Two Days ‘Til Tipoff: Basketball Lions head for Hawaii to start season


Mitchell Anderson is looking forward to leading Arkansas-Pine Bluff to the championship of the University of Hawaii’s Rainbow Classic.

“As long as we play hard, play good defense because our defense leads to offense, as long as we lock up and defend well, we should have no problems winning this tournament,” the senior swingman said after Tuesday’s practice.

It was the Golden Lions’ last rehearsal before flying today to Honolulu, where they’ll play three games in four days starting with Houston Baptist on Friday to open the men’s basketball season. Host Hawaii and Maryland-Eastern Shore also are part of the tournament.

A tournament title would definitely give the Lions their best start to a season under coach George Ivory, who’s starting his fifth season at the helm. Because of tough schedules, UAPB has gone 2-44 in nonconference games under Ivory, with wins over SMU in 2008 and Florida International last year. The Lions dropped 28 straight in nonconference play in between the two victories.

But things could be a little better this season. Ivory calls this team the most athletic and talented team he’s had at UAPB.

“(There’s) a lot of energy and guys shooting the basketball real well, running the floor,” Ivory said. “We just have to get better at defensive rotation. I think we’re going to do that once we get to know each other a little better, play a couple of games.”

The UAPB roster includes seven players who weren’t on the team last season. Two of them, sophomore guard Marcel Mosley and senior center Terrell Kennedy, are back after missing all of last season due to injuries.

“It’s highly anticipated for me, being that it was a year’s wait,” Kennedy said of his return. “I’m happy to be back. Things happen for a reason. I feel like I broke my hand last year for a reason, so I’m happy to be back on the court after a year’s absence.”

Ivory will call on Kennedy to carry much of the load in the low post without junior Daniel Broughton available. Broughton underwent surgery three weeks ago to clean a bad knee he reinjured during practice and is not expected to play in Hawaii.

“It’s a tough challenge, but coach has prepared us for this challenge,” Kennedy said. “He told me when I broke my hand I need to get in better shape, so I lost the weight this summer. I feel like in Daniel’s absence, he’s a big part of us, but I can step up and do what we need to do this tournament.”

Ivory is happy with the way Kennedy is moving on the court since he dropped 30 pounds in the past year. Kennedy now weighs 248.

The Lions will be a little shorthanded to start the season. Freshman guard Trent Jeffries, one of three UAPB signees during the offseason, will redshirt. He was held out of basketball activities because of a question with his ACT score.

Junior center Austin Allen and Mosley are ineligible to play until the spring semester because they “came up short on hours,” Ivory said, but they are practicing. And fifth-year senior Demetrius Smith will not make the trip to Hawaii for disciplinary reasons.

Junior guard Kyle Jones will play despite a stress fracture in his hand.

The Rainbow Classic, which began in 1964, is making its return after a one-year hiatus. The team with the best record in the round-robin format will win the Classic, last won by Hawaii in 2010.

Rainbow Classic schedule

NOTES: All games at Stan Sheriff Center, Honolulu. All times Central (4 hours ahead of Hawaii time).

Friday

• Houston Baptist vs. UAPB, 8:30 p.m.

• Maryland-Eastern Shore at Hawaii, 11 p.m.

Sunday

• Houston Baptist vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 6:30 p.m.

• UAPB at Hawaii, 9 p.m.

Monday

• Maryland-Eastern Shore vs. UAPB, 8 p.m.

• Hawaii vs. Houston Baptist, 3 a.m. Tuesday (ESPN)