Connors State Basketball Previews – Presented by Connors State College

CONNOR STATE COWBOYS

By Wayne Bunch
CSC Sports Information

 Bill Muse is entering his 28th season at the helm of the Connors State College men’s basketball program and it will be his least experienced and smallest club in his 28 seasons at the Warner school.

The Cowboys open the season on November 1 in Camden, Ark., at the Southern Arkansas Tech Classic. 

Connors will first meet Southern Louisiana-Shreveport on Friday at 4 p.m. and follow with Coahoma (Miss.) Community College on Saturday at 3 p.m.

Cowboys open its home season on Nov. 5th against Southwestern Christian University Junior Varsity at 7 p.m.

The Cowboys in the past have always opened the year against junior varsity squads, but elected to jump right into the fray with two strong Division-I junior college opponents.

“Both these schools will provide us a stern test and we will see where we are early in the season,” said Muse, adding “This will be a good learning experience for us.”

“We are going to have to play a different style than we have in the past,” said Muse. “On paper I think we have recruited well.  We are going to be a very athletic and fast club.

“We are just going to have to play a different style and shoot the ball well, press a little more and play more of an up-tempo game,” said Muse.

Muse, the dean of the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference, will be going after his 14th OCAC title and 10th trip to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament.

A year ago the Cowboys finished the year 26-6, falling two points short in the Region II Tournament (losing to Northeastern A&M in the finals) for their third consecutive trip to Hutchinson, Kan., and the NJCAA National Tournament.

Cowboys must replace five sophomores from a year ago, four of whom continued their basketball career at the next level this season, Isaiah Jones (Southern Mississippi University), Burke Putnam (Valdosta State University), Terrance Jones and Marvin Lowe (Mid-American Christian University).  

Muse enters the 2019-20 basketball season with just one returning starter, a part-time starter and two role players from last season’s squad.

The lone returning starter is point-guard Callen Haydon, 6-0 sophomore from El Reno, Okla., who averaged 12.2 points and 4.3 assists a game.

Haydon’s top point production a year ago was 25 against Northeastern A&M. He also had 14 assists against Redlands Community College and nine rebounds against Eastern State.

The part-time starter is Daylon Tanksley, a 6-6 sophomore forward from Fort Worth, Texas.

Tanksley averaged 4.7 points and 3.4 rebounds a contest.  His best scoring output last season was 18 against Mid-American Christian University Junior Varsity and 10 rebounds.

The two players who saw limited playing time a year ago are Jordan Graham, 6-5 guard from Farmington Mich., and Caleb Riggs, 6-3 guard from Okay, Okla.

Graham averaged 7.8 points and Riggs 3.7 points an outing. Graham scored 22 against NOC-Enid a year ago, his best offensive production, while Riggs tallied 16 against Central Baptist College.

“Daylon will anchor our inside game,” said Muse. “He has really improved. He can jump and is athletic. Daylon has made a big improvement. We expect a lot from him this season.”

Turning to Haydon, Muse said “Callen holds the key position on our club at point guard. He started every game for us last year. He is a good shooter, who plays extremely hard.”

Muse said that Graham can play several positions. “He is very athletic and can score from a lot of areas on the court.”

Riggs returns at two-guard, a post he’ll be counted on this season, according to Muse. “We are counting on him to make a big jump from last season.”

While the cupboard seems bare, Muse has brought in two junior college transfers and four scholarship freshman and two walk-on freshman to round out his squad.

However, the Cowboys lost a talented freshman due to injury, 6-11 forward Oumar Keita from Hazard, Ky. Keita sustained a torn ACL in a pick-up game before drills began and will have to sit out the season.

“He is going to have a very bright future here at Connors,” said Muse. “However, he will be put on hold for a year.”

The sophomore transfers are Isaiah Francis, 6-2 guard from Beckley, West Virginia, who played at New Mexico Military Institute and Jimmie Kelly, 6-3 guard from Fort Worth, Texas, who played at McClennan Community College in Texas.

“Beckley was the WacJac (New Mexico-Texas Conference) freshman of the year last season,” said Muse. “He averaged over 20 points a game last season. “He has been fighting an injury during the preseason and hopefully he can recover fully.

“We are really counting on his scoring ability and experience,” said Muse.

“Also coming in is Kelly, who played on the same high school team as Tanksley. He can also score and defends the basketball very well. He can help us several different ways,” said Muse.

The four freshman scholarship players include Jace Jordan, 6-2 guard from Idabel, Okla.; Jahcoree Ealy, 6-5 guard from Damascus, Ark.; Gabe Hornsby, 6-5 guard from Bentonville, Ark., and Jarquavious Cain, 6-6 forward from Jonesboro, Ark.

Hornsby, who played at a Prep School a year ago where he averaged 12 points a game, will play both inside and outside, according to Muse. 

Muse had high praise for Ealy, saying “he can play all positions.  Defensively he will cause a lot of problems because of his length.

Jordan an Oklahoma All-Stater is a perimeter shooter, who has impressed Muse with his practice habits. “I think he has a chance to get better as the season moves on,” said Muse.

The two walk-on players are freshman Isaac Barger, 6-0 guard from Tulsa, Okla. and Lloyd Houston, 6-1 guard from Okay, Okla.

“Bargas played at Tulsa Memorial and was part of a state championship team. He will give us some depth in the back court.”

Houston was a teammate of Riggs at Okay where they both played in a state championship game. “He is a guard who will give us depth on the perimeter,” said Muse.

Turning his thoughts to the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Conference this season Muse said, “NEO won the conference and region a year ago and now it’s time for everyone to go after them.

“They are very talented once again, with good size and a quality point guard.”

Muse also said that Seminole, Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa and Eastern will also make a run at the OCAC title.

“There are a variety of teams that are capable of winning this conference and region,” said Muse.

CONNORS STATE COWGIRLS

When the Connors State Cowgirls open the 2019-20 basketball season on Nov.1, head coach Jamie Fisher, who begins his fifth season, will have 12 newcomers and five returnees from last season’s 15-16 team.

The Cowgirls open the season on the road at the Southern Arkansas Tech University Classic in Camden, Ark., on Friday Nov. 1 against Southern Louisiana-Shreveport at 1 p.m. followed by a Saturday game with Cohoma (Miss.) Community College at noon, before opening at home on Monday, Nov. 4. against Oklahoma Wesleyan University Junior Varsity at 5:30 p.m.

The five returning sophomores, who according to Fisher, have “worked extremely hard in the off-season and will be looked at for great leadership this upcoming year.” 

The returnees include Tateum Jones, 5-5 point guard from Hugo, Okla.; Melina Ludlow, 5-4 point guard from Talhina, Okla.; Jessica White, 6-2 post from Porter, Okla.; Kailen Wright, 5-9 guard from Wylie, Texas; and Lauren Wright, 5-9 guard from Wylie, Texas.

 “I am really excited about this group of sophomores,” said Fisher. “They worked extremely hard in the spring and will provide great leadership to this incoming class.

“I am extremely excited about this upcoming season, and hoping this program can take another big step in the right direction.” 

Among the five returning sophomores, the top returning scorer is Wright with a 5.8 scoring average.

Fisher loses his top two scorers from a year ago Shaniqua Patterson, 16.5, and Vicki Dru at 12.7, who is headed to Northwestern Oklahoma State University.

However, Fisher has brought in 12 newcomers to reload for the upcoming season. 

Among those are two transfers De’Asia Reid, 6-2 post from Cincinnati, Ohio, who played at Tallahassee Community College last season.

The other transfer is Makayla Maxwell,  5-10 forward from  Hilldale, Okla., High School and Oklahoma State. 

“Makayla will be a transfer who has the potential to come in and compete for playing time with her ability to post up and hit the mid range jump shot.

“De’Asia is a big strong physical transfer post player who can score inside with her back to the basket. De’Asia will walk in and be an immediate impact for us right away.”

The 10 freshman recruits includes five Oklahomans, one from Arkansas, Texas and two international players.

The Oklahomans include Cheyanne Crain 5-6, guard from Mounds. 

“Cheyanne is a good versatile guard that can defend and score in a couple different ways by getting to the rim and knocking down the open shot. She will provide great depth at the guard position,” Fisher said.

Chalynn Mayes is a 6-0 post from Muldrow. “Chalynn is a good solid back to the basket post who can score through contact and has a good skill set for her size in position.

“Chalynn will have the opportunity to make a difference with her ability to score around the basket.” 

Baylee Hall is a 5-7 guard from Hulbert. “Baylee has the ability to compete for playing time with her ability to knock down the open mid range jump shot.” 

Trinity Phillips is a 5-8 guard from Beggs. “Trinity is an athletic guard who can defend her position very well and can knock down the open shot.”

 Nyla Finch is a 5-8 guard from Owasso. “Nyla has the opportunity to come in compete for playing time with her ability to rebound and defend her position.” 

Zipporah McCallister is a 5-7 point guard from Russellville, Ark. “Zee is a high IQ basketball player that can knock down the open 3-point shot and sees the floor well.  Zee will provide good depth at the point guard position”

Jasmyn Taylor is a 6-0 guard/forward from Austin, Texas. “Jasmyn is a tremendous athlete who will be a hard match up with her ability to score in different ways by posting up or stretching the floor to hit the 3-point shot.

“Jasmyn is an extremely good rebounder and has the potential to come in and make an impact for the Cowgirls. ” 

The internationals players are Alkeia Rolle, 5-11 forward  from Nassau, Bahamas and Isabel Fuentes-Gonzalez, 6-2 post from Santiago, Chile.

“Alkeia is an athletic forward who can stretch the floor with her ability to shoot beyond 15.

 “While Isabel is a very skilled post player who can finish very well around the basket, and will make an impact inside the low post area,” said Fisher.