The Southern men’s and women’s basketball teams both won a Southwestern Athletic Conference regular-season title last season.
But both teams begin preseason practice Wednesday trying to figure the identity of a new team.
The men’s team returns just five players who saw action last season. The women’s team has much more experience with four returning starters, but the one loss, forward Adrian Sanders, was a big one.
The men already had lost four seniors, including starters Malcolm Mitchell, Javan Mitchell, and Yondarius Johnson — before learning during the summer that its top returning big men — Calvin Godfrey and Damien Goodwin — were transferring because of Southern’s ongoing ban from NCAA post-season play.
Coach Roman Banks said Tuesday that four highly regarded recruits he was expecting to land, including three junior-college players who would have brought much-needed experience to the program, had signed elsewhere because of the ban.
The returning players are guards Trelun Banks (the coach’s son and the SWAC Freshman of the Year last year), Tre Lynch and Christopher Hyder and forwards Frank Snow and Cameron Monroe. Banks said Hyder is a full go after undergoing surgery in the spring to correct a bone abnormality that had caused a blood clot that sidelined him for most of last season.
“One thing I will tell you, being around these guys. I have a lot of confidence in those guys that were here and stayed with this thing and committed to play,” Banks said. “That tells me a lot about them because several of them could have done something different.
“That tells me that they want to be here. That tells me that they take pride in what they have done and I think they have enough pride to try and once again to try and get us out of this rut to try and move on.”
Banks said he has filled out the roster and has 10 players on athletic scholarship and the other five are either walk-ons or on partial academic scholarships. Southern is expected to release its full roster this week.
“What (preseason) is really about is trying to find our niche the way I see it in my head and making sure we can put it together on the court,” banks said. “I’m pretty sure as we go we’ll make some adjustments.”
Women’s coach Sandy Pugh, who like Banks was named SWAC Coach of the Year last season, has a much better idea of what she has to work with. Southern returns its top three scorers in guard Kendra Coleman (17.4), center Jasmine Jefferson (12.0) and guard Britney Washington (10.9). Sanders was the fourth-leading scorer (10.6) and second-leading rebounder (4.9) behind Jefferson (8.5).
Pugh said the Jaguars missed out on two highly regarded bigs in recruiting, leaving the team relatively small, especially with Jadea Brundidge (6-2) being academically ineligible.
“We wanted another 6-2 body that could rebound and run floor, but all in all I’m happy with where we are,” Pugh said. “I think we’re ahead of schedule compared to the last couple of years because we have a veteran squad that knows what we want to do and how we’re supposed to run our sets and what we hope to get out of the season.”
Pugh said she’s excited about four newcomers — guard Ashley Williams from Baton Rouge Community College and three high-school players from Florida — Micah Garvin, Taylor Mack and Briana Green.
She said she’s already been impressed by the team’s closeness as the players walked together over to the football team’s Homecoming game last Saturday and none of the players would leave until everyone was ready to go.
“I’ve never heard of that before,” Pugh said. “This team does everything together.
“They are very, very much team-oriented in every sense of the word and sisterly, which I like.”
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