The first regular practice of the season for the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s basketball team Saturday morning revealed no signs of a team that’s banned from competing in the postseason.
The energy level and enthusiasm were as high as the expectations the Golden Lions set for themselves. Replenished with some old and new faces, the team is anxious to eclipse last season’s 11-21 record.
“I feel like we should go undefeated,” said senior swingman Mitchell Anderson, the Lions’ leading returning scorer from last season. “Most people think I’m setting the standard too high, but you got to have high standards if you want to accomplish something.”
Junior center Daniel Broughton said UAPB has the type of team to be unbeaten, at least in SWAC play.
“We’ve got more athleticism, more depth,” Broughton said. “So, we’ve got a pretty good team and we’re going to do our best.”
There’s also a chance their postseason ban, handed down because of a poor four-year Academic Progress Rate, will be overturned. Fifth-year head coach George Ivory reported progress in the team’s appeal of the APR, mentioning that the NCAA agreed changes should be made in paperwork used to determine UAPB’s APR.
“That’s a positive thing right there,” Ivory said. “So, we’re just waiting on them to check the degree percentages (how much of a degree program is completed for each player to remain eligible). That’s what they’re checking now.”
Ivory blamed the low score on a player from outside the program who was wrongly reported on UAPB’s paperwork but had a name similar to a former Golden Lions player.
Of the 10 teams that initially received postseason bans from the NCAA, only Cal State Bakersfield’s has been overturned, giving Ivory hope of a similar fate for UAPB. Defending SWAC champion Mississippi Valley State also is banned for a low APR, while Texas Southern was just made ineligible this past week for lack of instiutional control.
The ban does not keep the Lions from competing for a SWAC regular-season championship, nor did it deter fans from showing up at Friday’s “Midnight Madness” ceremony to mark the start of the season.
“That side over there was packed,” Ivory said, pointing to the bleachers across from the scorer’s table and adding a few more sat in the rows behind the table.
Ivory likes his team’s chances at a winning season with the return of two All-SWAC players, the 6-foot-7 Anderson (11.2 points per game, 6.3 rebounds per game last season) from Chicago and 6-8 Broughton (10.7, 6.0) from Watson Chapel. The two, along with senior guard Lazabian Jackson (9.8 ppg) are expected to help UAPB adjust to life without Savalace Townsend, the SWAC’s Defensive Player of the Year who also led the conference in scoring at 16.0 ppg.
The Lions also bring back senior center Terrell Kennedy (hand) and sophomore guard Marcel Mosley (shin) after they suffered injuries which cost them all of last season.
“That makes me have wonderful nights of sleep now,” Ivory said. “Marcel and Terrell are wonderful people. You look at Terrell’s body, he lost 20 to 30 pounds of just working out over the summer. He’s like a different kid.”
Jackson (9.8 ppg) is a returning starter for the Lions, who also return plenty of help off the bench with sophomore forward Jaylon Floyd, junior guard Kyle Jones and junior forward Austin Allen.
Fifth-year senior guard Demetrius Smith of Drew Central is practicing but is awaiting word on whether he has met degree percentage requirements to play. He sat out his first season.
The new faces include Davon Haynes, the 6-8 forward from Detroit who transferred to UAPB in January 2011 but had to sit out all of last season due to NCAA transfer rules. UAPB signed three players in the offseason, 6-3 guard Warren Boyd of Marion, 6-6 forward Trent Whiting of Des Arc and 6-3 guard Trent Jeffries of Gulfport, Miss., but Jeffries is being held out of basketball activities because of a question with his ACT score.
Sophomore guard Tevin Hammond (6-0), a Little Rock McClellan product, redshirted last season after transferring from Holmes Community College in Mississippi.
“When you look at this team, you look at getting up and down the floor more with the presence of Marcel and Tevin at the point, a big guy like Terrell coming in and Davon,” Ivory said.
Then, there’s a new assistant coach, Matthew Smith, whom Ivory has known since their high school days in Mississippi. Smith replaces Alan Perry, who resigned after one season on the staff due to health issues, Ivory said.
2012-13 UAPB men’s basketball schedule
(Start times according to ESPN.com)
Rainbow Classic at Honolulu (Nov. 9-12)
• Nov. 9, vs. Houston Baptist, time TBD
• Nov. 11, vs. Hawaii, time TBD
• Nov. 12, vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, time TBD
• Nov. 21, at San Diego State, time TBD
• Nov. 24, at Washington State, time TBD
• Nov. 28, at Arizona State, time TBD
• Dec. 1, at Oregon, 9:30 p.m.
• Dec. 5, at Michigan State, time TBD
• Dec. 8, at Air Force, 3 p.m.
• Dec. 18, at Akron, time TBD
• Dec. 22, at Texas-El Paso, time TBD
• Jan. 2, vs. Mississippi Valley State, 7:30 p.m.
• Jan. 6, vs. Alabama State, time TBD
• Jan. 8, vs. Alabama A&M, time TBD
• Jan. 12, at Southern, 4 p.m.
• Jan. 14, at Alcorn State, time TBD
• Jan. 19, vs. Texas Southern, time TBD
• Jan. 21, vs. Prairie View A&M, time TBD
• Jan. 26, at Grambling State, time TBD
• Jan. 28, at Jackson State, time TBD
• Feb. 2, at Alabama State, 5:30 p.m.
• Feb. 4, at Alabama A&M, 7:30 p.m.
• Feb. 9, vs. Southern, time TBD
• Feb. 11, vs. Alcorn State, time TBD
• Feb. 16, at Texas Southern, 8 p.m.
• Feb. 18, at Prairie View A&M, 7:30 p.m.
• Feb. 23, vs. Grambling State, time TBD
• Feb. 25, vs. Jackson State, time TBD
• Feb. 28, at Mississippi Valley, 7:30 p.m.