Season opens with exhibition for charity

Junior froward Moses Greenwood scored 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds in the 57-51 victory against Jackson State University.
Jonathan Rhodes/The Lion's Roar

The Lions basketball season began with a 57-51 victory in the exhibition game against Jackson State University.

The game was held in Gulfport High School where senior forward James Currington’s double-double led the Lions to victory.

“I thought that it was a very hard fought, physical game,” said Head Coach Jay Ladner. “Both teams played very well defensively. I didn’t think that we shot the ball particularly well. I do feel like we defended and that was the reason why we were able to win. Our defense carried us. We weren’t very sharp offensively. We got some work to do there.”

The funds raised from the game went to the Catholic Charities of the Mississippi Gulf Coast for hurricane and flood relief. Ladner expressed his views on why he did the event.

“Well, I think anyone in our area, certainly Mississippi Gulf Coast and southeastern Louisiana, with our history of being heavily impacted by hurricanes and flooding, and personally, I went through with Hurricane Katrina, so that was a call that was close to my heart,” said Ladner.

Ladner explained the process of organizing this event.

“Several weeks ago, up until then you were only allowed to play two exhibition games, and both of them had to be against non-Division I opponents,” said Ladner. “For good, the NCAA issued a statement allowing third exhibition game. In that game, you can play Division I opponent as long as the proceeds went to a charity. We jumped right on it. We actually contacted several different opponents. Due to the proximity and due to our schedule, we got with the coach of Jackson State, Wayne Brent. Both of us agreed to play in Gulf Port ’cause we felt that that was a very good place that had been severely affected by the hurricane in the past.”

The Lions who went 16-16 overall in the previous season are looking for recruits to improve the program.

“Our recruiting is at the highest level that it may have ever been here,” said Ladner. “We are involved with a level of recruit that maybe has not been a norm. We’re excited about that. For us to achieve our goal of being a national power in Division I, we have to continue to recruit. We’ve been able to do that in our first three years, and we’ve got to continue.”

Ladner expressed his excitement going into the signing day.

“I have my fingers crossed, but signing day, which is this coming Wednesday, in the early signing period could be really exciting for Southeastern Louisiana,” said Ladner.

Ladner explained the qualities he looks for in a recruit. He also described the progress the team is making academically.

“First and foremost, in a recruit, we look for a young man of high character,” said Ladner. “We look for a young man that is going to be serious about being a student-athlete. In fact, our graduation rate is a 100 percent. We’ve graduated every young man that has finished basketball eligibly. Our team GPA last year was the highest in recorded history of men’s basketball. Our Academic Progress Rate is a 1000 for last year. That’s the highest it could possibly be.”

The team has an experienced set of players composed of various juniors and seniors to lead the team. Ladner gave this thoughts on his experienced team.

“There’s two ways to look at building a program in Division I,” said Ladner. “One is one and done rule. The NBA requires a player to be out of high school for one year. A lot of times the players that go to those programs will turn professional after one year. We’re not at that point in our process where we have those kind of players. What we’re doing is building our success the old fashioned way with experience and through teaching and developing our players.”

Ladner described how the experience of the players will help the team.

“We always want to have a large number of juniors and seniors because we think that experience is what can make up for some other shortcomings in terms of talent, ability and so forth,” said Ladner. “There’s no substitute for experience. We’re excited about that.”

With the season underway, Ladner shared his views on how the season could pan out.

“I’ve been very pleased with their effort and dedication since the minute that we were eliminated from last year’s conference tournament,” said Ladner. “A basketball team has a very short life. The minute that we got eliminated last year, the life of this year’s team began, and I’ve been very pleased with our leadership. I’ve been very pleased with how they’ve approached the work and the conditioning. So they’ve been very much a pleasure to work with, and I’m hoping for a good season.”

The Lions will play their second exhibition game against William Carey University today at 7 p.m. in the University Center.