LOCATION: Lorman, MS
CONFERENCE: Southwestern Athletic (SWAC)
LAST SEASON: 23-7 (.767)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 14-2 (1st)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 2/3
COLORS: Purple & Old Gold
HOMECOURT: Davey Whitney Complex (7,000)
COACH: Davey L. Whitney (Kentucky State '53)
record at school 441-239 (23 years)
career record 496-302 (28 years)
ASSISTANTS: Samuel West (Texas Southern '77)|
Marcus Pittman (Georgia)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 7-10-11-12-23
RPI (last 5 years) 295-267-247-269-114
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in NCAA first round.
Three years after returning and promising to put Alcorn State's basketball program back on the map, Davey Whitney delivered. Whitney, who guided the Braves to eight Southwestern Athletic Conference championships from 1969-89, had the Lorman, Miss., school back atop the league standings last year. "We came from death's bed in three years to win a championship," Whitney said. Alcorn State finished 23-7 overall, won the SWAC regular-season and tournament titles and scared the daylights out of Stanford before losing, 69-57, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. "It took us a little time to understand what we were trying to do and to understand what our roles were," said Whitney, whose team was 6-5 after its first 11 games before winning 17 of its last 19, including 12 straight during one stretch. "We had to make some tough decisions involving some of our athletes," Whitney said. "We found that some of them could not play together and we had to make a hard decision to adjust that situation. When we made that adjustment, the team came on after that."
The Braves finished second in the league in scoring (75.8), first in scoring margin (minus-8.9), third in field-goal percentage (.419), sixth in free-throw percentage (.642) and third in three-point field-goal percentage (.323). Alcorn State led the league in scoring defense (66.9), was third in field-goal defense (.395), first in rebounding margin (plus-7.9) and third in three-point shots made (6.20). With three starters back, along with 11 returning lettermen, the Braves will try to win back-to-back titles this season. In order to do that, they will have to replace point guard Reuben Stiff and forward Eddrick Wheaton, both first-team All-SWAC honorees a year ago. Stiff, MVP of the league tournament, averaged 12.1 ppg and 3.8 apg. Wheaton chipped in 9.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg and tied for the team lead in blocked shots at 28 with sophomore center Walter Harper (4.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg). Senior Treymane Chambers (4.0 ppg, 44 assists) will move into the starting lineup at point guard. The 5-11, 170-pounder, a backup last year, is the only point guard back from last year. Junior college transfer Corey Mangum (13..0 ppg, 7 apg) and freshman James West (15.0 ppg, 8.0 apg) will also contend for playing time. Mangun, 6-2, 180, played at Connors State and West played at Natchez (Miss.) High School. "James West is a quick guard and is very knowledgeable and penetrates real well," Whitney said. "Mangum played real well in junior college, so we think that we filled that position very well. "Our point-guard situation is the most solid I've had since I've been back. We're solid at shooting guard, but we don't have as much experience there." There will be a lot of competition for Wheaton's forward spot. Terrance Cameron (9.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is a 6-5, 220-pound senior who returns at one forward after shooting .520 from the field a year ago. Sophomore Marcus Fleming, 6-8, 215, and senior Brian Adams, 6-6, 220, are also back. Newcomer Romario Smith could also figure into the mix with Fleming (3.9 ppg, 1.1 rpg) and Adams (3.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg). "We have some quality forwards," Whitney said. "Somebody is going to have to be a reserve. There is going to be some competition in that position for sure. "Adams was a disappointment last year (two years after being voted the league's freshman of the year). Fleming played extremely well against Stanford last year. I think the strength our of team is going to be our depth. We can replace our starters with quality people." Harper and Chad Slaughter (4.3 ppg, 5.9 rpg), a starting tackle on the football team, will split time at center. They combined for 43 blocked shots last year. Slaughter, who grew up as the season progressed and helped solidify Alcorn State as a team, won't be ready until late November. "Walter and Chad came up very strong last year," Whitney said. "They made a tremendous impression on our ballclub as well as on a lot of other people last year." Senior Wallace Harris (8.6 ppg) returns at shooting guard. Devin Pack (3.3 ppg, 22 assists) and Donald Fleming (3.9 ppg) are also back, along with newcomer Jason Cable. "We've got a lot of depth at the two-guard position," Whitney said. "Wallace Harris did an outstanding job for us last year. Jason Cable is a youngster we redshirted last year who is a tremendous shooter. We are just hoping that he will be able to adjust to what we are trying to do." If Whitney can get the pieces to fall into place, the Braves might be poised for a repeat. "What we are trying to do is get depth in each position, so there will be a lot of competition," Whitney said. "I am trying to figure out if we've got kids that are going to compete against each other, so that it will make our ballclub that much stronger." The schedule could be a hindrance. In addition to its SWAC opponents, Alcorn State visits Southern Mississippi, Louisiana State, Oklahoma State, Arkansas and will participate in the Lobo Classic Tournament in Albuquerque, NM.
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT B BENCH/DEPTH B|
FRONTCOURT C INTANGIBLES B
Don't be surprised if coach Dave Whitney and company aren't hoisting another SWAC banner to the rafters by season's end. The Braves have all of the ingredients speed, size, strength and depth. Wallace Harris, Terrance Cameron and Walter Harper give Alcorn State three starters who played in last year's NCAA Tournament game against Stanford. Six other players who earned significant minutes last season are also back. If the point-guard position is solidified and the bench plays as well as it did last season, Alcorn State will be a team to be reckoned with once again. "We hadn't been to a postseason tournament in 11 years and now that we've been there, I wonder whether their appetite has been whetted enough to go back again," Whitney said. "I think if a championship is going to be won, they're going to have to come through here."
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