Centenary Basketball to Begin Official Practice Saturday
Friday, October 14, 2011
SHREVEPORT-With less than a month away until game-time tip-off, the Centenary men's and women's basketball teams will begin official practice this Saturday, October 15 in the Gold Dome and Haynes Fitness Center.

On Saturday, second-year head coach Kristen Davis and new assistant coach Layne Huckabay are excited about getting their season underway with their first official team practice, which will include a full schedule of on-court drills.

"I'm excited to finally get back on the basketball court and go to work. Focus is going to be a huge key for us. We have so many newcomers and we have a ton to put in during the first two weeks of practice," said Davis on beginning practice Saturday.

With the first game beginning November 15 at Northwestern State, Davis and Huckabay plan to construct their team identity, which begins with a focus on defense.

Centenary returns four letterwinners from a year ago, led by senior Megan Daniel (7.6 ppg, 26 stls, 38.2 min/game), who returns for her final season in the Gold Dome. Also returning are juniors Jalena Sanders (3.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Vashni Sharp-Moore, who is welcomed back after missing most of last season due to a knee injury and sophomore Tandrea Shamblin (1.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg).

"I expect a great deal of leadership out of each one of our returners. Coach Huckabay and I will rely on them to help the freshmen pick-up drills and concepts quickly at practice to ensure a smooth transition," said Davis when asked about what she expects from her returners.
The Ladies welcome nine newcomers, which includes eight freshmen. Davis and Huckabay look for them to grow and quickly adjust to the college game as they will be looked upon this year to provide both offensive and defensive contributions.

"Coach Huckabay did an excellent job with the 2011 recruiting class. With only four returners, our newcomers will definitely see ample playing time," said Davis. "With the exception of Kelly Johnstone, our JUCO transfer, this will be the first taste of college basketball for our freshmen. We don't have the luxury for our freshmen to have too much of a transition year. We're going to have to push and demand a lot more out of this class than most because they will see a great deal of playing time."

"We know that the ASC is one of the top DIII conferences for basketball, and we want to be ready to compete and do well. There's a ton of work to be done before our first tip-off, but the coaches and players are excited and ready to go to work," said Davis.

Second-year head coach Adam Walsh and second-year assistant coach Justin LeBlanc will gear up on Saturday to begin practice. The Gents will look for a strong bond between the newcomers and returners as they prepare for their first real time on the court together.

"We are very excited to see our guys for the first time on the court Saturday. This has been a different Fall for us as coaches and I am ready to see what we have and how well the guys have became a team off the court thus far," said Walsh on opening the season.

Centenary opens play on November 19 at ASC foe, UT-Dallas. Walsh and LeBlanc expect it to be a tough opening part of their schedule, but have hopes that returning home the latter part of the season for quite some time will work to Centenary's advantage.

"We start with the absolute toughest part of schedule right away, so we know that will be a challenge," said Walsh on his opening week of games. "Once we get into December and have the chance to play at home, I think the jitters of a younger team will be completely gone. Finishing the season with 9 of 14 games at home is exciting as it really allows for continued individual and team development throughout the season and should make for a strong finish to the year."

The Gents return three lettterwinners from last year's squad, led by senior scoring leader Maxx Nakwaasah, who led last year's squad with 12.0 ppg. The Dallas, Texas native also finished second-best in rebounding with 6.0 rpg and averaged over 30.0 minutes per contest.

Also returning is sophomore guard Jonathan Blount (6.6 ppg, 21 stls) and senior center Matt Nichenko (0.4 ppg, 0.7 rpg).

"We are a little thin on returners for the beginning of the season, but we expect their previous experiences to be brought to the forefront the first minute of Saturday's practice as they have been there and done that," said Walsh on expectations of his three returners. "Matt and Maxx are making their last go around and we think they are going to make the best of it, leading by example, while Jonathan continues to return from his off-season surgery and when he is able to hit the court, we expect that exact same leadership from him."

Centenary welcomes 14 newcomers, which includes 12 freshmen and two transfers. Walsh and LeBlanc look for their newcomers to provide energy and enthusiasm to this squad as well as expect them to be hungry and curious about playing collegiate basketball.

"We are very excited by the energy and naivety that all of them have," said Walsh on his newcomers. "They have been asking a ton of questions and showing their enthusiasm every day. We hope that their enthusiasm carries over as we begin Saturday. We need Jairus [Browning] and Brandon [Center] to be just like returners as they have also been through the grind before at Millsaps. All of the freshmen should have some immediate impact and we are looking at all of them to contribute this season."

Both squads open the 2011-12 season at home on December 1 against ASC opponent, Texas Lutheran. Ladies are slated to begin at 5:30 pm, followed by the Gents at 7:30 pm in the Gold Dome.

Centenary will compete in NCAA Division III's American Southwest Conference this season. Due to reclassifying regulations, the Ladies and Gents are not eligible for any conference or post season championships, nor individual or team honors this season.

Remember you can follow all Centenary Basketball action on Facebook (Centenary Athletics) or on Twitter @GoCentenary as well as online at GoCentenary.com.