Basketball season at Blue Mountain College will begin in much the same tempo the Lady Toppers and Toppers play – fast and furious.
After the Toppers play tonight and Saturday in the Freed-Hardeman Classic in Henderson, Tenn., they return to the BMC campus and join the Lady Toppers for three home games.
On Nov. 2, BMC will play host to Oakwood University at 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 Belhaven College visits for a 5:30 p.m. doubleheader; and Nov. 7 William Carey University visits for a 2 p.m. doubleheader.
“This will be a great way for us to get our season off on a high note,” said Lavon Driskell, BMC athletics director and women’s coach. “Any time you can play in front of your fans it’s a plus and to start the season off with three home games should give us a boost.”
BMC is a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics and the TranSouth Athletics Conference.
“It’s a given that our conference schedule will be tough because the TranSouth is one of the best leagues in the NAIA, if not the best,” Driskell said. “But our non-conference schedule is also pretty difficult. I think both the women and men teams will find out pretty early what’s ahead for us.”
– Entering its third season of being, BMC men’s program is also counting on a more experienced team to improve its record of a year ago (2-29, 1-15).
“We’ve got a nice blend of returning players, junior college transfers and freshmen,” said coach Jerry Conner. “While we’ll be looking to a core group of veteran players to provide the leadership and toughness we need to compete in the TranSouth, we’ve got some new players who will allow us to be much more physical than we’ve been the past couple of years.”
Brad Pressley and J.C. Hayles will be in their third seasons for the Toppers.
Pressley, a 6-4 senior from Wheeler, averaged 10.5 points and 4.5 rebounds last season. Hayles, a 6-3 junior from South Pontotoc, is one of the team’s defensive leaders.
Ethan Ellis, a 6-5 sophomore from Gibson, Tenn., and a part-time starter last season, gives the Toppers depth inside. Kyle Heard, a 6-1 sophomore from Ingomar; Benji Bishop, a 6-5 senior from New Albany; and Shayne Adams, a 6-3 senior from North Pontotoc, will also give BMC experience.
The Toppers picked up four junior college players: 6-3 guard Josh McCalmon from Tisho-mingo County and ICC; 6-9 post player MaCay Wilbanks from Kossuth and Northeast; and a pair of Jones County Junior College standouts, 6-4 forward Lakendrick McCullum from Laurel and 5-10 guard Renell Collins from Soso.
– Experience will be key for BMC this season, Driskell said. Three starters return from last year’s squad that finished 7-24, 2-14 in the TSAC. The three starters – Joy Pierce, Katelynn Wright and Jordan McCormick – averaged 30 points a game last season.
“We’re more talented than we have been,” Driskell said. “Our speed and quickness are better, we’re a little bit bigger than we have been, and we’ve got an exciting group of freshmen. Now, how that translates into wins remains to be seen, but I really like this team.”
Pierce, a junior from Byhalia, led the Lady Toppers in scoring last year with 12 points a game. She also led in assists (52), blocked shots (32) and steals (35) and was second in rebounds per game (5.1).
Wright, a senior from Oxford, averaged 9.4 points a game and led in rebounds with 5.5 per game. McCormick, a junior from Pontotoc, is a standout defender who averaged 6.6 points and 3.7 rebounds.
Caitlin Beckham, a 6-0 sophomore from Adamsville, Tenn., and Lauren Burges, a senior from Water Valley, were also part-time starters last year.
The freshman additions are: Samantha Burns (6-0 inside player from McNairy Central in Selmer, Tenn.), Candace Davis (5-6 guard from Pine Grove), Jessi Hayles (5-9 guard from South Pontotoc), Shaquinta “Bam Bam” Robinson (5-0 guard from Starkville), and Katie Underwood (5-9 forward from Nettleton).
On the Web
– www.bmcsports.com – The official athletic department Web site.
NEMS Daily Journal