LOCATION: Prairie View, TX
CONFERENCE: Southwestern Athletic (SWAC)
LAST SEASON: 6-21 (.222)
CONFERENCE RECORD: 4-12 (8th)
STARTERS LOST/RETURNING: 2/3
COLORS: Purple & Gold
HOMECOURT: Billy Nicks Building/Baby Dome (5,000)
COACH: Elwood Plummer (Jackson State '66)
record at school 140-294 (15 years)
career record 316-400 (25 years)
ASSISTANTS: Robert Vanderbilt (Wiley College '72)|
Ed Phillips (Alabama A&M '73)
TEAM WINS: (last 5 years) 6-4-10-13-6
RPI (last 5 years) 301-202-278-252-305
1998-99 FINISH: Lost in conference quarterfinal.
A year after coming out of nowhere to win the Southwestern Athletic Conference Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament, Prairie View reverted back to its old ways last season. With nine freshmen on the roster, the Panthers managed just six wins to go along with 21 losses. They ended their season with an embarrassing 114-61 loss to SWAC regular-season and tournament champion Alcorn State in the opening round of the conference tournament. The good news is those freshmen will be sophomores this year. The bad news is it's tough to win with sophomores in the SWAC. "We'll have more cohesiveness with the return of 12 players from last year's team," Prairie View coach Elwood Plummer said. "Most of the players from last year received a vast amount of playing time. We saw a lot of great things in our freshmen last year and feel confident they'll be more productive this season." With all of those freshmen, Prairie View finished third in the league in scoring (73.1), eighth in scoring margin (minus-11.9), ninth in field-goal percentage (.375), ninth in free-throw percentage (.567) and sixth in three-point field-goal percentage (.300). The Panthers were eighth in the conference in scoring defense (85.0), fifth in field-goal percentage defense (.433) and eighth in rebounding margin (minus-4.0).
Prairie View returns three starters, but if the Panthers are to improve on last year's record, they will have to do it without one of the league's most versatile players from a year ago. Guard Jocquinn Arch (16.0 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 43 assists, 57 steals) ranked fifth in the league in scoring, seventh in steals and 10th in three-point field-goal percentage. Prairie View also lost senior guard Sylvester Lilly, who averaged 4.8 points and 3.5 assists. The Panthers return their entire starting front line, led by sophomore forward Xavier Lee. The 6-4, 216-pound Lee averaged 9.0 points and 3.8 rebounds. Forward/center Aron Thompson (8.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg), a 6-8, 225-pound junior, and 6-7 sophomore center/forward Ivan Coulter (5.2 pg, 6.1 rpg) are also back. Forward Omari Traylor (7.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg), a 6-6 junior, will provide depth along the front line, as will freshman Roderick Riley, a 6-9, 265-pounder out of Central High School in Beaumont, Texas. "In the paint, experience could be a factor since we'll be relying on sophomores with only one senior," Plummer said. "The bottom line is we're still a young team with room to grow." Sophomore guard Gregory Burks is back after being voted the league's freshman of the year. The 5-8 Burks averaged 13.4 points, ninth-best in the league, and will be the Panthers' starting point guard. He was second in the SWAC in three-point field-goal percentage (.367), sixth in assists (3.24 per game) and fifth in free-throw percentage (.756). "We expect Gregory to be our go-to-guy and provide leadership on the floor," Plummer said. Guard Patrick Willybiro (3.9 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a 6-3 sophomore, gives the Panthers another experienced player, while freshman Billy Harris, a 6-3, 185-pounder, will also seek playing time at the guard position. Newcomers Sadit Montgomery and Craig Robinson will battle for the shooting-guard position. Montgomery, a 6-3 junior transfer from Otero (Colo.) Junior College, averaged 15.4 points and 4.0 assists a year ago. Robinson, a 5-11 junior, spent the last two seasons at Southeastern Oklahoma State, where he averaged 12.0 points and 3.0 assists as a sophomore. "Our bench will be much stronger with the addition of Montgomery and Robinson," Plummer said. The Panthers will play another difficult pre-conference schedule that includes games at Tulane, Wichita State, Texas Tech, Cleveland State, Wright State, Mississippi and a trip to the PowerBar Invitational in Honolulu. Even so, Plummer is optimistic his team can improve upon last year's mark. "If this group we have coming in plays well and can jell together, we should finish in the middle of the pack," Plummer said. "We definitely look to improve upon the eighth-place finish from last year. "In order to do that, every night we'll need balanced scoring and we'll need to play good defense. If our inside people can give us more points down low and our outside productivity can match that of last year, we'll be successful."
Blue Ribbon Analysis
BACKCOURT C BENCH/DEPTH D|
FRONTCOURT C INTANGIBLES C
With so much youth, Prairie View will be hard-pressed to be much better than last year. Point guard Gregory Burks is talented, but the Panthers don't have a lot of players that other schools in the SWAC would like to have. Veteran coach Elwood Plummer is hoping a cast of newcomers, including two junior-college transfers battling to join Burks in the backcourt, can give the Panthers a quick fix of talent. Otherwise, it could be another year spent in the lower regions of the RPI.
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