Southern women travel to Grambling _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANGELA MAJOR -- Southern women's coach Sandy Pugh encourages her team Friday, Nov. 14, 2014, during the Jaguars' game against Mobile at F.G. Clark Activity Center.

Southern women’s basketball has “a brand new team,” according to coach Sandy Pugh.

The Jaguars lost six seniors, including two of the most productive players in school history in guard Kendra Coleman and forward Jasmine Jefferson from last season. Nonetheless, even with nine new players, Southern was picked to finish third in the Southwestern Athletic Conference in the preseason poll released Wednesday.

“We have a long way to go before we’re in that class,” Pugh said during the SWAC coaches preseason teleconference, “but I definitely think we can get there.”

Two returning Jaguars — senior guard Britney Washington and sophomore forward Briana Green — were selected to the preseason All-SWAC second team.

Pugh said “my hat’s off” to last year’s seniors, who tied for the SWAC regular-season title last season and won it outright two years ago while playing under an NCAA postseason ban that has since been lifted.

“They showed leadership, class and commitment to what we were trying to attain in spite of the ban,” Pugh said.

The Jaguars, 20-11 and 16-2 last season, lost to Alabama State in the SWAC tournament title game last season.

Pugh said Green and junior guard Cortnei Purnell are being counted on to assume bigger roles and be more versatile this season.

“They’ve got to be more productive,” Pugh said. “Playing multiple positions is kind of our forte and I like that. Looking at them they seem to kind of have that swagger that you like to see in your returnees.

“Trust me, we’re challenging them every day to do more and so far they have stepped up to the plate. I’d like to see more vocal leadership from them, but this could be a great season for both of them.”

Barely a week into preseason camp, Pugh didn’t want to single out any newcomers as potential impact players.

“But,” she added, “we have some quality individuals that can do some things. Division I is a whole other ball game, but I’m excited about going to practice every day and so are the kids. We have a good group.”

The SWAC head coaches and sports information directors picked Texas Southern (19-10 and 16-2) to win the league with Alabama State finishing between the Tigers and the Jaguars.

Alabama State’s Britney Wright was selected SWAC Preseason Player of the Year and teammate Jasmine Peeples was named Defensive Player of the Year.