November 14, 2008

Reports: softball signs two pitchers

Various media outlets are reporting the early signing of two pitchers for the JSU softball team.
The Gamecocks reportedly picked up Wewahitchka, Fla., pitcher Samantha Rich, arguably the most dominant player in Northwest Florida the past two years, according to the News Herald of Panama City. And they signed Ider's Hilary Phillips, the Times-Journal of Dekalb County reported.
Rich picked JSU from a lengthy list of suitors that included UCF, Florida State, LSU, Virginia Tech, Michigan, Illinois, South Carolina and Tulsa, the newspaper said.
Rich told the paper the recruiting process "has been crazy" and the decision was "one of the hardest ... I've ever had to make."
According to the paper, Rich is 56-6 with the Lady Gators, including 20-2 last year. She also has hit over .400 with more than 100 RBIs and a growing school-record 26 home runs.
Her team has reached the state Final Four in each of her three seasons, losing in the semifinals her freshman year before breaking through with consecutive titles. Wewahitchka has the smallest enrollment in Class 2A.
"She's going to bring a lot to their program immediately, in the (pitching) circle and with the bat," Wewahitchka coach Coy Adkins told the paper. "...I think if she stays healthy she can be a contender not only for (OVC) Freshman of the Year but Player of the Year ... She's got such a reputation now that a lot of teams are beat before they get on the field against her."

Phillips holds the state record for career wins with a mark of 149-27. With 2,155 career strikeouts, she closing in on that record, too. She finished 30-0 with 341 strikeouts and a 0.27 earned run average last spring while leading Ider to its second Class 2A state championship in three years. As the team's leadoff batter, she hit .438 with 53 runs, 21 RBIs and more walks than strikeouts (13 to 11) in 142 at-bats.
"I think she'll fit in right there with the type of players they have," Ider coach David Hughes told the paper. I think she’ll go and be a great contributor for them in a lot of different ways."

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

WBB gets big signee

The JSU women’s basketball team scored a major recruiting coup in Wednesday’s opening of the early signing period when Danielle Vaughn, a 6-1 post from Sparkman, signed and sent her letter of intent.
Vaughn is considered one of the top five posts in Alabama this year, according to one of the statewide girls basketball recruiting services.
Expect the Gamecocks to sign more post players in the future to balance out their roster.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Random notes

Cleaning out a notebook on a Tuesday night ...

FOOTBALL: It doesn't look as if the Gamecocks will have either center Reggie Wade or fullback Alphonso Freeney for Saturday's regular-season finale against Tennessee State.
Freeney went to Birmingham to have his broken hand evaluated and came back with a cast.
"They say there's a chance he could play down the road somewhere if that were to happen," coach Jack Crowe said. "He's not going to be practicing (this week)."
Crowe said there was "not any chance" Wade would play after suffering a high ankle sprain in practice last week.

VOLLEYBALL: The Gamecocks' hopes for making the OVC Tournament stayed alive Tuesday night when Tennessee State fell to Morehead 3-0. TSU and UT Martin both have to lose their two matches this weekend and JSU has to beat Murray and UTM (by a 3-0 score) to secure a spot.
Next up for TSU is Eastern Illinois, a team that is 4-23 overall but beat the Lady Tigers earlier this year 3-2 for its only OVC victory of the season.

BASKETBALL RECRUITING: The JSU women's team expects to sign one in-state post player Wednesday. The men's program is hopeful of hitting what coach James Green called "a home run" during the early-signing period.
Both coaches remained mum Tuesday on identifying their prospects.

MORE HOOPS: If you watched the JSU men practice Tuesday, you saw freshman Brylle Kamen participating in drills, so it appears there has been some positive movement on his eligibility issue. However, he isn't expected to travel with the team to the opener at South Carolina.

The JSU women could be without two veterans for their opener with Samford Friday. They are awaiting analysis of MRIs on sophomore guard Danielle Beneby and guard Cassi Stuart, the team's only senior. Both players sustained a possible torn meniscus that could require surgery.
Meanwhile, junior guard Eren McMichael and freshman guard Chase Ogden both have returned to practice after missing time over preseason injuries.
The team's projected starting lineup for Friday's game looks like this -- Kelsey Johnikin, Zenobia Pitts, Charlease Williams, Paris Hollingsworth and Jolie Efezokhae.

FB: Title road leads through J'ville

When James Webster got the Tennessee State coaching job, one of the first things he did was grab the most recent copy of Ohio Valley Conference statistics to see what he was up against.
It didn’t take him long to decide the road to the OVC championship went through Jacksonville State, largely because the Gamecocks were at or near the top in three specific categories — rushing offense, rushing defense and total defense. He still feels that way.
Don’t look now, but Webster’s Tigers are leading the league in each of those three categories this week. They No. 1 in rushing (206.0 yards per game), No. 1 in rushing defense (124.0 ypg) and No. 1 in total defense (315.9). Jax State is 2, 4 and 3, respectively, in those three categories.
Individually, the Tigers have the OVC’s leading rusher (Javarris Williams, 103.7 ypg, 15 TDs) and quarterback Antonio Heffner leads the league in total offense (266.9 ypg).
“I’m real excited about the statistics we have,” Webster said. “That’s very, very tough to do, it’s a tough league, a tough physical league. You’re not just gonna hand the ball off and run it. You’ve got to be physical in this league.
“It’s a league of quarterbacks, but you better be physical and you'd better be tough. It’s no place for the weak of heart in this league. You ought to be able to smack people in the face. If you’re not a physical football team, it’s gonna be difficult to be successful in this league.”
The Tigers may have risen to the top of the OVC in the statistical categories Webster holds most dear, but guess who stands in their way of winning the OVC title — that same JSU team coach has so much respect for.
“I still believe the championship goes through Jacksonville State; you have to be able to beat them to have a chance,” Webster said. “That doesn’t mean you can’t beat them and still win the league, but they’ve shown they’re a consistent program. They’ve done a great job of building a winning program there, they’re not going to have a down year, up and down. They’re going to be good every year, at the top or near the top, so you’re gonna have to beat them.
“I’ve tried to put together a football team that can compete on the field with them in those areas. It’s what they’ve done ever since they’ve come into the league and what they're still doing.”

Monday, November 10, 2008

MBB: In with the new

Here’s a piece of interesting trivia regarding Jacksonville State’s season opener Friday at South Carolina. And, no, it doesn’t have anything to do with the only two Division I Gamecocks playing each other.

The JSU-USC game is one of three Division I season openers that feature new head coaches on both benches.

JSU, of course, is coached by James Green, hired to replace Mike LaPlante last spring. USC is coached by former Western Kentucky coach Darrin Horn.

The other two openers with two new head coaches are St. Francis (Pa.) (Don Friday) vs. Texas Tech (Pat Knight) and Pepperdine (Tom Asbury, a former Alabama assistant) vs. Division II Cal State-Monterey Bay (Rob Bishop).

There are 43 head coaches new to their programs in Division I basketball this season.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Nold: "Never again"

It’s been a different kind of year for JSU volleyball coach Rick Nold, and one he vows to “never have it again … Not for the same reason.“
After averaging 21 wins over the last five years with two trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Gamecocks have fallen on hard times. They are 7-18 overall, 3-11 in the OVC this year.
They have never had a losing season under Nold before this year. They went 14-14 in his first season, but haven‘t won fewer than 18 matches or lost more than 11 -- against an increasingly more demanding schedule -- since.
The Gamecocks have a young squad, and Nold insists “we’re not very far off of being a really good team,” but things just haven’t fallen right for them. They thought they were getting a player to build around and didn’t learn it wasn’t going to happen until late, and then they suffered a major injury.
“Sometimes you’re gonna have those years,” Nold said. “We’ll deal with it and make sure we don’t get in that situation again.
“It’s always good to experience a little of everything -- but not twice.”
Interestingly, the Gamecocks still have a mathematical shot at making the conference tournament.
At lot of things have to happen, including running the table in their last four OVC matches -- all on the road -- and sweeping UT Martin 3-0 in the final match of the year. They play Eastern Illinois (4-21) and SE Missouri (11-11) this weekend, before finishing at Murray State (12-12) and Martin (8-20).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Men's basketball starters for West Georgia

The JSU men's basketball team will take the floor for new coach James Green against outside competition for the first time Wednesday when it plays West Georgia in the first of its two exhibitions. Tip off is 7 p.m.

The Gamecocks are expected to start DeAndre Bray, Jeremy Bynum, Nick Murphy, freshman Stephen Hall and Amadou Mbodji.

A concussion that has slowed Jonathan Toles in recent days will keep the guard out of the starting lineup, but won't keep him from playing in the game.

The Gamecocks open the season Nov. 14 at South Carolina. Their home opener is Nov. 18 against West Georgia.

Their second exhibition is Dec. 13 against Reinhardt.

WBB: Gamecocks swamp undermanned Miles

The JSU women’s basketball team took the floor against outside competition for the first time Monday in an exhibition against Miles and played like it meant something. The Gamecocks swamped their Division II visitors 102-62.

Preseason All-OVC pick Jolie Efezokhae led five JSU scorers in double figures with 33 points. She also had 13 rebounds. Zenobia Pitts had 16 points.

At one point in the game, the Gamecocks could have surrendered all of Efezokhae's points and still led the game by two.

After a tight opening stretch, the Gamecocks pulled away with a 19-4 run that took them from 13-12 down to 31-17 ahead.

In their defense, the Bears were playing shorthanded. They have seven players who couldn't play for reasons that weren't immediately disclosed, three they discovered 30 minutes before the game.

The Gamecocks had three players on the sideline with injuries, but opened the game with a lineup of veterans.

Coach Becky Geyer disclosed earlier in the day her starting lineup -- sophomores Danielle Beneby, Pitts, Charlease Williams and Paris Hollingsworth and junior Efezokhae. It’s the group Geyer anticipates starting in the Nov. 14 season opener against Samford.

“This is kind of the five we’re planning on playing as of right now unless somebody comes in and takes a position away from somebody,” Geyer said.

Erin McMichael (strained knee), Brittany Wiley (strained knee), Chase Ogden (nose surgery) all missed the exhibition with injuries. Geyer said McMichael is close to returning, but Wiley’s injury was a repeat injury and she’s likely to be out another 10 days. Ogden will be out until Nov. 10.

Ann Butehorn was among the 10 Gamecocks available to play. The red shirt freshman missed all of last season with circulation problems in her leg, but had offseason surgery to correct the problem and will play this season with theraputic hose.

This is Geyer’s third season with the Gamecocks. Her previous JSU teams have won 7 and 11, and was picked fifth in the OVC preseason poll. With a veteran group, the Gamecocks should be expected to improve again, but Geyer is smart enough not to declare a specific number of victories this year.

“I think we’re going to be that team that people hate to play because you never know for sure,“ she said. “You come and we’re playing well, we’re going to beat you. Hopefully, we’re more consistent than we were a year ago, with the amount of playing experience. It’s amazing, in practice you can really see our kids have come around. We really hope for great things and being able to compete with everybody we play this year.”

The schedule is impressive, with Big East Georgetown coming to Pete Mathews Coliseum Nov. 16 and a Dec. 29 date at N.C. State. Next year’s schedule will also open some eyes, as they make the return to Georgetown (coupled with a game at Navy) and play Baylor on the trip to the UT-San Antonio’s tournament.

The Gamecocks play a closed superscrimmage with Division III Oglethorpe Saturday.

NOTE: The Gamecocks had a special guest on their bench Monday night. Megan Brittain served as the team’s honorary coach and Geyer was giving thought to letting the 12-year-old Jacksonville girl call a play in the huddle.

Megan just completed a schedule of chemotherapy that was expected to box out her cancer, only to learn it had relocated to another area of her spine.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Women's basketball has Miles to go

JACKSONVILLE -- The Jacksonville State women’s basketball team hits the floor against outside competition for the first time Monday night when it plays Division II Miles College in an exhibition at Pete Mathews Coliseum. Tip-off is 7 p.m.

The Gamecocks were picked fifth in the preseason Ohio Valley Conference coaches poll. They return 11 players and five starters from last year’s 11-19 team, led by preseason all-conference pick Jolie Efezokhae. She averaged 12.6 points and 6.6 rebounds a game last season.

Miles was 17-11 last year, one of the most improved teams in Division II, and was tied for sixth in the SIAC preseason poll. The Lady Bears have three starters among their 10 returning letter winners -- preseason All-SIAC guard Cyntonia Jones (17.4, 3.5); second-team twin sister Cyntauria Jones (9.2, 5.4) and Ashley Orphey (7.6, 3.4).

Friday, October 31, 2008

Tolbert out

The Jax State defense really missed defensive end Duane Tolbert in the UT-Martin game it looks as if the Gamecocks won't have him again Saturday against Austin Peay.

Tolbert, a senior from Jacksonville who hurt his knee in the Murray State game, is among three players listed out for the game. Linebacker Antonio Bonner is listed out with an ankle injury and running back Tremayne Coger will miss another game with his bad knee.

The Gamecocks gave up a season-high 493 yards against the Skyhawks.

"We really missed Duane Tolbert," JSU coach Jack Crowe said. "I think sometimes you've got to take somebody out of the mix to know what their effect is ... We haven't seen our defensive line play as good without Duane Tolbert as they do with Duane Tolbert.

"When you give up that many rushing yards (218), people can throw the ball while you're trying to defend the run and they're gonna get you. That tight end down the middle was (the result of) the linebacker playing the run. We violated one of our first and most important principles defensively in that game. The quarterback has you when you can't put any pressure on him, and that's what they had us in right there."

'Best tenth place ever"

The JSU basketball team has been practicing for a couple weeks now and during that time new coach James Green has discovered something about his players.

“I like our guys, I like this group of guys,” he said. “I think they’re good guys.”

When’s the last time you heard a coach say publicly he didn’t like his team, outside of some transparent mind game meant to motivate it?

Green said he didn’t like his first Southern Miss team particularly much, but he doesn’t have that feeling with his first JSU group.

“That’s what I found at this point that I didn’t at the other places,” Green said. “There were guys who didn’t belong. I can’t say that we have a guy who doesn’t belong in this program, either from the university standpoint or my coaching standpoint, that I can say that guy’s not gonna make it with me. I can’t say that.

“Where I can see in those other places when you walk in the locker room the guy lies to you about whether he was in class; I can tell you real quick that guy’s not gonna make it with me. Or he’s got this issue, that issue. I haven‘t had that. They have as quickly tried to buy in at this point as any group I’ve ever been around.”

Of course, he has the advantage of being the one to show potential trouble the door and there have been times at practice this year when he’s had to remind a player or two “what we’re going to be about,” but he reports no major attitude issues.

“I think they’ve learned about the habits we want to have and that’s helped us with the overall approach,” Green said. “Even having those guys in summer school has given them an understanding of what we’re about, and that’s half the battle. Nobody has fought against what we’re about.”

The OVC coaches and publicists picked the Gamecocks last in their preseason poll, but there’s a sentiment they will be better than that.

Green is wise enough not to promise a particular number of wins and said it will probably take through the first tour of the league to determine what it’ll take for the Gamecocks to succeed in the league, but he does promise one thing:

“If we are tenth, we’re going to be the best tenth place (team) that’s ever come out of this league,“ he said. “I will say that, because we’re going to be scratching and clawing.“

The Gamecock Nation will get to see just how far Green and his team has progressed Wednesday night at Pete Mathews Coliseum in their first exhibition against West Georgia.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

No goals mean no playoffs for soccer team

A late-season power outage kept the Jacksonville State soccer team out of the Ohio Valley Conference tournament.

The Gamecocks' season ended Sunday with a 2-0 loss to Eastern Kentucky. Both goals came in the second half.

JSU finished the season 5-10-3 overall, 2-5-1 in the OVC with a four-game OVC losing streak and a five-game overall slide. The four OVC losses were all by shutout and came to four teams that made the tournament field.

The Gamecocks scored only nine goals in their nine matches after a 12-0 rout of Alabama State. They went 2-6-1 in those matches.

They needed Sunday's game in the worst way. They entered the day tied with Eastern Illinois for the final spot in the tournament -- and had the head-to-head tiebreaker -- but EIU won its match to bump the Gamecocks.

Senior keeper Kate Kelly made eight saves in the match and finished her career second on the JSU all-time saves list (270). Kelly and fellow seniors Elsa Kurlychek and Kristi Pereira were recognized in pregame ceremonies.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Packing heat

The JSU baseball team has been going through its fall practice and it appears junior pitcher Ben Tootle hasn't missed a beat from his summer experience in the Cape Cod League.

Tootle regularly threw in the high 90s as a reliever on the Cape, occassionally topping 100, and shows no signs of slowing down with the Gamecocks. Because of that velocity and control, Tootle is considered one of the top pro prospects in the country this spring.

Asked how fast the Oxford product was throwing this fall, one insider said, "As hard as you can get in two digits on the gun."

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hoops: Reinhardt an exhibition

Jacksonville State has designated its Dec. 13 basketball game with Reinhardt as an exhibition.

It gives the Gamecocks two non-counting games among their four non-Division I opponents, and brings them in compliance with the OVC's new basketball enrichment policy that allows only two games against non-Division I teams in the regular season.

The Gamecocks' home opener is against Division II West Alabama and they have a game with NAIA Berry College Dec. 30. They play a preseason exhibition against Division II West Georgia Nov. 5.

Berry and Reinhardt are both counting their JSU games as exhibitions that won't count on their records.

There are no immediate plans to find a replacement counting game for Reinhardt – "We’re not going to Washington State," JSU coach James Green joked -- but Green said he would take a game if it fit into a good date on the schedule or helped the program financially or otherwise.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Making it work

The Gamecocks may have had only two days to prepare for their big game at Tennessee-Martin Thursday night, but they were determined to get in as much work as possible.

The Skyhawks have had a full week to prepare, having played their last game last Thursday night. The Gamecocks are coming off a 31-21 win over Murray State Saturday.

Normally, JSU would have plenty of time to recover and game plan. Not this week, thanks to ESPNU.

But that's not stopping the Gamecocks from trying get a full week of practice in.

They practiced Sunday night. They practiced Monday night. They're going to practice Tuesday, then leave for Martin in the evening.

They'll stop in Nashville overnight, then practice Wednesday -- in an undisclosed location with an artificial turf surface -- before continuing on to Martin.

"We're going to get our fourth practice in," JSU coach Jack Crowe promised. "We're going to have four practices."

As important as the game is to both teams, every bit helps.

Even if it comes at an accelerated rate.

"It's just a lot faster, everything, instead of being spread out," tackle Curt Porter said. "This week, it's really fast. Everything's back to back to back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Not just a Face In the Crowd

JSU volleyball player Brittney Whitten is featured in this week's Sports Illustrated for becoming only the second player in OVC history to win Offensive and Defensive Players of the Week in the same week. She did it the week of Sept. 22. Whitten is featured in the Faces in the Crowd section.

The Gamecocks are 6-14 overall, 2-7 in the OVC, and fighting for their playoff lives. They have lost four in a row in the league and are currently tied for eighth with Eastern Kentucky, two games out of the sixth and final playoff spot, with nine to play. They play at second place Tennessee Tech Saturday.

The Gamecocks have won the OVC regular season the last two years and gone to the NCAA Tournament two of the last three years.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's basketball season

It won't be Midnight Madness, but both Jacksonville State basketball teams open practice Friday night.

JSU officials said the men's team will practice in the Annex at 7 p.m., while the women's team will go in Pete Mathews Coliseum at the same time. There will be no formal tip-off celebrations at either.

Then, to drum up interest off Saturday's Homecoming festivities, the men's team will hold an open practice at 11:30 a.m. in the Coliseum.

The JSU men, under the direction of new coach James Green, were picked a distant 10th in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason poll. The JSU women's team, coached by Becky Geyer, was picked fifth in its OVC preseason poll.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hallford hurting

JACKSONVILLE — Gavin Hallford’s sore right leg has JSU coach Jack Crowe contemplating going back to the drawing board when it comes to kickoffs.
The Gamecocks used all three kickers to do the job Saturday. They’re reluctant to have punter Zach Walden in the spot because it hurts his effectiveness there, but freshman Al Chamanzad hasn’t been an effective option and opponents have enjoyed good field position.
“I don’t know where we’re going with that,” Crowe said. “We may have to go back to the players. We’re going to look at a possibility we haven’t seen yet. There hasn’t been anybody (else) working it.”
Crowe said he was swayed by Hallford’s insistence he was ready when he sent the kicker to attempt a 50-yard field goal in the third quarter — after he had been relieved of kicking off. The attempt was low, ending a string of seven consecutive makes.
“I’ve got to quit talking to Gavin; if I say ‘Can you jump over the Empire State Building?,’ he’d say he could,” Crowe said. “I don’t think he needed to be kicking that.”
• IVORY WILL BE AVAILABLE SOON: The Gamecocks were reluctant to use backup quarterback Marques Ivory Saturday night, but Crowe said the freshman should be available this week.
Ivory had been experiencing what Crowe called an “elbow issue,” but went into the game with 3:01 left and played in JSU’s final two possessions. Crowe said it’s “highly probable” the cycle of exercise and medication will give the quarterback a chance to be ready this week.
“We need him to be ready to play,” Crowe said.
— Al Muskewitz

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Board to hear about stadium project

The Jacksonville State board of trustees will meet this morning to get an update on the Paul Snow Stadium/dormitory project. Money and manure are expected to be the major topics.
The school is looking to expand the stadium’s seating capacity to accommodate a possible move to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The renovation also is to include space for 400 dorm rooms as the school moves closer to its goal of 10,000 students.
University president Bill Meehan told the faculty senate Monday the project now is likely to cost around $40 million, about an $8 million increase in the initial estimate.
He called the figure “doable.”
Another potential snag is the fact Jacksonville’s city sewage system isn’t likely to be capable of handling the increased waste.
“I don’t think any problem is insurmountable,” board president Jim Bennett said Thursday.
The biggest problem, however, may be funding. A recent study indicated that many favored the idea of expanding the stadium, but a majority of respondents were not in favor of paying for it.
“If you looked at the marketing study, I don’t know who’s going to pay for it; the way they’re going to come up with this money,” faculty senator Paul Beezley said. “The dorm need to be built, there’s no doubt about that … but I feel like we’re being told we can’t have one without the other.
“The marketing study said 57 percent of the people supported it, but practically nobody talked about giving money or expressing an issue in doing it. It appears it’s widely held that this is a vanity project and it’s designed specifically so that when the (NCAA) moratorium is over we can move up. It’s al being driven by moving up.”
University officials continue to maintain the improvement to their athletic facilities will occur whether the school decides to move the football program up or not.
Despite all the mixed signals, Bennett is confident the project will become a reality.
“This project is a go from the outset,” Bennett said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Polling: It's curiouser and curiouser

What do the coaches know that the media doesn’t? The Gamecocks haven’t cracked either of the two major Football Championship Subdivision polls yet, but there’s something curious if you look at them closely.

Eastern Illinois remains the only Ohio Valley Conference teams in both polls — No. 22 in The Sports Network’s poll of media and publicists and No. 20 in the coaches poll.

But here’s the curiosity: Undefeated Tennessee State is No. 25 in the TSN poll, while Jax State is the next OVC team receiving votes (49 points). In the coaches poll, however, the Gamecocks hold a nine-point edge over TSU (19-10) among “others receiving votes.”

Apparently, going 3-0 against the struggling SWAC doesn’t hold much weight with the coaches.

It doesn’t matter much anyway. The best team in the OVC will be decided on the field, right now it seems in JSU’s first and last conference games of the season.

The Gamecocks open their OVC schedule next week at Eastern Illinois – once again making their conference opener a veritable elimination game for the league title – and wrap it up at home Nov. 15 against TSU.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

A running problem

The old saying goes misery loves company. Well, Jacksonville State and Alabama A&M may be able to commiserate after Saturday night's game.

Looks like the Bulldogs are having just as much trouble on the ground as the Gamecocks are ...

Here's the story

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Game time decisions

Pregame notes were distributed in the press box at Bobby Dodd Stadium and JSU's injury update took up the bulk of the early notices.

It previously was reported receiver James Wilkerson and running back Tremayne Coger would be out of the game for injuries. Anthony Jones will start in place of Wilkerson, with John Houston Whiddon as the backup. Daniel Jackson, last year's leading rusher, will start in place of Coger, with Drec Lindley as the backup.

Not altogether surprising department, left guard Matt Washington will not start and fullback Ronald Murray is out. Freshman Matt Jones will start in Washington's place, but Washington is listed as the backup. Alphonso Freeney will start in Murray's place. Calvin Middleton is the backup fullback.

Gavin Hallford seemed to be kicking well enough the ball in pregame despite being hampered by a groin injury in camp that limited his ability to scrimmage. Look for Hallford to handle the placements tonight, but punter Zach Walden will do the kickoffs and freshman Al Chamazad might even be called into action.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

What are they waiting for?

What is the Jacksonville State basketball program waiting for? School to start? New athletics director Oval Jaynes to officially take over (he's already said to have had meetings with some coaches)? Midnight Madness?

It's been months since James Green has been named the program's head coach, and you know the staff has been working, but there's been no formal word on signees, a schedule, a contract.

So much time has passed since the hiring announcement that they've already killed any initial excitement toward the program and with the football opener Thursday night interest now will be cursory at best.

There have been snippets of info, like the four major-college guarantee games the Gamecocks are expected to play (UAB, Iowa State, South Carolina and UMass), but whenever it does come out, this will be the latest their complete schedule has ever been released.

When inquiries about Green's contract has been made, high ranking university officials have said at various times (a) it would be available in the library when completed, (b) was expected to be available the Tuesday after the last board of trustees meeting, (c) is still in draft form. The only new contracts in the library file are those of soccer coach Julie Davis and women's basketball coach Becky Geyer.

As for the signees, there was a mid-summer announcement about the transfer of Nebraska's Jay-R Strowbridge, but he won't be available to play until 2009-2010. The roster on the website does list four new names -- freshman guard John Barnes of Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; freshman forward Brandon Crawford of Montgomery; early signee Stephen Hall, a freshman forward from Birmingham; and Geddes Robinson, a redshirt freshman forward from the Bronx.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Davis: No disappointments

The JSU women's soccer team just finished an evening's outing against Mexico's Under-20 Women's National Team.

The Gamecocks lost the exhibition 5-1, falling behind 5-0 before scoring with less than 15 minutes to play.

Despite the final score, JSU coach Julie Davis and her players found a number of things to be positive about. For one, the game drew an estimated crowd of 500, and Davis was pleased with the "wonderful" atmosphere.

The Gamecocks played their advanced visitors even for 35 minutes. And, perhaps most important of all, their youthful roster of 10 newcomers and 15 freshmen and sophomores gained valuable experience.

"We had a huge freshman class come in and we got them experience," senior goal keeper Kate Kelly said. "This was a once-in-a-lifetime (experience); they got all their nerves out of this game.

"To play an international match, really, and have freshmen who have never played at this level come in, that's the most important thing, the exposure we got and the experience those freshmen got.

"For those freshmen to get this under their belt, we're going to go into every game saying, 'Well, look what we did against Mexico.'"

There was a negative side to the evening, though. The Gamecocks lost junior defenders Trista Munster and Amber DeLaney to knee and leg injuries and it may not be until later in the week before they discover the extent of the injuries.

"That really hurt us," Davis said. "Now that's going to really test some of our other newcomers who didn't get as much playing time, to train them with some pressure to have to step up because there's a potential possibility those injuries might be extended."

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Rare opportunity

TUSCALOOSA - Jana McGinnis asked and answered the question is the same breath.
How big is it for Jacksonville State - not just the softball program, but the entire university - that the Gamecocks were in the regional final on ESPN2? Huge.
Indeed. Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, it was a win-win situation for McGinnis' program and the entire Gamecock Nation.
They could never buy the kind of nationwide exposure the cable network gave it Saturday night.
No doubt, the network people were here for Alabama -- and were probably a little disappointed they lost the Florida State demographic in the final -- but that ought not mean the Gamecocks shouldn't take advantage of the ride.
As it was, it was the first time softball was on any kind of television other than local TV-24. And if you take away football, it was the first time any JSU sport has been on something national other than ESPNU.

In the big time

TUSCALOOSA - Jana McGinnis asked and answered the question is the same breath.
How big is it for Jacksonville State - not just the softball program, but the entire university - that the Gamecocks were in the regional final on ESPN2? Huge.
Indeed. Regardless of the outcome of Saturday's game, it was a win-win situation for McGinnis' program and the entire Gamecock Nation.
They could never buy the kind of nationwide exposure the cable network gave it Saturday night.
No doubt, the network people were here for Alabama -- and were probably a little disappointed they lost the Florida State demographic in the final -- but that ought not mean the Gamecocks shouldn't take advantage of the ride.
As it was, it was the first time softball was on any kind of television other than local TV-24. And if you take away football, it was the first time any JSU sport has been on something national other than ESPNU.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Women's hoops doings

Jacksonville State women’s basketball coach Becky Geyer has found her three assistants to replace the ones that left earlier this spring, but apparently it will be a while before the school makes a release on their identities.

They're not yet working, and still have some process to complete before becoming "official.".

Speaking of women’s basketball, did you see where former JSU assistant Marcus Reilly recently got the Rhode Island women’s head coaching job.

And also on the former Gamecocks front, ex-women’s coach Dave Dagostino (West Virginia assistant) will take a team that includes former players Ashley Boykin (UAH), Tonya McKinney (UAH) and Christina Gordon (Brown) on a goodwill tour of the Caribbean. Former JSU player Cobie Carlisle will serve as his assistant.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Closing in on history

Maybe she’s superstitious, or didn’t want to draw attention to it, but JSU softball coach Jana McGinnis a couple weeks ago really didn’t want to talk about the milestones she could achieve as early as next week.

Now, it’s too close to ignore.

McGinnis is within five victories of 500 for her coaching career and three games of coaching in the 1,000th game in the program’s history.

McGinnis can reach career No. 500 as early as the third game of next weekend’s series at Morehead State. Game No. 1,000 in JSU’s history would take place in the series opener.

The Gamecocks complete their series with Eastern Kentucky today, then play Samford in a single game before heading out to Morehead.

If it doesn’t happen this week, her next chance at history could be an April 15 home doubleheader against Middle Tennessee.

By the way, betcha didn’t know the Gamecocks are one of only three Division I programs in the country where the head coach and fulltime assistants – in this case McGinnis, Mark Wisener and Julie Boland -- are all alums of the school they’re coaching.

The other two are UCLA and South Florida.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

College baseball hot stove

Keep an eye out on the college baseball scene the next couple months -- and we're not talking about anything that goes on between the white lines.

Mississippi State baseball coach Ron Polk, the winningest coach in the Southeastern Conference, is resigning effective at the end of the season, it was announced earlier today.

There was no immediate word on any successors, but you can bet plenty of names will surface -- especially with the stable of assistants Polk has sent into the head coaching ranks over the years.

No doubt, Jacksonville State coach Jim Case’s name will be among them. Case had two stints as an assistant at MSU – 1984-86 and 1998-2001.

His JSU contract runs to June 30, 2011. It includes a buyout clause of three month’s salary prior to December 2008, but none after that date.

And he may terminate the contract at any time to take an SEC job.

Polk is in his 29th year at MSU and 35th overall as a head coach. His 1,360 career wins ranks among the nation’s top 10 and fifth on the active list.

Willett on leaderboard

It's 10 a.m. in Alabama, the Golf Channel is showing the European Tour on TV and a familiar name is on the leaderboard.

Former Jacksonville State golfer Danny Willett is tied for the lead in the Andalusia Open in Spain with Lee Westwood and former Alabama player Jan-Are Larsen. They were all at 6-under.

Flip over to the European Tour Website and it will tell you the round is over with Westwood at 7-under and Willett and Larsen tied for second at 6-under.

"That's great, that's great, that's great," JSU golf coach James Hobbs said.

The Golf Channel will continue its coverage of the tournament throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Somebody's always talking

According to the chairman of the search committee charged with reviewing applicants for Jax State's men's basketball coaching vacancy, the interview part of the process isn't set to start until Friday's meeting at the earliest. That's when the committee is expected to pare the field to about 5 to 7 candidates and begin preliminary telephone interviews.

According to a story in the Pine Bluff, Ark., newspaper, there might be some talks already going on behind those scenes. It seems former Arkansas State coach Dickey Nutt has "interviewed" for the JSU job already.

“Right now, the single most important thing is that I’m unemployed,” Nutt was quoted as saying in the Pine Bluff Commercial. “It’s a difficult time, there’s no question about that. I’ve been a coach for 25 years now and all of a sudden you’re unemployed now. It’s different. I believe that maybe there’s a plan out there somewhere. I’m weighing all of my options. I don’t feel like I’m above anyone.”

Here's a link to the story that references that "interview".

Makes you wonder if Montevallo coach Danny Young really hasn't been offered the job already, as been rumored on a coaching rumor website (and denied by him and JSU officials).

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Strikingly sharp

There's no telling what's going to happen in the rest of the game, but for the first inning at least it was easy to tell JSU righthander Nick Hetland was hitting his spots.

Even though he gave up a run in the first inning Saturday against Murray State, all 19 pitches Hetland threw in the inning went for strikes.

His first four pitches in the second were for a strike, too. That's 23 in a row. He didn't throw his first ball until the second pitch to Daniel Miller in the second inning, then came back and threw a strike.

He wound up with 28 strikes in his first 29 pitches. Check out Sunday's Star to learn if he stayed sharp or became a hard-luck loser (he trailed 3-0 after his first three innings).

Murray's Mike Perconte was sharp, too. He threw eight pitches in the first and five of those were for strikes.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Basketball boost or bust

Bravo for the Ohio Valley Conference for trying to enhance its basketball profile, but there’s a very real application in the solution that could negatively impact what league officials are trying to accomplish.

The OVC presidents approved Wednesday a basketball enrichment plan that affects the way teams will be able to schedule in the future. It goes into effect beginning in the 2009-10 season, obviously taking into account existing contracts for the upcoming season.

The plan calls for reducing the number of guarantee games to a maximum of two per season, allowing teams to play as many non-Division I games as they play guarantees, and play a minimum of half their non-OVC games at home (neutral site games not included).

To satisfy that plan, Jacksonville State could play Tennessee, Temple and Tennessee Temple twice or it could schedule Tennessee or Temple and Tennessee Temple. But the days of Tennessee State or anyone else playing four or more guarantee games are no more.

Back when JSU was in the TAAC/Atlantic Sun, Florida Atlantic once played its entire non-conference schedule in guarantee games.

If the purpose of the OVC's plan is to enhance the league’s basketball RPI -- it was the 29th-rated conference (of 32) this week -- limiting the number of games against the power conferences that it has little chance of winning is a good thing, but knowing coaches as we do, what’s likely to happen is teams will trade those high-major slots with winnable games against teams behind them in the RPI.

For Jax State, which is No. 339 (of 341) this week, that would be a difficult proposition, but you get the idea. It may help them get more games, though.

Other mid-major conferences have tried in the past to put safeguards in place to prevent that kind of thing, but there are no RPI minimums in place in the OVC’s plan. Final decisions on whether institutions are in compliance will be made by commissioner Jon Steinbrecher. Compliance with the plan will be tied to the league’s revenue-sharing program.

“I applaud our membership for their willingness to commit to systemic changes that should enhance our opportunity to succeed,” Steinbrecher said in a statement. “This shows that the OVC membership is not satisfied with the status quo. The basketball enrichment plan is part of a series of strategic decisions intended to enhance the Conference’s basketball programs.”

Monday, February 11, 2008

Alexandria native scores OVC honor

If anybody saw Allie Barker hit in high school, you had the feeling that it was only a matter of time before her bat went wild in college.

This weekend it did, in a big way.

Barker, a 5-foot-8-inch native of Alexandria, hit .308 with a pair of homers, 6 RBI and two runs scored in helping guide the Gamecocks (2-2) to a pair of splits at the Hampton Inn Bama Bash in Tuscaloosa.

The junior hit the first grand slam of her career in the season opener against Purdue. So added a solo homer later in the weekend.

Barker and the Gamecocks will make their home debut on Tuesday, when they host UAB in a doubleheader at 4 p.m. at University Field. Admission is free for all fans.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Walk D overseas

Looks like former Jacksonville State standout basketball player Walker Russell Jr. (that's him pictured right) is heading to Spain.

According to the Journal Gazette in Fort Wayne, Ind., the guard has left the NBA's Developmental League (NBDL) to pursue the European dream.

He didn't get Walk D on the phone, but you can read the story here.

This all comes on the heels of this ... After two impressive performances this week, Fort Wayne Mad Ants' forward Sammy Mejia and point guard Walker Russell Jr. were named to the 2008 NBA D-League Showcase Honorable Mention Team.

In our quest to keep you, the reader, informed, I continued to search the internet for information. I found a Web site that had a story, only problem was it was in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish too well, despite spending the better half of my college career trying to learn it.

However, does this thing where it automatically translates the article for you. Below is the translation:

Walker Russell Jr arrives at MMT Students from the airborne magnetic detection Ants de Fort Wayne, equipment of the league of development of the NBA, the NBDL.

With this equipment it has divided equally 14.5 points, 2.8 bounces and 4.8 attendances by party. Russell Jr, bases of 1´83 been born the 6 of October of 1982, had begun the season forming part of the group of the New York Knicks of the NBA after to have convinced in the summer league, but it did not materialize in this tax exemption. One formed in the University of Jacksonville State, that disputes in Division I of the NCAA, the American university league.

In this equipment it played four seasons good level, something that the fact that demonstrates it continues being the player of Jacksonville State with more points (1.182), attendances (590), better percentage of shots free (84,2%) and divided played like titling (83) since they play in that category. After being chosen by any tax exemption of the NBA in draft of 2006 it did not prove in the leagues of summer of this league to obtain his first professional contract in the equipment Fort Worth Flyers of the NBDL, with which it divided equally 5.6 points and 3.6 attendances in 15 parties.

From there, that same campaign, marched to a destiny so little habitual as the Czech Republic, enlisting itself in the rows of the CEZ Nymburk, the present champion of the Czech league.

Walker Russell Jr is son of the player of the same name that played in the NBA in years 80 in the rows of equipment like Detroit Pistons, with Adrian Dantley, John Salley, Thomas, Dumars, Laimbeer... in which was the famous roots of "the Bad Boys".

In fact it even conserves good relation with Isiah Thomas, to whom it helps in the workings of ojeador for the New York Knicks. After passing the pertinent medical examination with the medical services of MMT Students, Walker Russell Jr will be to disposition of Velimir Perasovic to train with its companions and power to make debut if it needs in the party of the next Sunday before AXA FC Barcelona.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Volleyball's European Vacation

The Jacksonville State volleyball team’s European Vacation is getting closer to becoming a reality. As close as it can be without actually having tickets in hand.

That’s the next step.

The Gamecocks’ trip of a lifetime has them visiting six cities in four countries over 13 days in May. They are scheduled to visit Prague; Vienna; Maribor, Slovenia; and three cities in Italy, including Venice and Rome.

"We’ve very close," JSU coach Rick Nold said. "I’m getting ready to buy the tickets; once you get them, you’re going.

"We’ve still got a ways to go to get it the absolute right way. If you’re doing it one time, you want to do it right. It’s just a matter of getting the final piece of the puzzle together." But they're going."

The trip is a reward for the program’s two straight OVC regular-season titles and two NCAA Tournament appearances.

It will be part volleyball, part life experience and part career planning. All-American Abbey Breit and Rebekah Nichols (Oxford) both are interested in playing professionally in Europe, and if the Gamecocks can put together the right package, trip organizers can get them in front of more of the right people.

"I'm kind of excited," said Nichols, who has international experience having played before in Australia. "I'm really interested to see how all the younger ones do."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Softball by the numbers: 2, 500, 1,000

The Jacksonville State softball team was picked a familiar second in the Ohio Valley Conference preseason coaches poll released Wednesday.

The Gamecocks, who've finished second each of the last two years, may not be picked to win the league, but it promises to be a year of milestones nonetheless.

The program will play its 1,000th all-time game this season and coach Jana McGinnis could post her 500th victory.

The Gamecocks, who started softball in 1988, have an all-time softball record of 575-391. At the earliest, Game No. 1,000 would come in Game 34 – at home in the final game of the UT-Martin series, March 22.

McGinnis needs only 27 victories for No. 500, and if it doesn’t happen, the Gamecocks will have suffered their worst season in a number of years. The team has won at least 33 games each of the last six years.

The Gamecocks may have lost slugger Daniela Pappano, but they do return five All-OVC players among their seven returning starters and four pitchers from last year’s 35-23 team. Among the returnees is senior outfielder Rachel Flemming, who led the OVC in stolen bases last year (12), while ranking among the league’s best in hitting (.357), hits (66) and runs (42).

As for the OVC poll, the Gamecocks picked up two first-place votes and 71 points — eight shy of favored Tennessee Tech.

The Golden Eagles, who picked up the other eight first-place votes, picked up their fifth OVC regular-season title and sixth conference tournament crown last year. They also became the first OVC team since 2002 to win a game in the NCAA Tournament, beating Alabama and Cal before losing twice to the Crimson Tide.

Here’s the poll: 1. Tennessee Tech (79), 2. Jax State (71), 3. Eastern Kentucky (60), 4. Samford (58), 5. UT Martin (46), 6. Southeast Missouri (40), 7. Tennessee State (36), 8. Eastern lllinois (27), 9. Austin Peay (23), 10. Morehead State (10).

Fan Day for JSU softball is Super Bowl Sunday -- for the second year in a row -- Feb. 3. It'll run from 2-4 p.m., plenty of time to get back home to watch the big game

Monday, January 21, 2008

10 is OK, fewer games better

No one knows if expansion in the Ohio Valley Conference is imminent except the commissioner – and he says it’s not, but the league’s basketball coaches are for anything that keeps them from beating each other up.

Last week, the OVC presidents unanimously voted to take the football playing component off the table for any prospective new members.

Generally speaking, the coaches were encouraged by the presidents’ decision for what it could mean for the future of the league, but they’re equally comfortable with the upcoming 10-team alignment.

"The fewer games we play in the league … from a basketball perspective, I think that is better," Eastern Kentucky coach Jeff Neubauer said on Monday’s coaches teleconference. "I don’t think we have any problem with having 10 teams in the conference.

"In a I-A conference, having football is probably an important thing; here in I-AA where it’s not the moneymaker it is at I-A, I think it makes sense to get rid of that requirement for the OVC. I think having a 10-team league does make more sense, so there’s probably not a need for expansion at this time."

With 11 teams in the league, the OVC currently plays a 20-game double round-robin schedule. When Samford moves out next year, that drops to a more favorable 18 games.

If the OVC were to expand -- two makes the most sense -- it would set the stage for divisional play and a 16-game slate.

While that would ramp up the pressure for coaches to find additional non-conference games, it would also -- the coaches believe -- do wonders for the conference's reputation outside the league.

The coaches espouse the balance in the league, but outsiders see only the conference's won-loss record and its No. 30 billing in the RPI among 32 conferences and independents. John Moriello lists the OVC No. 6 on his "Bottom 10" feature because it has the bottom two teams in the RPI.

"I know the commissioner and the presidents and everyone are looking out for what the best interests of the league would be, and we all respect that and trust in that as well," Eastern Illinois coach Mike Miller said. "I think the only thing from a basketball perspective is what way we can go about this where we keep our league games down.

"… The less conference games that we play in the OVC, I think you will see non-conference records improve. Not that it’s different, just that you can build a schedule early and balance that out a little bit better than what we’ve been able to playing four or maybe five games before Christmas; build your team up a little bit before you get into the most important part of your schedule, which is your league play."