Friday, January 30, 2009

Who you gonna call? Bracket Busters

The Bracket Buster selections will be made next week. Who would you like to see JSU paired with? Remember, there's a return home game next season (unless it gets pushed to some future date like Chattanooga has been).

Remember, too, who you want and who the Gamecocks are likely to get might not jive with the current economic climate of the nation. Chattanooga and Georgia State seemed natural fits, given the travel constraints, but New Orleans seemed a stretch.

You'd figure Davidson will get one of the ESPN TV games (and JSU wouldn't), so that matchup would appear out. But you could pick them if you want.

The 13 BracketBusters TV matchups will be announced Feb. 2, with the remaining games to follow shortly thereafter. The game time and network assignments for the TV games will be announced Feb. 9.

Here seems to be some more reasonable choices for JSU (with their current win total in parenthesis)

Bowling Green (10)
Georgia Southern (7) - my choice
UNC Wilmington (5)
Winthrop (6) - my second choice
James Madison (13)
Old Dominion (12)
Wm & Mary (6)

Respond right here.

Here's something to think about. If you're not one of the TV games, is the Bracket Buster really worth it? Those are opinions I'd really like to hear.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

TV call to impact possible JSU-FSU game

Officials within the JSU athletic department will probably know beforehand, but Feb. 6 appears to be the date the world will know if a JSU-Florida State game is happening.

That’s the date the Atlantic Coast Conference is expected to release its 2009 television package.

The key is ESPN taking the FSU-Miami game on Labor Day and that looks more and more likely. According to news reports, Miami has moved the dates for all its non-conference games, including one it has on Sept. 5, paving the way for the season-opening slot.

The other factor is FSU is supposed to play Maine on Sept. 5. The contract calls for Maine to get $450,000 if the game is played, $900,000 if it is not and no other arrangements can be made.

If the JSU-FSU game happens and JSU can get the same kind of guarantee, the Gamecocks stand to make upwards of $700,000 in game guarantees this season. They are expected to pull in the neighborhood of $200,000 from Georgia Tech and $25,000 for a trip to Nicholls State.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

New podcast up

The latest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is now available. This week Al and I discuss the continuing losing slump for both the men's and women's basketball teams. And then there's the big news for the football program: a 2012 visit to the Swamp in Gainesville, Fla., to play the current FBS chomps, er ... champs, the Florida Gators.

Click the player below to listen to this week's episode.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Geyer remembers Kay Yow

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. -- Jacksonville State women’s basketball coach Becky Geyer, like women’s coaches and players all across the country, was saddened by the news of the passing of North Carolina State coach Kay Yow.

Geyer didn’t have much interaction with Yow, who lost her battle with breast cancer Saturday, but she recalled fondly the time at last year’s Women’s Final Four when she approached the legendary coach with an autograph request for a friend.

“I thought we were best friends,” Geyer recalled of their interaction. “She’s one of those people who are really engaging and whoever comes up to her, she’s a good person and she’s going to be very engaging, and you think you’re friends. She’s just that type person, so, yeah, I was really sad to hear that news today.”

But the JSU women’s program has a little more connection to Yow than just Geyer’s encounter. The Gamecocks played at N.C. State on Dec. 29, losing 76-38.

It was a game Yow hoped to be able to coach after missing the Wolfpack’s previous game in New York, but missed because of her illness. Geyer got the sense then, talking with N.C. State associate head coach Stephanie Glance, Yow’s battle was getting tougher. On Jan. 6 the 66-year-old coach announced she would not return to the team this season, a decision she described as one of the hardest she has ever had to make.

“You know how when you talk to people you can just tell by looking in their eyes,” Geyer said. “She had just said, ‘Becky, she’s not doing well,’ and I knew that (when) she said that it was more than just not feeling well. You got that sense of urgency that she really wasn’t doing well right now. As I continued to follow the news and her continuing not to be at games, I knew it probably had to be pretty bad.”

Yow entered her 34th season as the Wolfpack’s coach this year. She is one of only three women’s coaches in Division I to coach 1,000 games at one institution and with an overall record of 737-344 is one of only six coaches to compile 700 victories. She guided her teams to 20 NCAA Tournaments, 11 trips to the Sweet 16 and one trip to the Final Four. She had 21 20-win seasons and 29 winning seasons.

Geyer reminded her players of Yow’s legacy on the trip to Raleigh, and broke the news of Yow’s passing to them hours before they played at Austin Peay.

“When we first got to North Carolina before we knew she wasn’t coming to the game, I said, ladies this is a legend in women’s basketball, not only for what she’s done for cancer research but what she’s done just to promote women’s basketball,” Geyer said. “There’s not anything you ever hear that people just don’t praise her for what she’s done on and off the court.

“We’re definitely all sad. I told the girls today on the bus and they were just really bummed. A lot of them had really hoped to get a chance to meet her when we had played there.”

Thursday, January 22, 2009

New podcast up

This week's edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. This week Al and I talk about the continuing struggles of both the men's and women's basketball squads. Plus, we talk about a much firmer outlook for the '09 football schedule and the progress on expansions at Paul Now Stadium.

Click the player below to hear this week's episode.

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Nuggets on Marshall

Here are a few nuggets from a story the Hattiesburg (Miss.) American did on early JSU basketball signee Trenton Marshall of Jones County Junior College. Marshall is currently the fifth leading scorer in the nation on the JUCO circuit (25.1) for a team that's currently 14-2.

Growing up in Garyville, La., the only organized sport Trenton Marshall played as a kid was baseball ... but Marshall never played an inning of baseball in high school. As a matter of fact, Marshall hasn't seen a single pitch since his AAU days (because) at some point, Marshall realized his talent is on the basketball court. And essentially it stemmed from boredom.

He signed with JSU early -- over Memphis, Southern Miss, LSU, Ole Miss, UAB and Mississippi State -- to get the process out of the way.

"I talked it over with (William Carey assistant coach) Scotty Fletcher and he was telling me it was best for me to get it out of the way," Marshall said. "That way I could just stay focused on the season. I guess it did me good."

Another factor in Marshall's decision to sign with Jacksonville State was the fact that former JCJC head coach Kyle Roane is an assistant under JSU coach James Green.

"Coach Roane recruited me out of high school," Marshall said. "He got me to Jones and me and him had built a pretty good relationship, so we stayed in touch. He brought me to Jones and I was successful so I just took his word that he's going to help me at Jacksonville State and make my dream come true."

Roane said with the amount of talent Marshall has, he doesn't need much help.
"I've got to give a lot of props to Trenton Marshall. He's done what he's supposed to do as far as going to class and doing what his coaches and teachers ask. Therefore, Trenton is going to have a chance to be successful.

"There's no question, right off the bat, I thought he had the chance to be a star. He's got unlimited basketball ability. His body is so physically mature, especially when he was in high school, and his basketball IQ is so high. That was the No. 1 thing that caught me, was his physical gifts and as he played, getting to see him operate and how intelligent he is at the game."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another top 10 for Willett

Former JSU golfer Danny Willett pulled down another top 10 finish in this first full year on the European Tour.

Willett finished tied for eighth at the Abu Dhabi Golf Championships, posting a final round 67 for a 72-hole total 272 (16-under-par). He tied with Sergio Garcia, the No. 2 player in the world, five shots behind winner Paul Casey.

Willett was playing with British Open and PGA champion Padraig Harrington during the final round.

He finished tied for fourth last week in South Africa and has played his last two events in 28-under par. He earned nearly 35,000 euros for his play this week and is now 28th on the money list (87,883 euros).

In checking his season stats, he ranks 37th in stroke average (69.36), tied for 26th in driving distance (297.6) and 25th in scrambles. He's tied for 67th in driving accuracy, tied for 53rd in greens in regulation, tied for 72nd in putts per GIR, and tied for 60th in total putts per round (29.3).

Just based on his play the last two weeks alone, Willett could be the most successful golfer with a Calhoun County connection since 1976 U.S. Open champion Jerry Pate.

JSU golf coach James Hobbs never doubted Willett could have the type of success on the tour he's been enjoying lately and is proud to see what his former ace has been able to do on the world stage.

"I just think it's wonderful," Hobbs said. "I'm proud for him and I'm encouraged by what he's been able to do. I think right now him doing what he's done at such a young age really speaks highly for what he's going to be able to do in the future.

"He's on a stage with all the high profile players in Europe and he's finishing in the top 10. It just speaks to what kind of talent the boy has and what kind of future the boy has at that level."

There's also a benefit to JSU for what Willett has been able to do.

"I think when you watch a European Tour event now (on The Golf Channel) and they mention Danny Willett, most of the time they will mention our name and our school and the fact he played here for two years," Hobbs said.

We're making an effort to reach Willett for a piece in the print edition hopefully this week.

Friday, January 16, 2009

New duds not a dud

Did you see the picture of Nick Murphy on the sports front of Friday’s paper? It gave you a good look of the Gamecocks’ new uniforms.

Coach James Green and point guard DeAndre Bray both like them. What do you think?

The Gamecocks got the new duds Tuesday and broke them out in Thursday night’s loss to Murray State.

They’re the third incarnation of unis in Bray’s career. The most significant style changes appear to be the black piping around the arm holes, the elimination of the solid red stripe down the pant legs in favor of two thin red ones leading to some black banding on the legs -- and no names on the back. The OVC logo now appears on the hip instead of the bottom of the pant leg, where there now appears a team logo.

“It was a little different,” Green said. “I like them.”

“I like it, (but) I miss my name on the back of it,” Bray said.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New podcast up

Thelatest edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up. This week Al and I talk about the JSU men's basketball team's split recent slide after their so-hot start, and look ahead to tonight's hamestand against Murray State. And the JSU women's team continues its struggles.

The good news for the football program is that Ryan Perrilloux is sticking around. Al says JAck Crowe hopes to take advantage of that arm while he can, teaching the roosters to fly this fall.

Click the player below to hear this week's episode.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New threads and other things

Fans attending Jacksonville State’s basketball game with Murray State Thursday night will notice the team wearing new threads.

The Gamecocks’ new uniforms just arrived, just in time for the team to play the preseason conference favorites.

No details on the look of the duds, but there is one change to note.

Geddes Robinson will wear No. 11 instead of the 32 he’s been wearing all season. He knew it was coming. He’s listed as No. 11 in the media guide.

After checking out the new uni’s Thursday night, drop a line to express what you think about them.

ITEM TWO: JSU receiver Maurice Dupree said he has an invitation to workout for NFL scouts and general managers during the run-up to the Jan. 24 Senior Bowl (he won't play in the game) and he has an invitation to play in the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Challenge in El Paso, Texas, Jan. 31.

How well he does in both those appearances will determine whether he gets an invite to the NFL Combine.

ITEM THREE: It may take a while before the Gamecocks fill the two slots currently open on their 2009 schedule. The situation, it seems, changes by the minute.

The Gamecocks need to fill spots for Chattanooga and not playing Tennessee State. Officials have gone on record saying the team will play 11 games and it won’t play any Division II or Division III teams.

“It’s a three-ring circus,” JSU coach Jack Crowe said. “It’s a lot different than it was two weeks ago. To say this is what we’re thinking or this is where it’s going, you can’t.

“You’ve got ESPN coming in shuffling games around to get their first two or three games where they want them, it’s created a different churn. There are four different scenarios today and three of them were different than they were yesterday, so why in the heck would you start talking about one.”

Monday, January 12, 2009

Big recruiting weekend ahead

The Gamecocks had only one prospect come in last weekend, but they are looking at about a dozen this weekend.

And the approach is almost Hawaii-like. They won't bring them in unless they think they can sign them.

"We try to bring them in and close them," JSU coach Jack Crowe said. "I hope five or six of those guys say it's over with."

Look for the prime targets to be another quarterback to keep the string going, kicker, running back and, of course, you can't have enough linemen.

Toe the line

Just checking the latest NCAA stats, both JSU basketball teams need to spend more time working on their free throws.

The JSU men are ranked 293 out of 330 teams in Division I with a .629 percentage. They are 56 of 88 in their four games in 2009 (1-3).

The JSU women are 325 out of 328 Division I teams with a .582 clip. They just need work on their shooting, period. They're 207 in field goal percentage (.345), and are hitting just 34 percent in their 0-5 OVC start.

Things aren't all bad.

Guard DeAndre Bray is ranked 35th in assists (5.6) and 12th in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.82). Jolie Efezokhae (95th) and Paris Hollingsworth (90th) are ranked in the top 100 in women's field goal percentage and blocked shots, respectively.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Best finish for Willett

The tournament is over and former JSU golfer Danny Willett finished tied for fourth in the Joburg Open, the best finish in his young European Tour career.

The former world No. 1 amateur birdied 17 and 18 to shoot 68 in the final round at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC and finish in a three-way tie for fourth in the European Tour/Sunshine Tour event, three shots behind winner Anders Hensen.

Willett earned 46,126 euros (and change). He is now 42nd on the European Tour Race to Dubai, that tour’s version of the FedEx Cup.

“Yeah, it was a good finish,” Willett said. “I turned in one over and not really playing very good and then tried to get it going on the back nine. I had a really good finish then down 17 and 18, so yeah, I’m quite happy.

“A top five this week gets me into next week at Abu Dhabi, which I wouldn’t have got in otherwise. I’m just trying to play well this year, keep plodding along and hopefully keep my card, so we’ll see what happens.”

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Willett in contention

It's been said on the pro tour that it takes a couple times in the breach before a player learns how to win.

Former JSU golfer Danny Willett is getting a good taste of it this week in South Africa. Willett, the one time No. 1 amateur in the world, is two shots back going into Sunday's final round of the Joburg Open in South Africa.

He was tied for the lead through 14 holes, then took bogeys on 15 and 16 at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington GC. He's two shots behind a three-way tie for the lead.

Willett shot an even-par 71 Saturday and is at 204 for the tournament.

He tees off at 3 a.m. our time Sunday. You can follow his quest for his first European Tour title on the Golf Channel Sunday morning.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Willett on the move

Former JSU golfer Danny Willett was tied for fourth after the first two rounds of this week’s Joburg Open in South Africa. He shot rounds of 67 and 66 -- 9-under-par 133 -- and was two shots behind leader David Drysdale of Scotland.

It’s Willett’s third event in his first full year on the European Tour, having earned full status by finishing fourth in the final stage of the European Tour Q-school. He’s earned 6,900 euros so far this year -- 619 on the money list -- cashing a check for a T-37 at the Alfred Dunhill Championship and missing the cut (T-99) at the South African Open in December.

He played in six events last year, including the British Open. His best finish as a pro was a T-12 at the Russian Open the following week, but he had a top 10 in Spain as an amateur.

You can catch Willett throughout the season during the European Tour telecasts on The Golf Channel.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

New arrivals

Spring semester classes at JSU started Thursday and athletic department officials confirmed junior college running back Jamal Young as the Gamecocks’ only mid-year transfer.

Former Auburn punter Patrick Tatum was not mentioned, but Tatum told The Star last month he was joining the Gamecocks and family members said Thursday they helped “move him over there” Wednesday.

Young, one of the top 20 JUCO rushers this past season, is expected to help the Gamecocks as a return specialist in the fall. The Gamecocks are said to like Tatum as a punter and kickoff man.

Tatum was going to JSU until Auburn made him an offer right before camp opened in 2007. He wound up punting that year, averaging 43.4 yards for 16 punts, but didn’t kick this season.

“When the Auburn thing came up, I just took it and ran with it,” Tatum told The Star last month. “I helped (Auburn) out. Now I think it's time to help (JSU) out."

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Clark named HM All-American

JSU safety Carnell Clark was honorable mention on The Sports Network All-American Team announced a short while ago.

There are those close to the program who believe Clark, a converted cornerback, can be an NFL draft pick. Several coaches have said he could be the best they've had. It's a belief they have shared for the last two years.

Walter Payton Award winner Armanti Edwards and Buck Buchanan Award recipient Greg Peach head up the head.

Here's the entire first team:

QB -- Armanti Edwards, Appalachian State
RB -- Herb Donaldson, Western Illinois
RB -- Rashad Jennings, Liberty
FB -- Dane Romero, Wofford
WR -- Ramses Barden, Cal Poly
WR -- John Matthews, San Diego
WR -- Andre Roberts, The Citadel
TE -- Marquez Branson, Central Arkansas
T -- Joel Bell, Furman
T -- Nick Hennessey, Colgate
G -- Colin Dow, Montana
G -- Matthew McCracken, Richmond
C -- Scott Lemn, James Madison
DE -- Jovan Belcher, Maine
DE -- Greg Peach, Eastern Washington
DT -- Chris Baker, Hampton
DT -- John Faletoese, UC Davis
LB -- Zach East, Prairie View
LB -- Jacque Roman, Appalachian State
LB -- Jason Williams, Western Illinois
LB -- Nathan Williams, Murray State
CB -- K.J. Gerard, Northern Arizona
CB -- William Middleton, Furman
S -- Colt Anderson, Montana
S -- Mark LeGree, Appalachian State
S -- Lardarius Webb, Nicholls State
Special Teams
PK -- Taylor Long, Eastern Kentucky
P - Brett Arnold, Massachusetts
KR -- Kevin Teel, Hampton
PR -- Jeremy Gilchrist, Hampton

Other OVC Players
OT Cornelius Lewis, Tennessee State (2nd); C Cecil Newton Tennessee State (3rd); S Brandon Gathof Eastern Kentucky (3rd); P Doug Spada Southeast Missouri (3rd)
RB Jarvarris Williams, Tennessee State; DE Pierre Walters, Eastern Illinois; DT Ray Williams, Tennessee-Martin; S Dontrell Miller, Tennessee-Martin.

Pitcher suing NCAA

No doubt Jacksonville State junior pitcher Ben Tootle will be keeping an eye on how this develops, or at least he should be.

The righthander from Oxford has been projected as a first-round pick in this year's draft and if he is there will be some serious contract negotiations going on. And he'll still have one year of college eligibility remaining.

Here's what The Associated Press reported Tuesday afternoon:

SANDUSKY, Ohio (AP) — One of college baseball’s top pitchers is challenging the NCAA and its rules governing agents. The lawsuit in a northern Ohio court could change how college baseball players deal with advisers and major league teams when they are drafted before their eligibility is over.

Oklahoma State pitcher Andrew Oliver was ruled ineligible by the NCAA just hours before he was to play in a tournament game last spring. The NCAA claimed advisers he had hired listened in on contract negotiations after he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins.

The NCAA allows players to hire advisers but prohibits them from contacting teams. Oliver’s attorneys argue the NCAA shouldn’t restrict a player’s right to have legal help when negotiating a big league contract.

Tootle, a consensus preseason All-American, made a big splash this summer in the Cape Cod League when he regularly hit the radar gun in the high 90s and occassionally 100. He told The Star earlier this year he wasn't going to let the early accolades affect his approach to the season or even think about the draft until the time comes.

New podcast up

The first 2009 edition of The Star's JSU Sports Podcast is up, and we're still looking for your opinion.

This week Al and I talk about the JSU men's basketball team's split of its two-game homestand, dropping a game to Eastern Illinois, then pulling it out against a Southeast Missouri State team that whittled their 21-point lead to 3 with just minutes play. Meanwhile, the struggles of the women's team continue.

Plus, we start talking about the types of teams JSU might use to fill its two open dates on the 2009 football schedule. We're still waiting to hear who specifically you'd like the Gamecocks to schedule.

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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Monday, January 5, 2009

Duhart update

In the time it took to play the JSU women's game, it was learned 6-foot sophomore center Cierra Duhart would not be returning to the Gamecocks in the second semester.

It is believed she will transfer to a smaller school closer to her Hawkinsville, Ga., home in order to facilitate her personal situation. Duhart told coach Becky Geyer of her decision Monday.

"The tough part about that is ... you lose that scoring you had expected to have and now other people have to pick it up," Geyer said. "It's been a huge adjustment for us, there's no doubt about it.

"But as we told our kids, we're all here now, this is the group here now, we don't need to say where we're at. We've just got to continue to get better and if we continue to get better, we're going to win some ballgames."

The Gamecocks also haven't had freshman guard Chase Ogden since the Tennessee Tech game. Without further comment, Geyer said Ogden was "not currently" on the team.

Ogden's career got off to a rough start. She took a shot in the nose and had to wear a faceguard early on. He played 13 minutes in three games, scoring two points, collecting three steals and dealing an assist.

Sharp eyes

There isn’t much that gets past the band.

When SEMO center Lesley Adams entered Monday night’s game, it didn’t take long for the Hard Corps pep band to notice the 6-foot-2 junior had her shorts on backwards. (You could tell because the trademark was on the rear and the OVC logo was on the right leg – unless everybody else’s was on backwards and hers was not).

And they let her know it … several times. And between their loudness and the emptiness of Pete Mathews Coliseum, you could’ve probably heard it all the way to the parking lot.

Adams’ shorts may have been reversed, but she faced the basket the right way enough times in the half to pull down five rebounds as SEMO opened a 42-24 lead on the way to what was looking like its 15th straight OVC road win.

She had them the right way in the second half. Adams entered the second half with 14:01 to play and some members of the band noticed the change immediately, but most didn't catch on until a minute in.

Still waiting

There are two players in the JSU basketball program you have yet to see this season and the longer their absence grows, the question arises whether the Gamecocks would be better off to simply redshirt both of them.

Freshman forward Brylle Kamen has yet to play for the men’s team as JSU waits for an NCAA determination on his eligibility as an international signee. No one to date has said what the hold up is – whether it’s grade correlation, international playing experience or something else -- but other players around the country in similar situations already have been cleared.

Sophomore post Cierra Duhart has yet to play for the women’s team following the early arrival of her twins and complications following their birth.

Duhart, the women’s second leading scorer and top rebounder last year, has been taking classes and was said to have done well in the fall semester all things considered, but has not been involved with basketball at all. Kamen at least has been practicing with the men’s team.

Although the decision is the athletic department’s to make, it would probably be logical at this point to go ahead and say they were going to redshirt Duhart -- giving her three more years of eligibility -- since there’s no telling when the 6-foot Georgian could be available if she did come back this year. The decision on Kamen isn’t so simple.

“We can’t necessarily say that because we don’t know what the circumstance will be when they give (the decision) to us,” JSU coach James Green said. “If they say, ‘OK,’ let’s say he’s available for the last 12 games of the season or something crazy like that but that year’s going to count against him anyway, why wouldn’t we go ahead and play him then.

“I don’t know what the circumstance may be. Not until we see that will we know. I wish we did know so we could play him. If I had that decision I would say at this particular point he’d play.”

In the meantime, Green has taken the public tack that until the Gamecocks have him, you can’t worry about how he’d fit in the plan.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Coach's son rocks

There’s more than just basketball talent on James Green’s family tree.

The Jacksonville State basketball coach’s 17-year-old son, Bryan, is a promising musician and Saturday night he put his singing talents on display for the Pete Mathews Coliseum crowd, performing the national anthem before the JSU-Eastern Illinois women’s game.

He's done the anthem many times before, but this was his JSU debut.

“I wasn’t (nervous). I’m used to it,” Bryan said. “I’m a little bit older now. I do a lot of plays and stuff at school. I’m used to the crowd.”

Bryan, a junior in high school back in New Albany, Miss., sang the anthem “a lot of times” when his father coached at Southern Miss. As an 11-year-old, he sang in front of 35,000 at a USM football game — with his father by his side. (Dad was listening in the wings Saturday night).

He sang once when his dad coached at Mississippi Valley.

There will be a lot of singing in this young man’s immediate future. He plays the role of Luminaire, the enchanted candlestick, in his school’s upcoming production of “Beauty and the Beast” — he was the scarecrow in its production of “The Wiz” — and he plans to put a gospel group together in the coming year.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Let the (OVC) games begin

James Green figures his Jacksonville State basketball team got an early leg up on most of the Ohio Valley Conference when the Gamecocks won their OVC opener on the road at Tennessee Tech last month.

But the new JSU coach knows in order to keep that edge from now on, it will be important the Gamecocks defend their home court.

The first chance comes Saturday as they get back in the OVC in earnest against Eastern Illinois at Pete Mathews Coliseum. The game starts an intense run of four games in seven days, the first two of which are at home and the first three are against teams that were picked immediately ahead of the Gamecocks in the preseason conference poll.

The Gamecocks (7-3, 1-0) won their first OVC game under Green last month when they went to Tennessee Tech and, even without leading scorer Brandon Crawford, took out the Golden Eagles, 82-66.

Not only was it a win, it was a win on the road.

“That helped, I think, because it gives us something to talk about,” Green said. “We won our first road game. Now, it’s (about) protecting our home court … And if we’re going to finish somewhere other than tenth, then we better figure out a way to defend our home court.”

When you’re picked last in the preseason poll like JSU was, you have to beat everybody in the league to prove the experts wrong. Not everybody expects the Gamecocks to finish last. At least one preseason magazine picked them to finish ahead of Eastern Kentucky, Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri.

But those are the three teams picked immediately ahead of the Gamecocks in the preseason poll and just happen to be three of the teams JSU plays on this four-game gauntlet - No. 9 EIU (Saturday), No. 8 SEMO (Monday), No. 7 EKU (Thursday).

“It’s so early in terms of having to win this particular game, and I don’t want to single a team out that we need to finish ahead of right now because we don’t know how it’s going to shake out,” Green said. “Obviously when you look at the standings, most of the time if you’re picked tenth, you’re going to kind of ignore those top three and you’re going to concentrate on those other seven and see how can I get into being in the top five out of the next seven.”

That’s where beating Tennessee Tech on the road helps them. They got a win on the road, and a win against a team picked ahead of them. Austin Peay got an even bigger jump, winning both its OVC December games on the road. No one else in the league did better than a split.

As the Gamecocks head into conference play, they will be looking for improvement in two specific areas -- offensive rebounding and changing ends of the floor.

They are currently second in the league in defensive rebounds, but only fifth when it comes to grabbing their own misses (12.5). They’re averaging only 13 second-chance points a game, 11 against their Division I opponents.

The improvement on changing ends relates to all five players getting up the floor at the same time. Once the Gamecocks get past what Green called “some nick-knack injuries”, they hope to play a rotation of eight or nine players in order to be fresher in the final five minutes of the game.

“We have a tendency to run when we think we’re going to get the ball and when we don’t, we kind of wait,“ Green said. “What happens is you eat up your shot clock. We want to put the pressure on (opponents) every time.“

Regarding the injuries, freshman forward Stephen Hall practiced Friday and Green said “chances are he will play some minutes.” Hall didn’t play in the Berry game because of a leg injury. He is averaging 7.2 points and 5.3 rebounds.

Junior forward Jacques Leeds didn’t practice Friday because of a left shoulder injury and his status for the EIU game, Green said, is “up in the air.” Leeds could show enough improvement in Saturday’s game-day practice to play.

“He has another opportunity to see what he can do,“ Green said. “If he can’t, it gets a little bit slimmer he won’t play. And if we can play without him we will, too, simply because it gives him more time to recover.”

Leeds is averaging 3.0 points and 1.8 rebounds, but had nine points and five rebounds in 16 minutes against Berry in the absence of Hall and Amadou Mbodji’s foul trouble.

Check that

You know how sometimes when you're writing a report your mind knows what it wants to put down on the paper but the thought process moves too fast for your fingers on the typewriter

That's what happened in a quote attributed to JSU football coach Jack Crowe in my story that appeared in today's print edition of The Star about the return of Gamecocks quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, and it might have caused a bit of confusion.

Let me clear things up.

One word made all the difference. It was a word in Crowe's quote related to Perrilloux's possible motivations for some of the inconsistencies -- academic and otherwise -- he had during the season.

The quote that appeared in the story had Crowe saying "it was more of (Perrilloux) thinking he wanted to come BACK instead of taking care of his business." What he actually said -- and it's in the notebook -- was "it was more him thinking he wanted to come OUT instead of taking care of his business."

See the difference.

Although Perrilloux often told the media he planned on coming back to JSU, people close to him have told The Star the quarterback was considering coming out for this year's draft. A report from the NFL Advisory Board indicated he would only be a fifth or sixth round pick if he did.

Perrilloux was on his way back to JSU Thursday night and is said to be committed to completing his degree here in two semesters.