Cleveland State Cougars, Chattanooga State Tigers almost all new

Cleveland State Cougars, Chattanooga State Tigers almost all new

November 2nd, 2012 by Ron Bush in Sports - College

Jay Price and Lee Cigliano both carried spring house cleaning to an extreme with their junior college men's basketball teams.

Cigliano has only two players back from his 2011-12 Cleveland State Cougars who finished 15-14 and reached the region tournament semifinals: standout point guard Travis Jones from Tyner and Jameico "Tiger" McPherson from the Bahamas. Price goes him one better at Chattanooga State: He got one Cigliano's stars, Nick Ross from Red Bank, but has no returning Tigers.

Jones was All-TCCAA after averaging 16 points and five assists a game last year, and other starters for tomorrow night's opener at Chattahoochee Tech likely will be Gabe Dando from Alcoa and Mott Community College transfer Ralph Eason on the perimeter with Kahan Swift from Jackson, Tenn., and Tyner's Trey Suttles inside. Other posts playing a lot will be Xavier Okoro and Trey Everette, and top wing reserves are McPherson, Timothy Triplett and Hamilton Heights graduate Filipe Goncalves.

Maurice Armistead will get point guard work starting in the second semester, and Dantorio Dansby is temporarily ineligible but should be available soon.

"It's always a feeling of the unknown in junior college, even more with such a large group of new people," Cigliano said, "but I think this is a pretty competitive group. We're lacking in size but have shown hustle and good guard play, and I think we're a decent shooting team.

"How well we defend and how we rebound against teams with more height and length will decide what kind of season we have."

Price thinks he has a lot of options but will spend the preconference part of the Chatt State schedule, starting with a 2 p.m. home doubleheader Saturday against Middle Georgia Tech, seeing who plays best together.

Ross was all-region and received All-American honorable mention but is just another player for the Tigers -- albeit a talented one -- the coach emphasized.

"We cleaned house, not just with last year's sophomores but with everybody," Price said, "for academic issues and integrity and discipline. We're taking a whole different approach to the academic side. We always want to win, but our main job here is to make sure the kids can move on, so we're going to make sure they're doing what they have to do in all aspects.

"They're all very capable students, and I feel good about their abilities on the basketball court."

He is delighted to have two players from his high school alma mater, Brainerd -- Demetrius Kitchens and Orlandis Jackson -- and they and Nick Scott from Ringgold are definitely in the mix for starting spots. Two very likely starters are Joshu'a Warren from Marietta, a 6-foot-9 center who signed originally with the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and 6-6 Cayman Dial from LaVergne, Tenn.

Price also coaches the Lady Tigers, who do have three sophomores from last year's regin semifinalists. That trio -- star guard Khamiyah Crawford from Columbus, Ga.; forward Stevonna Scott from Tyner; and 6-foot center Sierra Sales from Athens, Ala. -- all are starters along with classmate Pamela Honeysucker, a 6-footer from Nashville by way of Wingate and Austin Peay.

Cierra Gordon from Warner Robins is the likely starter at point guard, "and I expect all the rest of the freshmen to contribute," Price said. "We're not very big but we're very athletic and we're fast. With those sophomores I expect to get some post buckets, but I expect to get most of our points in transition."

Dan Lumpkin feels confident that his Cleveland State Lady Cougars will outdo last year's 12-15 record, provided they avoid the injuries that doomed that team -- three wrecked knees and two other major setbacks. Me'Lisa Martinez from Nashville missed the whole season and only recently began her court comeback, and freshman post Carly Fetzer from Northwest Whitfield likewise will contribute more and more as the season progresses after just being released to play after recovering from a broken bone in her foot and "bad ankle sprain."

The Lady Cougars have Robyn Anthony from Arts & Sciences returning at point guard and Chelsea Jones from Chattanooga Christian back at forward after her strong late-season play last year. Ciera Anderson from Cleveland High by way of North Alabama is a key inside player who may not play Saturday with a knee issue, but Lumpkin acknowledged that he has "a better inside cast" this year with more posts who can fill in effectively, including 6-footer Diamond Freeman from Campbell High in Georgia and Shea Nunn from Carrollton Central.

Jara Gasper is a freshman guard starter from Loudon, and Mercedes Owens from CCS is a starting candidate.