By From school reports
BLUE MOUNTAIN – Continued progress is the theme for the Blue Mountain College basketball teams this season.
Both teams, members of the NAIA TranSouth Athletic Conference, open their home campaign today in Tyler Gymnasium.
The Lady Toppers, 7-22 last season, play host to Belhaven at 2 p.m., followed by the Toppers against Central Baptist College at 4 p.m.
Blue Mountain’s men, 8-22 a year ago after winning only three games the previous three seasons, began their season Tuesday night with a 67-73 loss at Belhaven University. Today is the season-opener for the Lady Toppers.
The Lady Toppers return six players, two starters, from last year’s team and coach Lavon Driskell has brought in a group of talented newcomers to compete in arguably the toughest women’s conference in the NAIA.
“We’ve brought in four junior college transfers to go with two really strong freshmen, so that will give us some experience when we crank it up,” Driskell said.
BMC’s six returnees are juniors Samantha Burns (4.4 points a game and 6.3 rebounds per game) of Selmer, Tenn., Candace Davis (3.1 ppg, 1.5 rpg) of Ripley, Jessi Hayles (8 ppg, 3.1 rpg) of Pontotoc, Bam Bam Robinson (3.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg) of Starkville; sophomores Kyesha Clark (3.7 ppg, 1.5 rpg), and Chelsea Hussey (2 ppg, 1.3 rpg) of Mooreville.
“All of our returning players played a lot of basketball for us last year,” Driskell said. “We believe that will pay for us, particularly when we get into the conference season.”
The Lady Toppers’ newcomers include: freshmen Kati Prince from Waverly, Tenn., and Tera Hill from Oxford, who played high school basketball in Tampa, Fla., and juco transfers Amber Johnson from Rienzi and Northeast Mississippi Community College, Xenobia Lavender from Noxapater and East Central Mississippi CC, and twins Brandy and Brittany Walls from Red Banks and Northwest Mississippi CC.
“We’re going to be a lot more athletic this year – more than we’ve been in several years,” Driskell said. “The key for us will be how quickly our new players can mesh with our returnees. Our returning players are a lot more familiar with our system now, and once the new ones make the adjustments I think we’ll be OK.”
Toppers coach J.D. Parker, beginning his second season at BMC, is also looking for old and new coming together.
“We’ve got a good mix of guys whose skills should make us a better team,” Parker said. “With the new guys joining five returnees and three redshirts, I think once we mesh we’ll see a lot of improvement.”
Jarvis Fisher, a sophomore from Pine Bluff, Ark., was a member of the TranSouth All-Freshman team a year ago, after starting 26 games and averaging 10.4 points per outing.
Fisher will be joined by returnees: Ethan Ellis, a senior from Gibson, Tenn.; DeVante Pulliam (4.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg), a sophomore from Houston; Corbin Harris (4.3 ppg), a sophomore from Fort Mill, S.C.; Tyler Shaver (7.8 ppg), a junior from Anderson, Mo., and redshirts Michael Chatham, a sophomore from Collierville, Tenn.; Chris Whitten, a freshman from Selmer, Tenn.; and Jake Keller, a sophomore from Cross Plains, Tenn.
Pulliam led the team with 15 points against Belhaven.
BMC newcomers are: freshmen Shane Butler of Tupelo; Toby Roelfsema of Senaca, Mo.; Bruno Santana of Vitoris, Brazil; and Josh Williams of Redwater, Texas; and transfers Cody Garrett of Corinth and Northeast CC; Jermael Bingham of Selmer, Tenn. and Dyersburg State CC, and Jonathan Luster of Belmont and Itawamba CC, and Zach Carnell of Ecru and Delta State.
“Fisher had a great freshman year and he continues to get better,” Parker said. “Pulliam was solid and gives us a lot of leadership, as does Ellis. Shave worked hard this summer and it’s obvious when you watch him play.
“We’ll be a much more athletic team this year; we’re just ready for the season to get started.”