The Southwestern Athletic Conference preseason basketball polls suggest this will be another good season for both of Southern’s teams.
The league’s coaches and sports information directors picked the Jaguars women to repeat as regular season champions and the men, who are also defending regular-season champions, to finish second to Alabama State.
The SWAC released the poll and its preseason all-conference teams Wednesday. Southern forward Jasmine Jefferson, a first team all-SWAC selection last season, was named to the women’s preseason first team. She was the only member of either Jaguars team to be named to either the first or second teams.
“Winning the regular season title is one of our big goals each and every year,” Southern coach women’s Sandy Pugh said during the SWAC’s preseason coaches teleconference. “We’re returning 10 players, and six of them are seniors, so this is their last go-round and they definitely want to prove to the legends around here, the young ladies who came before them, that they are worthy of carrying on the tradition of Southern women’s basketball.”
The Southern women finished 20-8 and 16-2 in the SWAC last season, clinching the regular season title by beating Texas Southern in a winner-take-all finale in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. But the Jaguars won just one game in the conference tournament before being eliminated by Prairie View 72-43 in the semifinals.
“Our kids were really, really disappointed in their performance in the conference tournament and the end result,” Pugh said. “They seem to be totally focused on getting to the end of the road and accomplishing all of our goals this season.”
Pugh said guard Kendra Coleman, the Jaguars’ leading scorer last season (17.4), underwent knee surgery during the offseason to fix a torn meniscus that plagued her during last season. Coleman has been full go since the start of preseason practice last week, Pugh said.
Coleman, Jefferson, who averaged 12.0 points and 8.5 rebounds last season, and guards Bonnie Scott and Britney Washington form the core of this year’s team. Washington is a junior and the others are seniors.
Both Southern teams are unsure if their goal of reaching the NCAA tournament is even possible because of a ban on postseason play because of inadequate reporting of student-athletes’ Academic Progress rates. It’s unclear when the NCAA might lift the ban, which would have kept both teams out of the NCAA tournament last season even if they had won the SWAC tournament.
The men finished 19-13 and 15-3 after a 64-46 loss to Prairie View in their first game in the SWAC tournament.
Southern finished second to Alabama State in the preseason poll. The Jaguars return just six players from last year’s team and the top returning big men — Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin — transferred because of the NCAA ban.
So the returning group is guard-heavy, led by Trelun Banks, the SWAC Freshman of the Year last season, Tre Lynch and Christopher Hyder.
Coach Roman Banks said he hopes 6-foot-10 Frank Snow, who started eight of the 29 games in which he played last season, and newcomers Keith Davis (6-10), who sat out last season after transferring from Texas A&M, and 6-9 Thomas-Pierre Louis, who transferred from Western Oklahoma State College, will develop enough to provide a consistent inside presence.
“I don’t know if Frank is ready to take ownership of that position,” Banks said. “We’re trying to find our chemistry and style without changing what we’re accustomed to doing. We have to see who can do what for us. This is still a learning process for me.
“But I’m looking forward to the upcoming season. I don’t know if we have any marquee names returning, but I like the effort that these guys have put forth on the court so far.”
Southern begins the season with a doubleheader Nov. 14 in the F.G. Clark Activity Center. The women play Mobile, followed by the men’s game against Louisiana Tech.