BREAKING DOWN THE POLLS
Oct. 22, 2007
KATY, Texas - UT Arlington men's and women's basketball coaches Scott Cross and Samantha Morrow put their best face forward as they hyped the Mavericks and the parity of the Southland Conference during the league's SLC Basketball Media Day at the Merrill Center here Monday.
ESPN announcer Fran Fraschilla was the keynote speaker during the luncheon. Afterwards, members of the regional media converge on the coaches from each Southland Conference school for their assessment of the upcoming season.
Cross, who returns all five starters off a 13-17 squad that ended the 2006-07 season winning seven of their final nine regular-season games before falling to McNeese State 77-76 in the opening round of the SLC Postseason Tournament.
"We feel like we've got a great group of guys coming back," said Cross. "(Senior center) Jermaine (Griffin) is a player who has the ability to change a game. He holds our career shot blocking record and he can score around the basket and rebound. He has looked awesome in practice so far and we are looking for big things from him.
"Larry Posey, is a 6-foot-5 post who really bangs and does the little things. Rod Epps is a combo guard that is one of our most solid, all-around players and Anthony Vereen is similar to Posey, but a little more skilled around the block. Those four are a great nucleus for us."
Morrow is the newcomer to the league after being announced as the eighth head coach in Maverick women's basketball history on May 16. Despite the short time on campus, the 2002 National Federation of High School (NFHS) Coaches Association's National Coach of the Year likes what she sees in this year's sqaud.
"We've got some great kids coming back; we're fired up and ready to go," said Morrow. "(The college game) is a lot different than high school, but it is still basketball and they are still kids. Our expectations are very high. We will never under estimate or over estimate our opponents."
Among those returning off last season's 24-9 squad is senior Tiffeny Riles, a 6-2 center from Lewisville, and senior guard Maryann Abanobi. Abanobi is a preseason first-team all-conference pick after avergaing 10.8 points per game last season. Riles, who named to the all-tournament last March, is a second-team preseason team pick after averaging 9.5 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.
The defending conference champion Mavericks were picked to finish in the middle of the West division, the league office announced on Monday. Coaches predict a fourth-place finish for the Mavericks, who were a perfect 16-0 in conference games last year. Sports information directors voted the Mavs third in the West.
Both coaches concurred that parity in the league makes it impossible to predict a clear-cut leader in either men's or women's races.
"Lamar is very, very good this season. Sam Houston State has a good squad year in and year out and Northwestern State has made a name for themselves over the last five years," said Cross.
"Any time you talk of the Southland Conference you think of Stephen F. Austin," said Morrow. "UTSA and Texas State will be very tough in our division. Visiting with the (SLC) coaches when they came to look at my kids (at Mansfield Summit) I know each coach is committed to improving their programs."
The women's team will open their season Nov. 9 at Northern Arizona. The men will open on Nov. 12 when they host UC Riverside at Texas Hall.