LOCATION: Normal, AL
CONFERENCE: Southwestern Athletic (SWAC)
LAST SEASON: 10-17 (.629)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 7-11 (N/A)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 1/4
COLORS: Maroon & White
HOMECOURT: T.M. Elmore Building (6,000)
COACH: Vann Pettaway (Alabama A&M '80)
record at school 291-100 (13 years)
career record 291-100 (13 years)
ASSISTANTS: Willie Hayes (Alabama A&M '89)|
Kirk Patrick (Texas College '88)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 18-24-28-29-10
RPI (last 5 years) N/A
1998-99 FINISH: Ineligible for postseason.
Alabama A&M coach Vann Pettaway has put last year out of his mind. The Bulldogs' first season on the NCAA Division I level and in the Southwestern Athletic Conference was no fun. Sure, A&M beat Texas Southern, Southern and Grambling, Blue Ribbon's top three teams in the SWAC preseason poll, but the final record wasn't anything like Pettaway had become accustomed to. After averaging 27 victories each of the last three years, the Bulldogs finished 10-17 overall and 7-11 in league play while serving as an affiliate member. It was Pettaway's first losing season in his 13-year tenure as A&M's coach. "We don't even look at last year anymore," Pettaway said. "It hasn't been part of the preseason and it won't be part of the regular season. We're going to move on. The only thing last year did was it gave us an understanding of how it's done in this league. We know what to expect. From that perspective, we are more knowledgable as both players and coaches." A&M's 7-11 league record would have placed the Bulldogs sixth in the league had they been eligible. While the Bulldogs aren't eligible to play in the SWAC Tournament this season, they are eligible for the regular-season title. "I'm real pleased about that because it will give our kids something to fight for," Pettaway said. "Last year it was extremely tough pushing the kids when they knew they didn't have anything to play for at the end of the season."
With four starters back, including the team's top three scorers and a recruiting class that Pettaway said rivals any he's had at A&M, the Bulldogs could be a factor in the league race. "On paper, we've got all the things that add up to success," Pettaway said. Had A&M's statistics counted, the Bulldogs would have finished second in the league in scoring (77.3 ppg), seventh in scoring margin (minus-7.0), ninth in field-goal percentage (.376), fourth in free-throw percentage (.646) and sixth in three-point field-goal percentage (.311). The Bulldogs would have finished eighth in scoring defense (84.3 ppg), tied for eighth in field-goal percentage defense (.447), ninth in rebounding margin (minus-7.9) and first in three-pointers per game (7.3). A&M's returning starters are forward Terrance Vanlier (19.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg), guards Desmond Cambridge and Miguel Smith (15.9 ppg) and center Anthony Riley. Vanlier, 6-5, Blue Ribbon's preseason newcomer of the year, would have been second in the league in scoring. He also shot .780 from the free-throw line, which would have been second best in the conference. Smith, 6-2, 180, who battled nagging injuries all of last season, shot .360 from three-point range. Only Mississippi Valley State's Faragi Phillips and Prairie View's Gregory Burks shot better from beyond the arc. "I think Terrance and Miguel can play with anyone in this league," Pettaway said. "Terrance is one of the better all-around players that's ever played here. He's been pretty consistent. What makes him special is that he can do so many things during the course of the game that will factor into the outcome. "Miguel is one one of the better shooters in the league. He's gotten stronger over the summer and that's going to help him because I feel he wore down down the stretch. He knows they're going to be physical with him and Terrance and they've got to be able to handle that. "Those two guys are proven players and we feel we have surrounded them with better players this year so we're looking for better results." Cambridge, 6-1, 180, returns at point guard but will be challenged by freshman Dwaynius Harris (5-10, 165) and Samuel Dansby. Damien Crayton, who has played shooting guard his first two years, could play there some, too. "I feel pretty good about that position," Pettaway said, "Harris is going to be hard to keep off the floor." In addition to Smith at shooting guard, junior Courtney Phillips (6-4, 210), and freshman Randall Massey (6-0, 185) will also contend for playing time there. Phillips averaged 17.0 points and 6.0 rebounds last season at Southwestern Junior College in Lubbock, Texas. "It's going to be interesting at shooting guard because we have people that can put the ball in the basket," Pettaway said. Vanlier, who logged almost 32 minutes a game last season, will likely get some relief from freshman Udo Wisdom (6-4, 215), junior Marquette Williams (6-4, 210) and junior Rashid Floyd (6-6, 195). Floyd averaged 12.0 points and 7.0 rebounds last season at Bevill State Community College in Fayette, Ala. Riley, 6-7, 215, will play power forward and center, and will get some help from freshman Michael Spence (6-5, 200), freshman Jabari Buchanan (6-6, 220), junior Ryan Jones (6-8, 205), freshman Jason Jeter (6-7, 220), freshman Garik Nicholson (6-7, 235), and freshman Rodney Kellum (6-8-1/2, 215). "The newcomers have got to come through and help us right away," Pettaway said. "In order for us to be successful, that has to happen. The schedule isn't in our favor (the Bulldogs visit Mississippi State, Alabama-Birmingham, Memphis, Alabama and South Alabama during the pre-conference season) but I think it'll help us grow. "The key for us is holding our own until January. If we don't get discouraged before January, I think we'll be OK."
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT B BENCH/DEPTH B|
FRONTCOURT B INTANGIBLES C
Coach Vann Pettaway believes the Bulldogs have helped themselves tremendously with their recruiting class. Nine new players are on the roster, five of whom will play power forward or center, an area where the Bulldogs were outmanned last year. If the newcomers help shore up that area and Terrance Vanlier and Miguel Smith don't have many off nights, A&M could be a factor in the league a lot sooner than many people thought.
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