Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
The Jacksonville State University Basketball squads roll toward the start of the season under what may be the highest collective expectations in the programs’ Division I histories.
After both the Men’s and Women’s teams equaled or surpassed the Division I wins record, with 23 and 19 victories respectively, in a stellar 2017-2018 campaign in Jacksonville, there’s no wondering why optimism abounds around Gamecock Basketball.
Both programs were chosen by the Ohio Valley Conference Coaches as third in the conference, with Ray Harper and the JSU Men coming just behind perennial OVC powers Belmont and Murray State, while Rick Pietri’s Gamecock Women program trails Belmont and UT Martin.
Harper’s squad faces a fair bit of roster turnover after last season’s record-setting campaign.
Senior leaders and cornerstones of the Harper-led renaissance of Gamecock basketball Malcolm Drumwright and Norbertas Giga have graduated and moved on to professional careers overseas in Georgia and Lithuania respectively. Also gone are fellow senior and Jacksonville native Des Curry and underclassmen Tyrik Edwards, Cam Martin, Ashton Spears, Deon Wright and Mohamed Abuarisha.
The Gamecocks still return a strong core, bringing back pre-season All-OVC big men Jason Burnell and Christian Cunningham as well as Jamall Gregory, Marlon Hunter, Maurice Dunlap and Jacara Cross.
Newcomers Detrick Mostella and Ty Hudson, who were on the Gamecock roster last year but sat out because of NCAA transfer rules, along with transfers Derek St. Hilaire, De’Torrion Ware and Jacob Hyde and Freshmen Maros Zeliznak and Cam Jones will be tasked with filling the holes left by Drumwright and Giga.
Mostella, who is a native of Decatur, Alabama, starred at Tennessee for three seasons prior to arriving in Jacksonville. Hudson played for two years at Clemson.
Pietri’s team returns more of last year’s team than Harper, but loses the senior trio of Tyler ‘Cocoa’ Phelion, Tasha Magruder and Gretchen Morrison, who made up the core of the stingy defensive squad the Gamecocks put out last year.
The Gamecocks also miss Leah Strain, Morgan Towells, Ki-Ki Patterson and Jordan Norris.
However, Pietri and company welcome Freshmen Jutoreyia Willis, Yamia Johnson, Regan Dargan and Karleigh Sledge, along with Holmes Community College Transfer Brittany Webster, into the fold.
JSU Women’s Basketball opened their season with a 62-31 win over Florida A&M in Tuesday, while Harper and the new look Gamecocks travel to Samford Friday night to tipoff their campaign.