AMERICUS -- The Peach Belt Conference men's basketball preseason coaches poll was released Wednesday afternoon with Georgia Southwestern picked to come in ninth overall, ahead of North Georgia, Lander, Columbus State and UNC Pembroke. The Hurricanes received two votes for fifth place and another two votes for sixth.
Head coach Mike Leeder welcomes back two starters from last year's squad that posted a 7-20 record. Despite losing All-PBC performer Chris Rawls (15.3 points per game, 7.2 rebounds per game), the Hurricanes retain veteran leadership in two-year starter junior Evan Mobley (14.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.7 apg) and senior Dannie Hunt of Moultrie (3.1 rpg). GSW also returns seniors Will Kenimer (played in 26 games last year) and Derek Smith (played in 26 games last year).
GSW will look to the seven new players on its roster to contribute immediately, as well. Leeder's recruiting class includes five NCAA Division I transfers: Talmadge Bell (Coppin State), Phillip Brown (Air Force), Trayce Macon (Troy), Matt Shaw (Lipscomb) and Colin Slotter (Murray State); and two junior college products: Towering 6-foot-8 Albany native Ian Andre (Daytona State) and Bobby Glover (Shelton State). The squad will remain young, however, as three of the new faces are underclassmen.
GSW lost seven games by four points or less in 2009-10 and posted a 5-11 record in games decided by less than nine points, so a quick jump in the standings is possible if the Hurricanes can come out on the winning end of close contests.
Highlighting the Hurricanes' regular season schedule is a pair of road matchups with Division I opponents, including the opener on Nov. 12 at Kennesaw State and a showdown with the SEC's Auburn Tigers on Nov. 30.
Defending Peach Belt Conference Tournament champion USC Aiken was selected as the preseason favorite with 141 points and 10 first-place votes.
MORE ON THE LADY HURRICANES:
As The Herald reported Wednesday, the GSW women are picked to finish ninth in the PBC this season.
But coach Kelly Britsky and the Lady Hurricanes are aiming higher.
Britsky welcomes back three starters from last year's squad that posted a 12-16 record, a four-win improvement from 2009-10. Despite losing the top two scoring and rebounding threats from last season, Brittany Reynolds (12 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Whitley Wiltz (11.4 ppg, 8.5 rpg), the Lady Hurricanes retain veteran leadership in seniors Jessica Bivins (10.1 ppg), Nadirah Gardner (7.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg) and Kanita Holloway (6.9 ppg, 5.5 rpg). GSW also returns juniors Terra Branch (16 starts last season) and Tonette Murphy (tied for second on the team with 35 steals).
Even with a strong returning core, Southwestern will look to the seven new players on the roster to contribute immediately. Britsky's recruiting class includes a pair of NCAA Division I transfers: Tania Walters (Marshall) and Cierra Duhart (Jacksonville State); three junior college transfers: Shakira White (Walters State), Samantha Smith (Tallahassee Community College) and Camilla native Jarra Arnold (Alabama Southern Community College); and two high school products: LaConna Campbell (Tattnall Square Academy) and Keyanna Mitchell (Fitzgerald).
With a PBC-tested lineup, the Lady Hurricanes look to continue their rise in the standings (no conference wins in 2007-08, three in 2008-09 and seven last year) and intend to be on the winning end of more close games this year after suffering five defeats by three points or less last season.
The Lady Hurricanes open the regular season at Albany State on Nov. 16.
HURRICANES SOCCER OFFERS UNIQUE PROMOTION:
GSW is asking soccer fans to bring their sofas, recliners or favorite chair to watch this Saturday's soccer matches against Alabama-Huntsville in comfort. And bring your grill, too. Why? Well, Aramark will present the winning "Couch Potato" entry with the tailgating supplies (meat, chips and drinks for 25-50 people) for a feast at the field.
The soccer action begins at 1 p.m. with the women's match. All participants in the Couch Potato Challenge must be ready for judging by halftime (approx. 2 p.m.). Judging will be broken into three categories: creativity, spirit and group/organization participation. The winning group will be announced before the men's match, which starts at 3:30 p.m.
SINGERS, PERFORMERS WANTED:
GSW is looking for individuals and groups of all ages to perform the national anthem at home athletic events throughout the 2010-11 school year.
Performances can be done a cappella style or with music. If using music, you will be required to provide the accompaniment. All performances should be clean, crisp and professional sound quality.
In addition, opportunities are available for groups to perform at halftime of both Hurricane and Lady Hurricane basketball games. Halftime performances typically last between four and seven minutes. Examples of group categories would be: martial arts, band, cheer or dance.
Any individuals or groups interested should contact sports information director Keith Michlig by phone at (229) 931-2217. Applicants may also send an audio tape, CD or DVD to: GSW Sports Information, 800 Georgia Southwestern State University Dr. Americus, Ga. 31709.