Men's Basketball Picked to Finish Eighth in SAC Pre-Season Poll

Siloam Springs, Ark. (October 25, 2006) — The Golden Eagles were picked to finish eighth in the SAC pre-season coaches poll that was released Tuesday afternoon. JBU received 27 votes finishing behind Lubbock and Northwestern, who eached received 39, and Wayland Baptist (38). JBU ended the 2005-2006 season 16-15 after being defeated in the first round of the NAIA national tournament.

Oklahoma City returned to prominence in the Sooner Athletic Conference last season with first-year coach Ray Harper leading the Stars all the way to the NAIA championship game.

His Stars are picked to win the SAC title again this season, according to the SAC Preseason Coaches Poll released Tuesday.

The Stars were one of three team to collect first place votes and finished on top with 79 points after being listed atop eight ballots. Coaches were not allowed to include their team in the ranking.

Oklahoma Baptist, with no first-place votes, finished second in the poll, followed by Southern Nazarene and Oklahoma Christian, who each had placed atop one ballot. Rounding out the poll were Lubbock Christian and Northwestern tied for fifth, followed by Wayland Baptist, John Brown, USAO and St. Gregory’s.

The Sooner Athletic Conference will be hard-pressed to repeat last season’s effort in which the SAC produced half of the men’s 2006 NAIA Fab Four with Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Baptist.

Hard-pressed because both of those schools lost the centerpiece of their attack in OCU’s Lorenzo Gordon and OBU’s Frank Benson. The conference also graduated Player of the Year Brandon Cole of John Brown.

Yet, the Sooner Athletic Conference could again be a major factor when March rolls around.

Oklahoma City, under second-year coach Ray Harper, has added University of Nebraska transfer B.J. Walker, a 6-10 post; Weber State transfer Nick Covington; Cal Poly transfer Kameron Gray and Norfolk State transfer Armand Massago, to headline a list of nine strong recruits. The Stars will need to forge a new team identity with no one with more than 10 starts returning.

The Bison added New Mexico State transfer Antwan ‘Bookie’ Alexander and junior college standout J.R. Broadus to a line-up that returned three starters, including double-figure scorers Julius Hurd and Tre Griffin and assists leader Kortney Smith. Mike Fraser also returns this season after a year off and should be a strong defensive presence for the team. But the Bison and Stars won’t go unchallenged.

John Brown may never replace the backcourt tandem of Cole and Alex Terry, the Golden Eagles have returning Freshman of the Year Cody Page and senior Adam Workman to guide a roster that includes five freshman and junior college transfer Alex Green as JBU tries for a fifth straight trip to Kansas City.

Wayland Baptist has the leading returning vote-getter in last year’s All-Conference selections in fireball Kendall Webb. Webb will have a new coach to play for in Robert Davenport, a graduate of OBU who has made stops at Texas-Pan American, Missouri Baptist and LeTourneau. Webb and Davenport will have to overcome the loss of four starters. Michal Polanowski returns as a part-time starter and the Pioneers have added Langston transfer John Hollman to the mix.

Oklahoma Christian also looks strong with a returning cast that includes All-Conference guard Keith Harris and starters Charles Baldwin and Micah Miles * all seniors. The Eagles will have to replace spark plug guard Brady Page.

The five teams that didn’t make it to Kansas City in 2006 are prepared to make up for that in 2007. All of those five have been to the NAIA Tournament at least once since 1999 and two have championship banners in their gyms.

Southern Nazarene returns All-Conference post Milorad Damjanac and starter Brent Kimmel. SNU added Southern Miss transfer Mildon Ambres to the lineup. Northwestern Oklahoma State picked up Gary Nunez, a transfer from Cal State-Fullterton to go with All-Conference forward Tramain Davis.

Lubbock Christian returns three starters, including All-Conference guard Max Eding. USAO also returns three starters and one more part-time starter to lead an athletic team. St. Gregory’s is led by All-Conference guard Patrick Jones.

2006-07 SAC Men’s Basketball Coaches Preseason Poll Place School (1st Place Votes) Points 1 Oklahoma City (8) 79 2 Oklahoma Baptist 68 3 Southern Nazarene (1) 65 4 Oklahoma Christian (1) 60 T5 Lubbock Christian 39 T5 Northwestern 39 7 Wayland Baptist 38 8 John Brown 27 9 USAO 24 10 St. Gregory’s 11

---Courtesy Ray Fink, SAC Sports Information---