UWA basketball season less than a month away

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2004

By: Jason Hughes/For The Demopolis Times

LIVINGSTON – The Gulf South Conference released its preseason coaches’ polls for basketball on Thursday and Friday with the West Alabama women selected fourth in the East Division with 34 points and the UWA men picked seventh in the East with 13 points.

The UWA women received two first-place votes and two second-place votes to go along with one fourth, one fifth and one seventh-place vote. West Florida (44 points) was picked to win the Eastern Division with Lincoln Memorial and West Georgia picked in a second-place tie with 36 points each.

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The Tigers are coming off arguably the best season in school history complete with an overall mark of 22-8, an outright GSC Eastern Division Title (12-2), and a NCAA Tournament win (79-77 over Christian Brothers) for the first time in school history. First Team All-GSC guard Veronica Lee (5-8, JR) has been named to the Preseason All-GSC Team, fresh off of a season that saw her lead the team in scoring (14.8 ppg). The Columbia, Miss., native also led the team with 56 steals to go along with 70 assists.

West Alabama is returning four starters from a season ago, including Second Team All-GSC selection Yolanda Thomas (6-2, SR). Thomas finished fourth on the team last season in scoring (9.2 ppg) and first in rebounding (6.9 rpg) to go along with a team-high 61 blocked shots, while shooting 41.4 percent from the floor. Also returning are seniors Mallorie Kerby (6-0, F), Lori Smith (5-3, G) and Peaches Powe (6-0, F). Kerby scored 6.9 points per game as a junior and finished second on the team, averaging 5.8 rebounds. Smith was the team leader in assists with 84, while Powe led all Tigers with a 54.5 shooting percentage from the floor.

Fourth-year Head Coach Amanda Marks has gotten practice underway in preparation for the opener with William Carey on Nov. 15.

“So far, the girls have been practicing very well and I am excited about the level of talent and commitment we have on this team,” said Marks. “Our returning players are stepping up, and our new players are enthusiastic and excited about getting the season underway.”

The West Alabama men have also gotten underway with the opener with Claflin College in Livingston on Nov. 15 less than a month away. Rick Reedy enters his 21st season at the helm for West Alabama and is pleased with what looks to be a solid mix between returning players and talented newcomers. UWA will be looking to bounce back, following a 5-22 overall mark (2-12 GSC) in 2003-04.

“We have some experienced guys returning and with a strong core of junior college transfers to go along with that, I expect us to play like a very mature team,” said Reedy. “We are more athletic than we were a season ago, and I think that will help us tremendously, especially on the defensive end.”

The Tigers return four starters from a season ago, including Ty Mathis (6-7, SR), who led the team in scoring last season. Mathis shot 41.2 percent from the field en route to scoring 12.2 points per contest last season to go along with a team leading 17 blocked shots. Jared Hembree (5-11, SO) also returns following a solid true freshman campaign that saw him lead the Tigers with 66 three-pointers made on his way to finishing third on the team in scoring (9.7 ppg).

Senior Adam Ruffin (6-6, F) will also see plenty of time in the UWA frontcourt, following a junior season that saw him lead all Tigers with a 52.8 shooting percentage from the floor. Joseph Baker (6-3, SR) and Courtney Brown (5-10, SO) also return to the UWA backcourt in 2004-05. Baker scored 4.9 points per game as a junior, while placing third on the team with 31 steals. Brown scored 5.2 points per contest and led all Tigers with 61 assists as a true freshman.

West Georgia was picked to win the Eastern Division (44 points), following a second-place finish in 2003-04. Defending East Division Champion Valdosta State and defending GSC Champion Montevallo garnered 42 points each in the preseason poll. Perennial powers Alabama-Huntsville (30 points) and North Alabama (23 points) rounded out the top five.