Chattanooga State aims for dual nationals again

Chattanooga State aims for dual nationals again

November 5th, 2011 by Ron Bush in Sports - College

Jay Price had one of those great problems to have last basketball season, coaching both of his Chattanooga State basketball teams to simultaneous national tournaments at separate Kansas locations.

It could happen again. The Lady Tigers are ranked eighth in the NJCAA Division I preseason poll and return their three all-region players, and the men's team is largely new but loaded with players with college experience.

"I think we have a chance," Price said Friday about the male Tigers. "Everybody's starting over [in the league] except Columbia State. I think we're more athletic than last year, and we shoot the ball better. We're just not as big.

"It's a matter of jelling late rather than early. But then that team last year didn't really come together until after Christmas."

The men open their season Monday night at home against the Tennessee Temple junior varsity and then join the Lady Tigers in jumping into TCCAA play next Friday and Saturday at Dyersburg State and Southwest Tennessee.

The Lady Tigers begin their season at 4 p.m. today at home against East Georgia. Leading them will be 2010-11 region player of the year April Woodard, a second-team All-American and the region tournament MVP, along with fellow all-region first-teamer Hiydaayah Williams and second-teamer Jasmain Carey.

"I think they're even better now," Price said. "They've all really matured. Hiydaayah's knes have gotten stronger, April's work ethic has gotten better and Jasmain's shoulder is healthy and she's really focused on getting [an NCAA] Division I opportunity."

Woodard and Williams are the starting wings, Carey is the center and freshmen Khamiyah Crawford and Stevonna Scott will join them in the lineup at point guard and strong forward. TaQuasha O'Neal and Olivia James are the other top returners.

Crawford is "a good scorer," Price said. "And she's really quick and can defend."

Scott graduated from Tyner but played in another state, moving back with her military family so her mother could be near her other close relatives in the late stages of her bout with breast cancer. She died last week, and Price said the Lady Tigers will wear pink shoes in her honor for most of their home games.

Carey, a former Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe star, is practicing with an elastic brace on her right shoulder after playing through the pain last season.

"It's fine. We're just being very cautious," she said.

The team is better than last year's 22-8 bunch, Carey believes.

"Everybody's not perfect, but as a team we can be. We can overcome each other's flaws," she said. "Everybody works hard and gives it all in practice."

The top-10 ranking is no big deal, Williams said.

"We're not satisfied with that," she said. "We feel we sold ourselves short a little bit last year [in the national tournament], and we know we have the team to do better. We're all hungrier this year."

Added Carey: "Last year was just a little taste of what we can do."

NCAA Division I recruit Telvin James is back to run the point for the men's team, backed up by Keith Rawls, and the other starters are fellow sophomores Andrew Houts from Dade County by way of Columbus State, Jacob Horton from a Texas school and 6-foot-10 Byron Trench from Canada, plus freshman forward Tre' Webb from League City, Texas.

Trench is not the defender and shot-blocker that last year's big men, Philip Jurick, was, but he's better offensively, "very active and athletic," Price said.

Sophomores Fitzgerald White and Yakimi Noble and freshman Tyler Whitman from Ooltewah are other top reserves besides Tyner's Rawls.