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Union Men Picked No. 1 in TranSouth Preseason Basketball Poll

JACKSON, Tenn. - 10/19/2005 -

TRANSOUTH MEN’S BASKETBALL SEASON PREVIEW

The TranSouth Athletic Conference men’s basketball coaches have unanimously selected Union University as the preseason favorite for the upcoming 2005-06 basketball season. The Bulldogs were the regular season conference co-champion and won the conference tournament last season. The Bulldogs earned an automatic berth to the NAIA National Tournament. Lyon College received the second most votes after reaching the conference tournament finals last season. Conference newcomer Crichton College of Memphis has been voted third for the upcoming season. Trevecca Nazarene University has been voted fourth after finishing as conference regular season co-champion last year. The Trojans advanced the NAIA National Tournament where they advanced to the Sweet 16. Cumberland University was voted fifth, followed by Martin Methodist College and Freed-Hardeman College.

The conference sees a new team and three new coaches this season. Crichton College officially joins the conference for play this season with new head coach Jeff Walker. Martin Methodist promoted assistant coach Jason Ficca to the head coach position after Chris Croft left for a NCAA D-1 assistant’s position. Freed-Hardeman has hired Jason Shelton who was an assistant at NCAA D-1 Colorado as their new head coach. Shelton played for former conference member Lipscomb University.

This should be another incredibly exciting conference race with every team adding impressive talent for the upcoming season. In each of the last two seasons the regular season title was determined on the final weekend of conference play. In addition, the conference tournament has seen a upstart participant in the championship game the last two years. The 2005-06 season looks to be no different.

Conference newcomer Crichton College will start the season for the TranSouth as they host Philander Smith on October 29, 2005 at the MidSouth Coliseum in Memphis. All the other teams in the conference will suit up for the first time within the following week.

The TranSouth Athletic Conference has a new website and we welcome you to visit. (www.transouth.org)

Below the coaches poll you’ll find a capsule on ever team in the conference.

TranSouth Coaches Pre-Season Poll
Team Votes (First Place Votes)
Union University 49 (7)
Lyon College 38
Crichton College 35
Trevecca Nazarene 27
Cumberland University 24
Martin Methodist 15
Freed-Hardeman 8

Cumberland University:
The Cumberland University men’s basketball program has posted a 46 and 21 record over the last two seasons, including a 2004 trip to the NAIA Sweet Sixteen. Six Bulldog seniors have departed from a team that finished third in the TranSouth. The 2005-06 team will see a revamped roster with only three returning players. Head Coach Lonnie Thompson has a 61-39 career record in his fourth season in Lebanon and looks to replace two All-Americans and three All-Conference performers. Seniors Janis Ivanovskis and Kelven Moss, along with junior point guard Brandon Oldham will provide leadership. Transfers Ron Jones (Alabama A&M) and Anthony Johnson (All-Region Motlow State) will be key to this season’s success with scoring ability from the guard and forward positions.

Crichton College:
The record books are wide open for the Crichton Comets as they begin a season titled “All Things New”. The Comets will see a new league, conference, nickname, logo, 15 players, four coaches and no returning players from last year’s 3 and 23 team. Head Coach Jeff Walker is attempting his third consecutive program turnaround. In his previous two stops at Hiawassee Junior College and Grayson Community College he produced a 20-game and 16-game improvement in his first season respectively. Several newcomers hint at a similar turnaround for Walker again. All-American candidate and Memphis native Jonathan Loe, St. Bonaventure transfer Brian Gibbs, JUCO All-American DeShawn Danzey and 2002 TSSAA state tournament MVP Melvin Wilkes will lead the team of newcomers. The team will attempt to build their own legacy in the basketball rich city of Memphis in their new home, the historic 11,500 seat Mid-South Coliseum.

Freed-Hardeman University:
First year coach Jason Shelton, an assistant at the University of Colorado, and assistant coach Ryan Parnell from Tennessee Tech, will look to improve the Lions men’s basketball team in their first season. They’ll do so with two returning starters and six other returning lettermen from last year's team. A tough non-conference and a competitive conference schedule the Lions are working hard to be a strong contender in the new season. Returning players are Josh Haislip (Sr.), Seth Matlock (Sr.), Nathan Aaron (Sr.), Marko Nikolic (Jr.), Elmir Forto (Jr.), Brent McPherson (So.), Michael McCutchen (Fr.) and Freshman All-Conference selection Faruk Basic. The Lions will also welcome nine talented newcomers to the team.

Lyon College:
The Lyon Scots will be aiming high this season after a third place regular season and second place conference tournament finish in the TranSouth. The 17-11 overall record has the team pushing to build a special season. Two seniors (Norris Weintz/Jason Donaldson) make up the foundation of the Scots’ hopes for this year. Weintz, first team TranSouth, was the leading scorer and rebounder last year and was in the TranSouth top ten in both categories. Jason Donaldson, second team all-conference, is a force in the paint and a threat to fill up the stat sheet every night. Jonathon Donaldson, TranSouth all-freshman, returns to spark the backcourt and joins brother Jason and Weintz to form a fierce threesome. The team will round out with sophomore Trey Salley igniting play from the point, sophomore forward Levi Taylor joins the frontcourt and newcomer Preston Butts will provide quality minutes.

Martin Methodist College:
First-year head coach Jason Ficca will have a mix of key returnees and top newcomers for this season. Last season’s leading scorer, 6’9” junior Kirk Newnham, returns (13.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg – 19 games), before missing the end of the season due to a car accident. Seniors Justin Wilson (8.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Jarvis Young (7.7 ppg) and Brian Rucker (5.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg) also are key players returning. Two NCAA D-I transfers, Jeremy Law (Jacksonville State) and Cedric Williams (Louisiana-Lafayette) will boost the roster. Law, a 6’2” senior, started in eight games at JSU (7.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.7 apg – 9 games), while the 6’8 Williams played two years at ULL, averaging 8.4 ppg and shooting 50 percent from the field. Junior College transfers Marion James and Deon Moorer from Enterprise-Ozark Community College will contribute after helping EOCC to the Alabama Community College state championship last season.

Trevecca Nazarene University:
After losing three seniors that produced three all-conference and two all-American awards from last year’s squad, the Trojans return a very young team for the 2005-06 season. With just one returning senior, Jerod Perry the Trojans will need to lean heavily on their talented underclassmen. Six sophomores return to the team including TranSouth Freshman of the Year Collins Onyando. Fellow sophomores Marcos Salvi, Josh Helton and Alex Renfroe saw significant playing time and some time in the starting rotation last year. Sophomores Justin Millsaps and Lance Mathis also saw playing time last year. Joining them will be six newcomers, including four freshmen. The freshmen include Trey Gilliam, Brian Otieno, William Henry, Eric Orr, and Nick Watson. The Trojans spent most of last season ranked in the top 10 and advanced to the sweet sixteen of the NAIA national tournament last year.

Union University:
Union University lost just two seniors from last season's team that won the TranSouth Conference Championship and advanced to the NAIA National Tournament. Coach Ralph Turner returns three starters from last year, plus two other players who started from time to time. Among those returning is the teams leading scorer in senior Corey Burket. Also returning are juniors Marcus Cooper, Pierry Valmera, and Ben Frederick. Four players are joining this year’s team, three by way of the transfer. Mack Bealim and Kinley Sellers will make this year’s team much more athletic that last season's just by stepping on the floor. This year's Union team returns the core offensive players from last season’s championship team. The Bulldogs hope to take lessons learned from last season and make a run deep in to the NAIA Tournament.

#DOGS#


Steven Aldridge
Phone: (731) 661-5027
Sports Information
Fax: (731) 661-5182

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