Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Gamecocks hot from the line

Talk about your big-time turnarounds.

Two years ago, the Jacksonville State basketball team was among the worst in the country when it came to shooting free throws. The Gamecocks were 338 out of 341 teams in Division I. Only Wagner, Winthrop and Washington were worse.

After Tuesday night's game at Ole Miss -- where they went 11-for-11 from the line in the first half and 19-of-21 in the game -- they are among this season's best -- 13th.

JSU coach James Green suggested two reasons for the turnaround Wednesday -- recruit players who are better free throw shooters and emphasize the skill.

"I think we work on it and we try to put a little bit of pressure on guys and we constantly talk about the importance of it," Green said. "That's kind of been a deal this year where our guys understand that and our concentration level is higher. I'm really excited about that."

We'll take a look at the turnaround later this week when we preview the Gamecocks' weekend road trip to Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri. Check it out.

But for now, here's the year-by-year listing of JSU's national ranking in free throw shooting since the program went full-fledged Division I as a member of the TransAmerica Athletic Conference (remember them?):

2009-10 .765 13
2008-09 .653 T276 (with Toledo)
2007-08 .600 338
2006-07 .673 T219 (Milwaukee, Alcorn State)
2005-06 .696 T147 (Oregon St., Bucknell, St. Louis)
2004-05 .721 68
2003-04 .656 T254 (Long Island, Alabama State, Army)
2002-03 .676 T228 (SE Louisiana, Santa Clara, Binghamton)
2001-02 .681 T194 (Houston, Dayton, W. Virgina)
2000-01 .654 T252 (Milwaukee, Va. Tech, Ole Miss)
1999-00 .664 T218 (Stephen F. Austin, Winthrop, Cornell, Ga. State)
1998-99 .640 T264 (Stephen F. Austin)
1997-98 .700 T79 (Liberty, UMass, Missouri)
1996-97 .656 T209 (Iowa State, UIC, William & Mary, Buffalo)
1995-96 .721 NA

It should be noted that a good percentage at the free throw line doesn't guarantee a winning season. In the three years the Gamecocks shot .700 or better -- 2004-05, 1997-98 and 1995-96 -- they went 7-22, 12-14 and 10-17, respectively, while in their best Division I season -- 20-10 in 2002-03 -- they were .676 at the line.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Perrilloux's NFL dream on track

Things seem to be moving along well for JSU quarterback Ryan Perrilloux.

He recently accepted an invitation to play in the Feb. 6 Texas vs. The Nation all-star game in El Paso, Texas, and he's within days of signing with sports agent Bus Cook.

His only setback since the season ended was undergoing arthroscopic surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his right knee. "Nothing serious," he said. He has recovered from it and will start his training regimen for the next level in Hattiesburg, Miss. -- Cook's home base -- starting Jan. 2.

Cook, by the way, is the agent for Brett Favre and Jay Cutler, the two quarterbacks in Monday night's Vikings-Bears shootout.

Check Wednesday morning's Star for more insights from Perrilloux, who celebrates his 23rd birthday on New Year's Day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

JSU 16th in final TSN poll

As the highest ranked team not in the FCS playoffs, Jacksonville State thought it might have a chance to crack the top 10 when all the shouting was through.

It didn't happen. The Gamecocks pulled down a No. 16 ranking in the final Sports Network media poll that came out Monday.

Villanova, the national champions, was No. 1, of course, receiving all 101 first-place votes in the balloting. The Wildcats were No. 2 in the final regular season poll.

National runnerup Montana was second.

National semifinalists Appalachian State and William & Mary were third and fourth, respectively.

Richmond (11-2), the 2008 national champion, was fifth, followed by Southern Illinois, New Hampshire, South Carolina State, Elon and Stephen F. Austin.

Coming in at No. 11 was South Dakota State, followed by McNeese State, Eastern Washington, Holy Cross, Prairie View, JSU (8-3 with nowhere to go), Weber State, Northern Iowa, OVC playoff rep Eastern Illinois and Penn.

Friday, December 18, 2009

All-Decade Basketball Team

As promised, here's one man's take on JSU's All-Decade Basketball Team. With fewer spots than the football team and so many players to consider, this one could create the most debate of any, but the criteria is pretty much the same as the football -- stats, impact and postseason recognition. That's partly the reason I picked 10 guys, to take some of the pressure off a starting five.

Omar Barlett
DeAndre Bray
Courtney Bradley
Will Ginn
Brant Harriman
Jay Heard
Mike McDaniel
Poonie Richardson
Walker D. Russell
Scott Watson

As they say on TV, "Your thoughts?"

Thursday, December 17, 2009

All-Decade Football Team

Around the office they've been toying with an idea for an on-line reader poll to determine the Player of the Decade for the three universities and all the high schools The Star covers, and it got me thinking:

I've been around here covering Jacksonville State for at least that long, let's do an All-Decade Team.

Here's the one for football (basketball will come tomorrow). A couple of spots could be open for debate -- these kinds of things often are -- but this is one man's idea based on stats, impact and postseason awards.

Let me know how this stacks up with your team. If this doesn't get some replies, nobody's watching.

JSU All-Decade Football (2000-2009)

QB - Ryan Perrilloux
RB -- Rondy Rogers, Clay Green
WR -- Maurice Dupree, Taurean Rhetta
TE -- Keller Speaks
OL -- Jeremy Sullivan, Deon White, John Pettus, Rod Olds, Keith Gergel

DL -- Brandt Thomas, Mark Tibbs, Greg Green
LB -- Alexander Henderson, Lemarcus Rowell, Jonathan Crutcher, Devin Phillips
CB -- T.J. Heath, Delvin Hughley
S -- Josh Cain, Carnell Clark

P - Richie Rhodes
K - Gavin Hallford
RS - Craig Agee

I ran it past Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe, who's been here the whole decade, and he said he could do something with that kind of lineup.

"That's a salty bunch of football players, that's what that is," he said. "You wouldn't have to practice four days a week with that crowd.

"One thing in common with those guys is they all loved the game. They'd play in the street at midnight."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

JSU baseball schedule

While Jacksonville State announced its 2010 football schedule earlier in the week, the 2010 baseball schedule -- the one the Gamecocks play this season -- is still a work in progress.

There apparently is a holdup on a date with Kennesaw State.

Here are some things that are certain.

The Ohio Valley Conference games are set -- among them Tennessee Tech (April 2-3), Murray State (April 10-11), SE Missouri (April 24-25), Eastern Illinois (home May 8-9), at UT Martin (March 27-28), at Austin Peay (April 17-18), at Eastern Kentucky (May 15-16), at Morehead State (May 21-22). The OVC Tournament is set for Pringles Park in Jackson, Tenn.

The Gamecocks also will play ...

Michigan on Feb. 19 and 20 in the Texas Tech Tournament, according to Michigan's schedule ...

Auburn -- for the first time since 1994 -- on the Plains May 18 at 6:30 p.m ...

Home-and-home series with Samford (at JSU March 10, at Samford March 16) and Troy (at JSU March 2, at Troy March 23 and ...

A three-game home series with Middle Tennessee home March 5-7.

JSU's Heath makes All-America squad

Jacksonville State junior cornerback T.J. Heath was picked to the second team of the FCS All-American Team announced by The Associated Press Wednesday.

Heath was among the national leaders in interceptions with six and returned two of the three picks he had against UT-Martin for touchdowns. He also had 34 tackles and 10 break-ups.

He was the only JSU player on any of the three teams.

Here's the complete team

Quarterback — Armanti Edwards, senior, 6-foot, 185 pounds, Appalachian State.
Running backs — Deji Karim, senior, 5-11, 205, Southern Illinois; Pat Paschall, senior, 6-0, 198, North Dakota State.
Linemen — Derek Hardman, senior, 6-6, 300, Eastern Kentucky; Matt McCraken, senior, 6-3, 300, Richmond; Vladimir Ducasse, senior, 6-5, 330, Massachusetts; Jeff Hansen, senior, 6-4, 292, Montana State; Kyle Mutcher, senior, 6-3, 300, Weber State.
Tight end — Clay Harbor, senior, 6-4, 243, Missouri State.
Wide receivers — Terrell Hudgins, senior, 6-2, 235, Elon; Marc Mariani, senior, 6-0, 185, Montana.
All-purpose player — Matt Szczur, junior, 5-11, 195, Villanova.
Kicker — Matt Bevins, sophomore, 6-2, 185, Liberty.
Linemen — James Ruffin, senior, 6-4, 265, Northern Iowa; Arthur Moats, senior, 6-2, 250, James Madison; Austen Lane, senior, 6-6, 250, Murray State; Dane Fletcher, senior, 6-2, 242, Montana State.
Linebackers — Brandin Jordan, senior, 5-11, 230, Southern Illinois; J.C. Sherritt, junior, 5-10, 220, Eastern Washington; Mike Morales, senior, 6-0, 230, UC Davis.
Backs — Terrell Whitehead, senior, 6-2, 200, Norfolk State; Mark Legree, junior, 6-0, 200, Appalachian State; Jeromy Miles, senior, 6-2, 215, Massachusetts; Josh Morris, senior, 6-0, 180, Weber State.
Punter — Jonathan Plisco, freshman, 6-0, 200, Old Dominion.

Quarterback — Dominic Randolph, senior, Holy Cross.
Running backs — Chase Reynolds, junior, Montana; Toddrick Pendland, senior, McNeese State.
Linemen — Benjamin Ijalana, junior, Villanova; Mario Acitelli, senior, Appalachian State; Johnny Culbreath, junior, South Carolina State; James Williams, senior, Harvard; Austin Steichen, senior, Northern Iowa.
Tight end — Scott Sicko, senior, New Hampshire.
Wide receivers — Tysson Poots, junior, Southern Utah; Buddy Farnham, senior, Brown.
All-purpose player — LeRoy Vann, senior, Florida A&M.
Kicker — Craig Camay, senior, Chattanooga.
Linemen — Danny Batten, senior, South Dakota State; Tim Knicky, senior, Stephen F. Austin; Adrian Tracy, senior, William & Mary; Larry Hart, senior, Central Arkansas.
Linebackers — Matt Cohen, senior, Lehigh; Tyler Santucci, senior, Stony Brook; George Howard, senior, Morgan State.
Backs — Charles Graves, senior, Delaware; Jason House, junior, Southern; Patrick Stoudamire, senior, Western Illinois; T.J. Heath, junior, Jacksonville State.
Punter — Jon Vanderwielen, senior, Idaho State.

Quarterback — Matt Nichols, senior, Eastern Washington.
Running backs — James Mallory, senior, Central Connecticut; Kyle Minett, junior, South Dakota State.
Linemen — Dorian Brooks, senior, James Madison; Will Rackley, senior, Lehigh; Levi Horn, senior, Montana; Joe Gibbs, senior, Tennessee-Martin; Austin Howard, senior, Northern Iowa.
Tight end — John Sheffield, senior, Yale.
Wide receivers — Jason Caldwell, senior, Fordham; Juamorris Stewart, senior, Southern.
All-purpose player — Taiwan Jones, sophomore, Eastern Washington.
Kicker — Zach Kutch, senior, Illinois State.
Linemen — Christian Anthony, senior, Grambling State; Tim Kukucka, senior, Villanova; Josh Beard, senior, Chattanooga; Mychal Savage, senior, Youngstown State.
Linebackers — Wes McDermott, sophomore, Morehead State; Jake Lewko, senior, Penn; Jacque Roman, senior, Appalachian State.
Backs — Anthony Beck, senior, Prairie View A&M; Justin Rogers, junior, Richmond; Korey Lindsey, junior, Southern Illinois; Josh Norman, sophomore, Coastal Carolina.
Punter — Jahmal Blanchard, senior, Hampton.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

EKU game times moved

To avoid the conflict of playing a home basketball doubleheader against the BCS National Championship Game between Alabama and Texas, Jacksonville State officials have moved the start times of their Jan. 7 games to earlier in the day.

The Gamecocks play Eastern Kentucky on that date and the appeal of Alabama football to so many people was expected to impact the crowd.

The women's game now is set for 3 p.m., while the men will follow at 5:30 p.m.

The Gamecocks have played games on the night of the National Championship Game before, but never was one of the state's two major programs involved.

Check Wednesday morning's Star for more details.

Monday, December 14, 2009

JSU's 2010 football schedule

The 2009 football season has only been in the history books about a month and already Jacksonville State has its 2010 schedule complete.

Unlike last year’s schedule, set up to accommodate the start of the Paul Snow Stadium expansion/dorm project, this year’s schedule has decidedly different look.

It starts with only one FBS opponent – opening day at Ole Miss – and has a home game in September, two home games at night and an open date during Race Weekend at Talladega Superspeedway.

Another highlight is a Sept. 18 game with fledgling Georgia State in the Georgia Dome.

Also, Tennessee State returns to the schedule after missing last year to accommodate its Classic rotation.

Here’s the schedule.

Sept. 4 -- at Ole Miss, TBA
Sept. 11 -- Chattanooga (Band Day), 6 p.m.
Sept. 18 -- at Georgia State, TBA
Sept. 25 -- at Eastern Illinois, TBA
Oct. 2 -- Murray State, 6 p.m.
Oct. 9 -- at UT-Martin, TBA
Oct. 16 -- Tennessee State, 3 p.m.
Oct. 23 -- Austin Peay (Homecoming/Family Day), 3 p.m.
Oct. 30 – OPEN
Nov. 6 -- at Eastern Kentucky, TBA
Nov. 13 -- Southeast Missouri (Preview Day), 3 p.m.
Nov. 20 -- at Tennessee Tech, TBA

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Green on BCS title game conflict, 'Do

JSU basketball coach James Green was asked for his opinion about the prospect for moving the Gamecocks' Jan. 7 OVC doubleheader with Eastern Kentucky off the same night as the BCS National Championship football game between Alabama and Texas to help their gate at Pete Mathews Coliseum.

He said any decision like that was “strictly an administrative call.” But he was passionate about what he’d do if one of JSU’s teams were involved in the big game.

“I know this,” he said. “If it were our football team or our baseball team playing for a national championship, I’d cancel the (basketball) game. That’s how I feel. If it were one of our teams, I certainly would do that, because I’m for our teams.”

The Gamecocks have played at home on nights of the national championship football game before and didn’t alter the schedule — in 2007, they played Samford that night and SU coach Jimmy Tillette is a big LSU fan — but this will be the first time the game involves Alabama.

The Gamecocks played their conference opener at home Saturday while the Tide battled Florida in the SEC Championship Game and attendance definitely was impacted.

JSU athletics director Oval Jaynes said a lot of factors go into deciding to move a game, and he can’t run his program based on what Alabama does.

It’s Green’s dream that someday he can get the JSU program to the point folks will want to watch it regardless of what’s going on in the world of sports.

“What I hope is we get this program (moving) and when the Gamecocks pick it up, there’s somebody who wants to be in here to see the excitement,” he said. “That’s what we want to get to.”

WHAT'S DOING WITH 'DO?: Senior center Amadou Mbodji returned to practice Thursday after missing several weeks with an ankle injury he suffered at Southeastern Louisiana and Green was encouraged by what he saw.

Mbodji participated in all the drills, with only a slightly noticeable limp.

"He's been doing a little bit -- jogged on it a little. rode the bike and jogged a little more and moved around a little more and did some things our athletic training staff has gotten him going a little bit," Green said. "To be honest, I was pleasantly surprised to see him be able to go through as much as he did."

The coach stopped short of saying the 6-foot-11 Senegalese shot-blocker would be able to play Saturday against NAIA Reinhardt. The hope is to have Mbodji back in action sometime before Christmas.

"We won't rush him," Green said after Saturday's win over Tennessee Tech, the Gamecocks' third straight game (and first win) without the Big Guy, "because him being a senior and wanting him to finish up in some games that are really going to matter.

"I think we can evaluate it, but I'd like to get him back before (Christmas) so he can get some rhythm back. It's a shame for him because he was starting to play pretty good ball."

Mbodji is averaging 7.0 points and 5.3 rebounds this season and has blocked six shots in four games to become the Gamecocks' all-time leading shot-blocker.

Monday, December 7, 2009

JSU goes head-to-head with Tide's national title game

Now that the football bowl schedule is set and Alabama is playing Texas for the national championship, more than a few local fans have wondered how the Tide playing in the Big Game will impact the crowd at Jacksonville State’s first home date of the new year.

The BCS National Championship Game is Jan. 7, the same night JSU plays Eastern Kentucky in a conference doubleheader.

While the rest of the world won’t stop, in this state at least the goings-on in Los Angeles that night are sure to draw more eyes (and bodies) than anything going on in Pete Mathews Coliseum. There may be more people in line at one of the concession stands at the Rose Bowl that night than there are in attendance at the JSU-EKU games.

The Gamecocks have played on the night of the national championship game before, but never when the game involved Alabama.

The Gamecocks played their conference-opener doubleheader Saturday at the same time Alabama and Florida were playing in SEC Championship Game. A quick head count recorded less than 100 on hand for the women’s game. There was slightly more for the men’s game, although the official box score listed the attendance at more than 500.

JSU athletic director Oval Jaynes said Saturday he hasn’t made any decision about moving the game to help the gate, and the way he talked, it sounded unlikely he would.

"The issue is more than going head to head with this game," he said. "There are other teams involved.

"You certainly don’t want to play Friday and Saturday back-to-back; I don’t think that’s fair. They’re on the road. That’s another day of missed classes."

The Gamecocks, who are on the road the Saturday and Monday (at Eastern Illinois and Southeast Missouri, are one of two Division I programs in the state with home basketball games that night – South Alabama entertains Western Kentucky (Troy is at Florida Atlantic).

It’s uncertain if USA has any plans to alter its game, but the bottom line at JSU seems to be this:

"I can’t run my program based on what Alabama does," Jaynes said. "It’s not fair to our kids."

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Whitten has NCAA experience

Brittney Whitten and Brooke Schumacher were sitting at a table in the back room at Jefferson's Sunday preparing to be interviewed after the JSU volleyball team had just finished watching the NCAA Tournament selection show.

Whitten is the only player on the roster with previous NCAA Tournament experience and Schumacher was asked if the Gamecocks would be relying on that insight this weekend in Tallahassee.

"Oh, thanks for more pressure, Al," Whitten said without looking up from filling in her NCAA bracket.

She was kidding, of course, but truth is the players will look to the All-OVC outside hitter for the leadership she regularly supplies.

"Brittney always has a lot to say and we always really listen to her and take it in because she's the oldest and has been here the longest and through it all," Schumacher said.

JSU coach Rick Nold knows the importance of having a player who's been through it.

"For us, it's not much different in terms of how we travel and the schedule than some of our preseason tournaments," Nold said. "But to have someone who has gone through it, she's there to answer the little questions that go with it."

Whitten said the idea she wants to impart on her teammates is the court they'll be playing on in Tully Gym is no different than the ones they've played their 33 previous matches on this season.

"Remember in 'Hoosiers' when they got to the gym and dropped the measuring tape, that's kind of what I would like to evoke in them," Whitten said. "Yes, the game has more gravity, but there's no more expected this weekend than what has been expected of us all season."

Whitten was a freshman on the 2006 team that blew through the Ohio Valley Conference and lost to San Diego in the NCAA first round at Tennessee.

"It was a little bit surreal," she recalled. "We blew through the conference and the conference tournament and the first time we were really challenged was in the NCAA Tournament.

"This year it's completely different. It means more on a personal level, but I think it means more to this team, too, because we really feel like we've gone out there and earned and then proven (winning the OVC Tournament was not a fluke). This is another step to proving the type of team we are."

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Baseball inks seven

The Jacksonville State baseball program has signed seven players for the 2011 season, including a set of twins and a Calhoun County product.

Oxford pitcher Taylor Sparks and Pelham twins Michael and Andrew Bishop will be joined by JUCO first baseman Ben Waldrip, Pelham pitcher-first baseman Trae Santos; Southside pitcher-outfielder Bradley Raulston; and Smyrna, Ga., pitcher-infielder Travis Stout.

“As we went into the recruiting process for 2011, we had some positions that we felt like would need immediate attention,” Case said in a statement released by the athletic department. “We feel very confident that we addressed our needs and we expect these young men to all have an impact within our program.”

Signees (stats are from last season)
Ben Waldrip (1B, 6-6, 225, Medford, Mass./St. Anselm College, .394, 3 HRs, 27 RBIs)
Trae Santos (RHP/1B, 6-1, 237, Pelham HS, 6-1 record, 53 Ks)
Michael Bishop (OF/1B, 6-2, 180, Pelham HS, .432, 8 HRs)
Bradley Raulston (RHP/OF, 6-1, 210, Southside HS, .347, 7 HRs, 37 RBIs, 9-2, 94 Ks)
Andrew Bishop (INF, 5-11, 175, Pelham HS, .304, 5 doubles, 13 stolen bases)
Taylor Sparks (LHP, 6-0, 175, Oxford HS, 70 Ks in 40 IP)
Travis Stout (RHP/INF, 5-10, 175, Smyrna, Ga./Holy Innocents HS, 61 Ks in 51 IP)

The signing announcement comes on the same day Case confirmed to The Star that junior pitcher Jason Zylstra has been dismissed from the team for violating team policy. Zylstra was arrested on Nov. 12 on DUI and open container charges.

The Gamecocks are awaiting word on a date with Kennesaw State before releasing their 2010 schedule. The slate is expected to include the first game with Auburn since 1994.

WBB looks for win vs. Alabama A&M

The JSU women's basketball team plays Alabama A&M tonight (Wednesday) looking for its first win of the season. Here's a capsule look at the game.

Jax State women vs. Alabama A&M
Today, 7 p.m.
Pete Mathews Coliseum, Jacksonville
Radio/TV: 91.9 FM
Records: Jax State 0-6, Alabama A&M 1-2
Series: JSU leads 13-12.

Projected starters
Jax State: 6-0 Fr. P Danielle Vaughn (6.3 ppg, 4.7 rpg); 5-8 So. G Zenobia Pitts (8.7, 4.2); 5-9 So. G Danielle Beneby (4.3, 3.0); 5-11 Fr. F Brittany Wiley (8.0, 4.2), 5-7 Fr. G Karisma Boykin (6.7, 2.5)
Alabama A&M: 5-8 Sr. G Katrich Williams (19.0, 4.0); 5-10 Jr. F Chelsea Marshall (5.0, 1.0); 5-7 So. G Whiquitta Tobar (9.0, 6.0); 6-3 Fr. C Brittney Carter (2.7, 3.7); 5-10 Sr. F Dominisha Johnson (8.3, 4.3).

Bounce passes
The Gamecocks can avoid a lot of bad things by winning tonight … They are looking to avoid their worst start since JSU started tracking game-by-game records in 1983-84; last year’s team started 0-6 … The Gamecocks have lost 10 in a row going back to last season, matching the longest slide in coach Becky Geyer’s JSU tenure and the program’s longest since a 12-game drought covering the 1984-85 (10) and 1985-86 (2) seasons … Geyer is just waiting for her team to break out. “I think we’re a great team,” she said. “The minute we turn the corner, I really can see great things happening from this team. For us, it has to start tomorrow night against Alabama A&M and we just go from there” … A&M hasn’t played since beating Stillman by 16 on Nov. 23 ... According to tonight's game notes, Geyer signed two players in the early signing period -- JeDechia Hill from Villa Rica, Ga.; and Lakeria Crowder, a point guard from Memphis.