MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Sports

October 31, 2013

Connors squads are young

The Connors State men’s and women’s basketball teams are primed to open the 2013-14 basketball season as Cowboys coach Bill Muse begins his 22nd year and Cowgirls coach Eddie Kite his 11th season at the helm.

The Cowgirls open the year at 2 p.m. Saturday at Melvin Self Field House against Crowder College while the Cowboys begin at 3 p.m. Sunday against Bacone College.

Both squads will bring young ball clubs to the court this season. Muse’s Cowboys, who are coming off a 24-9 season and a trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament in Hutchinson, return only one starter.

Muse believes this season’s club has the potential for a repeat performance, despite being a very young team.

“I have been in this situation before with just one returning starter,” said Muse. In junior college it turns over every couple of years. You try to keep each class balanced and that’s why you bring in sophomore transfers,” said Muse.

Missing from last year’s 24-9 club are All-Region II performers Hakeem Harris, Josh Cameron and Denell Henderson, who all moved on to NCAA Division I programs. However, Muse does return starter Willie Atwood, who has All-American candidate written all over him, along with squadmen from last season Quan Jones and Hilldale grad Tony Cabrera.

“We have good size and plenty of post players,” said Muse, adding, “But what we have to do is develop our young perimeter players. That will set the tone on how successful we will be this year.

“If our perimeter players play like we are hoping, then we will have a successful year. But they are very inexperienced back there,” said Muse.

One of those perimeter players Muse is counting on is sophomore transfer Terrance Carroll from Pima Community College. While at Pima, Carroll average 15.2 points and 4.9 rebounds.

Joining Carroll will be several freshman on the perimeter including Ronnie Boyce from Putnam City, Corlbe Ervin from Edmond North and Kayshaune Spencer from Toronto, Canada.

But it will be Atwood that Muse and the Cowboys will put much of the load on this campaign.

Atwood, a 6-feet-8 forward from Memphis, Tenn., averaged 10.6 points an outing last year and collected 6.1 rebounds per game.

“We have to have a good year from Willie for us to really be successful, “said Muse. “Willie works very hard and plays extremely hard. I am expecting him to have a very successful campaign this year.”

Connors will have plenty of post players this season, something they didn’t have a year ago. Expected to see action in the middle are Atwood, Kris Brown, a transfer from Central Arkansas, redshirt freshman Eric Broadnax from Porter, Devante Robinson, 6-9, who was highly recruited from Dallas, and Darryl Levert, 6-9 from Pickerington, Ohio.

“Our inside is going to definitely be the strength of this team,” said Muse. “We have five quality post players. We have to be sure that we aren’t one dimensional. Hopefully are perimeter players can hold their own,” said Muse.

“We have inside presence, but once again a lot depends on our perimeter play,” said Muse.

Kite, whose club finished with a 16-13 record last year, has a completely new squad, something he has not experienced since taking the job.

“I really like our team,” said Kite. “They are working very hard. I haven’t had such an overhaul before.”

Among the 12 freshman on the Cowgirls’ roster are familiar faces to the area – Mari Jackson from Muskogee, Oktaha ex LaNessa Grayson, Janet Hill from Eufaula, Haskell grad Sherrell McHenry and Katie Smith from Checotah.

The two sophomores on the team are transfers Ashley Chiorano, from New Mexico Junior College and Destinee Thrash from Howard, Texas Junior College.

“We will be lacking experience, but the work ethic is there,” said Kite. “It’s going to be an intriguing group of players. We have good size, quickness and athleticism. It’s a very well balance group. It’s just very young.”

Kite said the leadership of the squad will go to the sophomores Thrash and Chiorano, but it admitted “that’s by default because of their experience.”

Thrash, a 5-7 point guard, averaged 11.2 points at Howard last year, while Chiorano a 6-1 post average 20 points and 14 rebounds at New Mexico JC.

“If the chemistry keeps developing, which is always an issue, we could be pretty good. Chemistry is the key. It’s an exciting time here,” said Kite.

The Cowgirls’ boss says their inside game is much improved because of size, when they had only one player over 6-foot tall a year ago.

That has changed this season with four players at 6-0 or taller, starting with Hill at 6-0.

“We have some good size with kids who don’t mind contact with some skill level,” said Kite. “That’s an area we have improved. And, our quickness is better than a year ago which helps our style of play.”

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