The more some things change with Midwestern State basketball, the more some things stay the same.
Coming off of back to back to back South-Central Regional titles, the #22 Mustang men under second-year Head Coach Nelson Haggerty are reloaded and looking to make it a fourth straight trip to the Division II Elite Eight.
They only have one returning starter, senior wing player Kevin Grayer. He became eligible late last year and really helped the Mustangs down the stretch.
Now he's the senior leader helping to show the new guys the "Mustang way."
"I'm just an extension of the coach," Grayer said. "I'm just trying to let everybody know what it takes, to win these tough games."
He'll lead a cast that includes new players like point guard Monzaigo Williams, who starred in MSU's narrow exhibition win over Southwestern Assemblies of God, and forward Corbin Thomas, a Divison-I transfer from Missouri State who averaged 13 points and eight rebounds in the Mustangs' two exhibitions.
Thomas says he doesn't see much drop-off from the higher level.
"I've definitely played some high-caliber players on the Division-I level," Thomas said. "But here at Division II, especially with the history and the level that Midwestern State is on, it's pretty much almost the same."
On the women's side, it's a similar story. One returning starter from last season, a Division-I transfer, and a bright outlook.
The returning starter is junior guard Kirsti Degelia.
"She's our returning starter," said Head Coach Noel Johnson. "[She's] the only returning starter of this team."
She started 40 of MSU's 53 games over her first two seasons, averaging over ten points per game.
Now she's adjusting to a new supporting cast.
"It's different, because I'm playing with a whole new four," Degelia said. "I played with the same four [girls] since my freshman year. So it's a new feeling, new pressures with different girls."
On the women's side, the Division-I transfer is sophomore Shambreka Jones, a Mesquite, Texas native who came over from Charleston Southern.
"She's athletic, can run the floor, can rebound," said Coach Johnson. "[She] just is a shot-alterer in the paint."
Jones, for her part, just wants to get the season started.
"Oh, we're ready," she said. "We've been practicing so hard, and everybody's focused. So, we're going to get a big win tomorrow."
The season opens Friday for both MSU teams.
The #22 Men will face LSU-Shreveport at the SWOSU Classic in Weatherford, Okla. at 3 p.m., then the Women will host McMurry at 7 p.m. under the Dome.
Midwestern State's Len Smith and Jevan Toledo headlined a pack of nine players
to earn All-Lone Star Conference honors Thursday afternoon when league officials
announced annual postseason honors.
Smith garnered newcomer of the year status leading the Mustangs with 10 goals while dishing out two assists after transferring in from the University of Tulsa.
Smith tallied each of MSU's three goals against Incarnate Word this season and scored goals in five consecutive matches from Sep. 30-Oct. 14 including the game winner in a 3-1 result over Ouachita Baptist.
Toledo was named the league's top freshman helping the defense post seven shutouts while limiting the opposition to 10.8 shots a game and a 0.76 goals against average.
Toledo, a true frosh out of Prosper High, started 16 matches at center back.
Smith and Toledo were joined on the first team by senior forward David Freeland, senior midfielder Aaron Douthit, junior midfielder B.A. Catney and junior goalkeeper Ray Clark.
Senior defender Fernando Garza, junior forward VcMor Eligwe and sophomore midfielder Andrew Power were named to the second team.
Midwestern State closed the season with a 10-2-5 overall mark while finishing second in the LSC at 2-2-2. The Mustangs missed the NCAA Division II postseason for the first time since 2006.