Carlos Funchess is aiming for a repeat of last season in his second year guiding the Southern women’s basketball team.
Men’s coach Sean Woods is hoping for anything but a repeat of 2018-19 in his second season on the Bluffs.
The prospects are promising for both to get their way as they raised the curtain on the coming season with a sneak peek at media day Tuesday.
Funchess took the Lady Jaguars to the SWAC title repeat in his first season following the title former coach Sandy Pugh won in 2018. He doesn’t want an exact repeat of the 20-13 mark which ended with a loss at No. 1 seed Mississippi State. But he’s got enough talent and experience coming back to position Southern for a better finish.
“We’ll be deep, and I think we’ll get off to a little better start,” said Funchess, who was an assistant under Pugh for 14 seasons. “We had a new system last year. They’re going to know where their shot is coming from and that’s going to help our team.
“We have a lot of talent. It’s going to come down to getting experience and having the upper classmen carry the load like last year.”
Woods will try to forget the 7-25 nightmare of a season but not without learning something and building a signature culture. The former Kentucky star, who guided Mississippi Valley to a SWAC title in 2012
“Last year was the toughest of my career; I learned a lot,” said Woods, who coached four seasons each at Moorehead State and Mississippi Valley. “I have never lost like that before.
“I had to learn to have more patience. Everywhere I’ve been I had to rebuild. Last year nothing was going right. I didn’t worry about wins and losses. I coached them the best I could and change the culture. I thought we did that in a short amount of time.”
Funchess has Alyric Scott, Jaden Towner and Taneara Moore as returning starters. Scott averaged 9.1 points per game, Towner 6.1 and Moore averaged 6.2 with a team-leading 5.7 rebounds per game. He’s also expecting more from Brittany Rose, who was effective coming off the bench.
None of the Lady Jaguars averaged in double figures but Funchess expects that to change, particularly from Scott and Towner. His specialty is working with post players and should have more production to balance the offensive load.
“We’re going to have more height in the post,” Funchess said. “Ceundra McGhee is going to be better offensively this year. We had some situations where we couldn’t play her because she struggled to score. She’s 6-3. Raven White 6-1 can also score on the block. We should be able to throw it down there and get some production in the low post area.”
The Lady Jaguars lost their top two point guards in Skylar O’Bear and Rishonti Cowart but help is on the way in the person of Caitlan Davis and Nakia Kincey. Davis was Mcneese State’s team MVP in 2017-18 before transferring to Southern. She sat out last season but practiced with the team.
Kincey was the point guard at Gulf Coast Community College and led that team to the Junior College national title last season. Freshman Chloe Fleming provides=depth behind them.
“I don’t think we’ll miss a beat other than experience,” Punchess said of the point guards
“I think we’ll flow a lot better offensively” Funchess said of his system. “It fits our personnel a lot better. It’s similar to what we did last year. Now we give kids more freedom. We have the athleticism to get up and down the court and we have depth.”
Woods has his point guard back in Jayden Saddler, the only returning starter, along with guards Brendon Brooks and Isaiah Rollins. They are providing the foundation to help the transition with so many new faces.
“Two of them (Brooks and Rollins) are walk-ons, they were a major reason we won the games we won last year,” Woods said. “Even though they may not start they are going to have a significant part because they are the foundation, with Jayden Saddler. They weathered the storm with me. They don’t want to go through that again. They’ve been a great asset telling the other kids what it’s like to play for Sean Woods.”
The top additions are wingman Skyler Braggs, Ashante Shivers, a transfer from Siena, freshman signee DJ Burns from Sophie Wright High School in New Orleans, and Delor Johnson, a 6-4 guard from Cypress Branch in Houston, ranked as one of the top 25 players from that city.
Inside help should come from 6-7, 245-pound bruiser Kirk Parker and 6-10 juco signee James Edwards, Jr.
“We were able to attract some kids who can really play, guys that could have gone to bigger and better schools,” Woods said. “The atmosphere has grown leaps and bounds.
“We’ll play much faster, fast as I want to. We’ll defend and extend our defense as much as I want to because we have better athletes. We have better basketball players, better basketball IQ, and we’re deeper. I’ve got 13 guys who can play. We won’t miss a beat with substitution. We can play big or small as I want to play.”