To say the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lady Lions will have a tough nonconference schedule this season is “a huge understatement,” according to UAPB assistant Danny Evans.
“It is more like, ‘putting yourself to death,’” Evans said. “But it will helps us find some leaders and it can’t do anything but help you in the long run.
“It is going to make us tougher and we are going to look at it as a good thing. We are going to find some players and some leaders.”
UAPB will open the season at home against Philander Smith on Nov. 8, but will then play six straight away games from Nov. 11 — Dec. 4. The Lady Lions will face Marquette, Iowa, Xavier, Nebraska and Texas Tech in that span.
“If you are a competitor, you should want to play the best,” Evans said. “It is one of the toughest schedules you can come up with.
“It is going to test our pride and challenge ourselves.”
UAPB will wrap-up its nonconference schedule with games against Memphis on Dec. 20 and Arizona on Dec. 29. The Lady Lions will begin their Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule on Jan. 1 against Mississippi Valley State in Itta Bena, Miss. It will start a three-game stretch of conference games.
“Coach Nate (Kilbert) got the schedule together because the team needs financial help as well and that was apart of it,” Evans said. “To play against the best is a good test for a young team.
“… It is going to be a test. It is not going to be an easy one at all.”
UAPB lost five seniors from last season including four of its top scores. Chi Chi Okwumabua led the Lady Lions with 12 points per game and Lakendra Marsh had 11.3 PPG.
Cassidy Wright and Asia Rhines-Malone averaged about 10 PPG as well.
“We are losing our top three players out of last season,” Evans said. “Obviously somebody is going to have to step up and fill that void.
“I think this is the kind of schedule that will show us pretty early who can take over those roles.”
Evans said he expects a lot from Christina Lasane, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds per game last year. Lasane started in 30 of 31 games last year and finished with 230 points for the season.
Evans would also like Marion Thompson to be more of an inside presence this winter. Last year, Thompson averaged 3.3 points and 4.2 rebounds per game.
“All the returners will have to fill the void left by the seniors and the others who left the program,” Evans said. “And we have been working on that in practice.”
Evans said the advantage of the tough schedule is weeding out UAPB’s weak links pretty early in the season.
“You can’t hide in basketball,” Evans said. “Sooner or later, you are either going to be able to handle it or you can’t.”
New players joining UAPB this year are junior transfers Courtney Dier, Charisse Carr and Destiny Hamm. Freshmen Erin Campbell, of Monticello, and Jasmine Johnson, of Milwaukee, is also expected to receive some playing time this year.
One of the recruits that Evans and Kilbert are really excited about is Molly Campbell, who hails from Lanchester, England. Campbell played for Britain’s 18-and-under and 20-and-under national teams.
“She is a big signee for us,” Evans said. “We are really excited about her coming to play for us.”
Evans said the schedule will be a “test by fire” for the younger players.
“We will get to see how they can play against higher level competition,” Evans said. “Right now, they may be feeling a little overwhelmed with everything and thinking, ‘This is a whole other level than what I thought it was. This is unbelievable.’”
Evans said hopefully by the season starts, they should be more accustomed to what we do.
“It is kind of rough to get ready in a month, but hopefully they will be prepared to play,” Evans said.
UAPB women’s basketball schedule
11-08 Philander Smith H.O. Clemmons Arena 6 p.m.
11-11 Marquette Milwaukee, Wis. 7 p.m.
11-13 Iowa Iowa City, Iowa 7 p.m.
11-17 Xavier Cincinnati, Ohio 1 p.m.
11-21 Nebraska Lincoln, Neb. 7:05 p.m.
11-23 Nebraska at Omaha Omaha, Neb. 1 p.m.
12-04 Texas Tech Lubbock, Texas 6 p.m.
12-17 Talladega College H.O. Clemmons Arena 6 p.m.
12-20 Memphis Memphis, Tenn. 7 p.m.
12-29 Arizona Tucson, Ariz. 1 p.m.
01-04 Mississippi Valley State* Itta Bena, Miss. 4 p.m.
01-11 Alabama A&M* Huntsville, Ala. 4 p.m.
01-13 Alabama State* Montgomery, Ala. 4:30 p.m.
01-18 Southern* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5 p.m.
01-20 Alcorn State* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5:30 p.m.
01-25 Prairie View A&M* Prairie View, Texas 3 p.m.
01-27 Texas Southern* Houston, Texas 5:30 p.m.
02-01 Grambling State* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5 p.m.
02-03 Jackson State* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5:30 p.m.
02-08 Alabama A&M* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5 p.m.
02-10 Alabama State* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5:30 p.m.
02-15 Southern* Baton Rouge, La. 3 p.m.
02-17 Alcorn State* Alcorn State, Miss. 5:30 p.m.
02-22 Prairie View A&M* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5 p.m.
02-24 Texas Southern* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5:30 p.m.
03-01 Grambling State* Grambling, La. 3 p.m.
03-03 Jackson State Jackson, Miss. 5:30 p.m.
03-08 Mississippi Valley State* H.O. Clemmons Arena 5 p.m.
*Southwestern Athletic Conference game