Sunday, January 31, 2010

Staying put ... for now

It's a little after 6 p.m. Sunday and Austin Peay just beat Morehead State 56-55. Eastern Kentucky, meanwhile, is leading Tennessee State at halftime.

What does that mean? If the results of the EKU game hold, JSU and Tennessee Tech will remain tied for fifth in the OVC standings. If TSU comes back and wins, JSU, Tech and EKU will all be tied for fourth -- and the Gamecocks would have the early tiebreaker having beaten both teams earlier this year.

On the women's side, sophomore post Brittany Wiley suffered a sprained ligaments in her right knee when she fell in the SEMO game and is expected to be out one to two weeks. The JSU women are currently 10th in the OVC standings, one game out of the final OVC Tournament spot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

JSU's Farrar goes into JC Hall

JSU associate athletic director for external affairs David Farrar will join an elite group of luminaries, including former Purdue basketball coach Gene Keady, Saturday when he gets inducted into the Hutchinson Community College Quarterback Club's Hall of Fame.

Farrar, who coached HCC to its first national basketball championship in 1988, will become the 10th member of the elite Hall. The 1988 title was the first of two national titles for the program.

Farrar coached five seasons at Hutchinson from 1986 to 1991 and ranks fourth in career victories, going 137-33. He led it to three Jayhawk West championships and a pair of Region VI crowns, but the 1987-88 season was Farrar’s crowning achievement there.

HCC set a school-record in victories going 37-2, winning the Jayhawk West outright. The team beat Chipola (70-64), Shelby State (97-90) and Mattatuck (86-63) to earn a berth in the national title game, then defeated Kankakee 76-74 in the championship game.

He was named the 1988 NJCAA Coach of the Tournament as well as the 1988 Kodak Junior College Coach of the Year. After Hutchinson, Farrar was head coach at Middle Tennessee State and the University of Idaho.

"David has a background as an outstanding basketball coach," said JSU athletics director Oval Jaynes. "He's an outstanding person and we're blessed to have him here. He's been a great addition to our staff."

Jaynes said his first meeting with Farrar came when Farrar was an assistant coach at Mississippi State.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Prier on SB Watch List

The JSU softball team, already picked as the favorite to win the Ohio Valley Conference title, continues to get recognized on a national level.

The Gamecocks were just nosed out of making the top 25 in both major polls -- they were 27th in both -- and on Wednesday, first baseman Nikki Prier, the reigning OVC Player of the Year, was named among the 50 players on the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year watch list.

Prier is one of 27 seniors on the preliminary list for the ninth annual award. The list will be cut to 25 on April 7, and pared twice more before a winner will be announced prior to the start of the 2010 Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City.

Prier led the OVC in hitting (.379), doubles (20), RBIs (50) and total bases (125). She ranks second on JSU's career doubles list (51), fourth in RBIs (122) and sixth in homers (30).

JSU officials confirmed earlier in the week they were working on multi-year contracts for softball coach Jana McGinnis and volleyball coach Rick Nold.

Both coaches guided their teams to NCAA regional tournament success in their most recent seasons, McGinnis taking the softball team to the Super Regionals and Nold taking the volleyball team to its first-ever NCAA Tournament win.

When the contracts are signed, they will give the Gamecocks seven head coaches with multi-year deals -- Jack Crowe (football), James Green (basketball), Becky Geyer (women's basketball), Jim Case (baseball) and Julie Davis Carlson (soccer).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fun for everyone

All the fun Jacksonville State had Thursday night in beating Tennessee State on ESPNU extended all through the roster.

All three of the Gamecocks' walkons -- Samir Rolley, Roderick McReynolds and Jonathan Merit -- got to play, and all were on the floor for the final 48.4 seconds. All three put up a shot, with McReynolds firing up a 3, while Rolley had a rebound and Merit got a steal.

"I was happy for them and I was pleased with their effort out there, their excitement," JSU coach James Green said. "The fact it was a short period of time, it did not matter.

"I was probably as excited about those guys getting an opportunity to go in and be on national television -- hopefully their families were watching and fans were watching -- as I was for our whole team to be on."

Here's a note we'll explore later this week ---

Guard Dominique Shellman had a career-high 10 assists in the game against the Tigers and scored seven points. He now has 78 assists and 71 points this season (36 and 34 in conference games).

He went into the game one of seven players -- with a minimum of four assists per game -- to average more assists than points.

The others were James Hett, Monmouth (3.9 ppg, 5.2 apg); Julian Olubuyl, Northern Arizona (2.7, 4.0); London Warren, Dayton (3.8, 4.2); Mike Douglas, W. Michigan (3.4, 4.3); Brian Morris, Towson (2.6, 4.2); Shellman (3.8, 4.0) and Danny Smith, Morgan State (3.8, 4.0).

Discussing the future

The athletics committee of the JSU board of trustees and other administrators held a big meeting in the JSU athletic department building Thursday prior to the ESPNU-televised basketball game with Tennessee State.

The group heard a presentation from Johnny Williams, the former Troy athletic director now a private consultant, who is advising the Gamecocks in their exploration of moving to Division IA in football.

There weren't any decisions made in the meeting -- a precursor to Monday’s board of trustees meeting -- and the information according those on the scene was more of what the board has been hearing since the process began. The message coming out was just continue to lay the groundwork in the event the school wants to make the move.

Of course, the Gamecocks would absolutely need a conference to go to if such a move were to happen and the Sun Belt, now minus one team with New Orleans getting approval to pull out this summer to move to Division III, continues to be the most discussed target.

Also, the club level seats in Paul Snow Stadium went on sale to the public at tipoff of the basketball game. David Farrar, JSU’s associate AD for external affairs, said he expects all 1,026 of the club level seats will be sold before the start of next football season and projected they would sell "a couple hundred in the next 24 hours." The seats go for $500 apiece.

It's not like they were flying off the shelves at the initial offering. Through halftime of the basketball game, there were zero sold -- a lot of inquiries, but no sales.

JSU softball picked to win

JSU softball is picked to win the OVC again.

No surprise there. The Gamecocks have six returning All-OVC players, including the reigning Player of the Year and, of course, Coach of the Year.

The aim this year is to go farther, which would mean a trip to the Women's College World Series.

The Gamecocks won the OVC regular season last year, fell flat in the OVC Tournament, but won the Knoxville Regional and made it to the Super Regionals, where Alabama swept them with two no-hitters.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The 'U' will be there, will you?

The JSU basketball team puts its game under the glare of national television lights Thursday night when it plays Tennessee State in Pete Mathews Coliseum.

The game will be carried on ESPNU, starting at 6 p.m.

Gamecocks junior swingman Trenton Marshall, the OVC’s leading scorer, nodded his head in approval when asked if he was looking forward to it.

It will be the second time JSU and TSU will have played on the “U.” The Gamecocks won the last meeting 72-64 in Pete Mathews Coliseum on Jan. 30, 2007.

It was the first nationally televised game in the building’s then-32-year history. It drew an announced crowd of 4,762.

“It’s always good if you have an opportunity to play on television,” JSU coach James Green said. “Players choose places to play for a lot of reasons — facilities, the chance to play on television, winning, being a part of something that’s been special — and, obviously, any time we have a chance to do any of those, it helps us.

“Right now, with where we are in this program, we’re about trying to recruit and upgrade in every aspect that we can.”

The game marks the second straight appearance for Tennessee State on ESPNU. The Tigers lost to Austin Peay 79-77 on the network Saturday.

Georgetown game reset

JSU's women's basketball game with Georgetown, snowed out by the Blizzard of 2009, has a reschedule date. The teams will play in Washington Feb. 25 -- the Thursday before the Gamecocks' final regular season game at Tennessee Tech.

Georgetown wanted to play it in early February, but that would have kept the Gamecocks on the road virtualy a whole week. It would have come on the back end of their trip to Morehead and Eastern Kentucky.

"I basically just told them that was impossible," JSU coach Becky Geyer said. "I'm glad we made it work for this year. We do need to return that trip and I think the weather will be a lot more enjoyable, too."

The game will give the Hoyas three games that week, sandwiched between road games with Villanova and UConn.

The Hoyas are currently 16-2 and have won 15 in a row. They are 19th in this week's AP Women's Top 25 and 18th in the USA Today/ESPN poll.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

JSU all over the map

Can’t anybody get the name of this school right?

At least two internet sites misidentified Jacksonville State in stories that appeared on the Web Monday/Tuesday.

The Bleacher Report was talking about the Minnesota Twins’ top prospects for the 2010 season and talked about former JSU pitcher Ben Tootle of Oxford. It said, “In his three years at Jacksonville State University (the college in Ohio not Florida), Tootle appeared in 44 games posting a 19-8 record and 4.82 ERA.”

Wrong. Is there even a Jacksonville State University in Ohio?

And then there was this offering from the Storming the Floor website talking about some of the top statistical performances of the night. It listed the five-steal effort by Whitworth “Junior” Treasure of Texas Southern @ Jacksonville State.

Wrong again. Undoubtedly, it meant Jackson State.

Sounds like the JSU marketing people have some work to do if they want to get their name used properly.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Closing in on hoops history

JSU junior swingman Trenton Marshall continues to lead the Ohio Valley Conference in scoring. While he said winning the scoring title would be a nice accomplishment, he won't play outside the boundaries of the Gamecocks' big picture to get it.

Marshall is averaging 18.5 points a game going into the Gamecocks' ESPNU game with Tennessee State Thursday. He's averaging 18.7 in conference-only games. Morehead State's Kenneth Faried, the preseason OVC Player of the Year, is second in the league in scoring at 16.1.

The Gamecocks have never had conference scoring champion since moving to Division I.
They have had several champions in other statistical categories, however:

In the OVC, they had four straight assist champions (Walker Russell 2004-06 and DeAndre Bray 2007). Russell also led the league in free throw shooting in 2006.

In the Atlantic Sun/TransAmerica, Mike McDaniel (2000) and Rusty Brand (1997) led the league in shooting percentage, while Brant Harriman led the league in rebounding (2000),

The Gulf South Conference media guide doesn’t list year-by-year statistical leaders, but no JSU player is listed among the top 10 single-season scoring averages in league history.

Interestingly, since 2000, only one OVC scoring champion has not make the All-OVC first team (Ray Booker, SEMO, 2006 second-team).

Saturday, January 16, 2010

UPDATE: Another QB on the way

The depth chart at quarterback for Jacksonville State all of a sudden looks crowded.

According to news out of South Dakota earlier in the week, the Gamecocks have another quarterback on the way.

According to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, two South Dakota State quarterbacks have left the Jackrabbits when it appeared they weren't in the running for the starting job there, with one, Mike Whittier, bound for JSU.

The paper reported SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier saying the two QBs left because they believed the top job belongs to Thomas O'Brien, who started six games as a redshirt freshman and led the team to the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

JSU coach Jack Crowe confirmed Monday the Gamecocks received a release for Whittier, but noted his program didn't recruit him or encourage him.

"We didn't resist him coming," Crowe said. "We let anybody come who wants to come ... He knows what our situation is.

"We did not have the door open for a transfer quarterback. He called us. He didn’t have to be told anything other than he's welcome. All he has is a welcome."

Whittier's arrival would give the Gamecocks five quarterbacks now, counting the arrival of Alabama transfer Thomas Darrah and the verbal commitment of Cherokee County quarterback Coty Blanchard. Marques Ivory and Brooks Robinson already are in house, although Robinson likely will be moving to safety.

And there may be more quarterbacks on the way. (Read more about that in Tuesday's Star).

A top-100 quarterback coming out of high school in the St. Louis area, Whittier came to SDSU after signing with the Air Force Academy and spending one season as its prep school, the newspaper said. He redshirted this fall.

Whittier, 6-2 and 210, went through spring drills with the Jackrabbits. He threw for 2,299 yards and 19 touchdowns (with three picks) as a senior in 2007. He passed for 6,151 yards and 57 touchdowns and ran for 20 more scores in his career.

"He's a credible person, a credible student, and he's an athlete," Crowe said. "He just wants a chance to play quarterback and it looks like he's going to get a chance this spring and then we're going to let it (the evolution of the position) happen."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Help on the way

The Gamecocks' basketball roster has been depleted by injuries, defections and scholarship limitations, but they will be getting more bodies for their weekend trip to Murray State and UT Martin.

According to the team's game notes, two walk-ons who have been working with the team all season will make their debut in uniform -- guards Roderick McReynolds (Douglasville, Ga.)
and Jonathan Merit (Decatur, Ga.).

Their availability gives the Gamecocks 10 players to face a team they have never beaten (Murray State) and one that has beaten them six games in a row (UT Martin).

On a related note, former Gamecocks guard Jay-R Strowbridge may be looking for another place to play after leaving the team last week, but he's still attending classes at JSU.

"I decided to come back and finish school here at JSU and see what happens," he wrote in an e-mail.

Did you see this?

Caught this story on the AP wire the other day:

ORLANDO, Fla. — An Orlando police officer wanted a unique punishment for the 24-year-old Alabama woman who pushed her palm to his face.

Something to bring awareness to the problem. And what better way than advertising?

Alexandra Espinosa-Amaya wore a sign reading "I battered a police officer. I was wrong. I apologize." for four hours Tuesday outside the police station.

It was part of a plea agreement on simple battery and resisting an officer without violence charges. The judge also ordered an apology letter, anger management counseling, 50 hours of community service and two years' probation.

"It's humiliating, and it doesn't teach me anything," Espinosa-Amaya told the Orlando Sentinel outside the courtroom and before she headed to the police station. "But if (the officer) is happy and feels a little better, I'll do it."

Espinosa-Amaya, from Bogota, Colombia, played on the JSU women's golf team and has since graduated. She was arrested after clashing with bouncers when she got thrown out of an Orlando bar in 2008, the fall of her senior year. JSU golf coach James Hobbs suspended her from the team after the incident.

She was later reinstated and finished 30th in her final collegiate event -- the 2009 OVC Women's Championship -- with rounds of 85, 81 and 87.

You can read a longer version of the story on the Orlando Sentinel's website.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

More on Torrey

The Star reported in its Tuesday edition that JSU junior defensive lineman Torrey Davis is filing paperwork to enter the NFL Draft, forgoing his final year of eligibility.

"A lot of stuff" when into the decision, he said, among them the desire to provide for his family. The deadline for entering the draft is Friday.

"I have a son (Torrey Jr.) who is going to be 2 in June and I just want to be able to provide for him without having to come to other people," he said. "It’s hard where I’m at right now. There’s a recession going on and I’m feeling the effect of it really strong. I don’t see why I should stay in Jacksonville or somewhere when I don’t really have to. When I got the chance to leave I was going to do that. That was pretty much it."

The NFL draft advisory board — which advises underclassmen of their draft potential — told Davis that going in the fifth round or later was "possible." Many think the 6-3, 290-pound Florida transfer will have to go the free agent route — or to the CFL or Arena League to fulfill his pro dream.

Davis is famously known for making back-to-back stops on a goal-line stand in the first half of Florida’s 2008 BCS National Championship game victory against Oklahoma, then transferred to JSU in May with the potential to be the best the Gamecocks ever had at his position. He was credited with 16 tackles, three sacks and a fumble recovery, and made the Ohio Valley Conference’s All-Newcomer Team.

"I’m not saying I'm good enough to go first round ... but if somebody will give me a chance, playing football is something I can do," he said. "Give me a chance to put on some cleats, shoulder pads and helmet and I’ll show you. Maybe film won’t be that strong, but I feel like I can come on a team and compete. I can bring my talent to the table. Hard work, that’s all I did while I was at Jacksonville State."

Given all the circumstances of Davis' life, Jeff Parker, a JSU business professor and former CEO who independently counseled several of the Gamecocks’ higher profile transfers, advised the player to come out. Parker stepped back after Davis signed with an agent, Bus Cook.

"He’s very confident he’s going to the League, but I’m not, based on my contacts," Parker said. "Regardless, if he makes $60,000-$150,000 next year, I don’t see how anybody can fault him because he’s sitting in a place he doesn’t want to be in, in an academic setting he doesn’t want to be in.

"I think the young man made the right decision regardless what anybody is going to think. It was in his best personal interest."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Darrah arrives at JSU

Thomas Darrah was settling into his apartment Sunday, watching a little basketball – not uncommon for a guy pushing 6-foot-7 -- and getting ready to start the next chapter of his college football career that begins this week.

The former Alabama quarterback, on the sidelines Thursday night for the Tide’s national championship victory over Texas, is fully entrenched at Jacksonville State. He starts classes and workouts Monday and is looking forward to spring practice, which coach Jack Crowe plans to open the first week of March.

“I can’t wait, I’m really excited about it,” Darrah said. “I’ve got a lot of bags and stuff hanging around. I’ve got to unpack some stuff, but most of it’s here. Now it’s a matter of straightening it all out.”

He has ambitious plans for the two years of eligibility he has remaining. He’d like to put an FCS national championship ring alongside the BCS championship ring he won Thursday night in Pasadena, and he’d like to graduate from JSU with a double major – general health studies that he began at Alabama and criminal justice. He's taking 15 hours this semester and is about 12 hours shy of completing his first major.

Interestingly, the Newnan, Ga., product is the third player in as many years to join the Gamecocks after playing for the previous season's national champions, joining Ryan Perrilloux (LSU) and Torrey Davis (Florida).

“I think it’s pretty special that all of them decided to come here,” Darrah said. “That speaks a lot about the whole university here and Coach Crowe. That’s pretty neat, and hopefully, once they get all these guys transferring in, people will start turning their heads and (saying) maybe we should start checking this out.”

Darrah will be one of three quarterbacks that Gamecocks will have in camp this spring, joining Marquez Ivory and Brooks Robinson. The Gamecocks also received a verbal commitment from Cherokee County senior Coty Blanchard on Friday and he’s expected to join the team in the fall.

Crowe made it clear Ivory enters camp as the starter; he has spent the last two years as Perrilloux’s understudy. Robinson, meanwhile, could find himself at another position as he’s proven to be helpful enough to be an every-down player. Blanchard, when he arrives, could be redshirted.

“Marquez has played in a lot of games and has given no indication he has a problem handling the job,” Crowe said. “I think it’ll be a competitive situation … but there is definitely a depth chart.”

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Strowbridge leaves Gamecocks

Jacksonville State's already limited basketball roster took a hit Wednesday when junior guard Jay-R Strowbridge left the team for what Gamecocks coach James Green called "personal reasons."

Second semester classes at JSU began Wednesday.

The Gamecocks' numbers already were limited by APR scholarship sanctions, and walkon guard Samir Rolley is out with a knee injury.

Green declined to elaborate on the nature of the decision or the impact it would have on a club.

"What's always been my philosophy is we play with who we have on any given night, in any given year." he said.

When asked who gets more playing time following Strowbridge's departure, Green said "everybody." The Gamecocks now have eight available players on their roster.

Strowbridge, a Huntsville product, regained his eligibility this season after transferring from Nebraska. He played his first college game in 20 months in the Gamecocks' exhibition with West Georgia.

He was the Gamecocks' third-leading scorer, averaging 12.5 points in 12 games.

Tide's Darrah coming to JSU

If Alabama wins Thursday night's showdown with Texas, Jacksonville State will have a member of the previous year's national championship team on its roster for the third year in a row next season.

Alabama backup quarterback Thomas Darrah confirmed in Los Angeles that he committed to JSU last week and will be enrolling in school next week -- after the Tide returns from the West Coast.

“I committed to Jacksonville State last week,” Darrah told the Tuscaloosa News. “After this game I am going to head up to Jacksonville Saturday and we'll move in my stuff and I start school on Monday. I wanted to go ahead and finish out here because I've put a lot of time and effort in, and worked hard here. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity here.”

The 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore from Newnan, Ga., will have two years of eligibility with the Gamecocks.

The Star reported Darrah's interest in JSU last month, after his father told the newspaper Gamecocks coach Jack Crowe wanted his son to come there, but the player was reluctant to talk about his status while the Tide was involved in its postseason preparations.

"Talked to my PR guy and he told me to wait 'til after the SEC championship," the quarterback said in a text message at the time.

Over the last two seasons, the Gamecocks landed quarterback Ryan Perrilloux off 2008 national champion LSU and defensive lineman Torrey Davis off 2009 national champion Florida.

Perrilloux went on to have a two-year record-setting career for the Gamecocks. Davis played this past season and is considering entering the NFL draft.