MSU Hoops: Men Ready for Elite Return

After missing out on the Elite Eight for the first time in four years, the Midwestern State men's basketball team is even hungrier this year to get that Regional title back.

They have one of their deepest and most experienced teams ever, with a 17-man roster that features six seniors and six juniors.

"It's a lot easier when you have guys back," said 3rd-year Head Coach Nelson Haggerty, who has a 51-13 record his first two seasons. "I remember last year, we didn't have many back. And honestly we're doing things now that we didn't do last year until, you know, midway in the season."

Back this year, after missing all of last season, are guards JaMichael Rivers and DeJuan Plummer, who were key players on the Mustangs' 2011 Elite-Eight team.

"It feels good to be back out here with my teammates," Rivers said. "I'm just ready to get the thing rolling and try to win a national championship here."

Rivers, who averaged ten points, three rebounds and two assists in 2011, says he's not worried about rust as he comes back.
"I pushed myself this summer to work harder," he said. "I attacked the weight room, working on my game in the offseason, so I think I'm ready to get back going."

One of the key returning players for the Mustangs is former Burkburnett High standout Derrell Gibbs.

He blossomed into a key member of the rotation last season, before an injury kept him out of the season-ending loss to Metro State.

Now a junior, he said he's ready to be one of the leaders of the team.

"Last year, I kinda made the transition to doing that," he said. "But you have to be more of a leader, not just vocally but leading by example."

"He's been our best defender," said Coach Haggerty. "He's one of the top rebounding guards in our league. He's improved every year, and one thing's been constant over the last couple years is Derrell Gibbs has been a big part of this program."

The Mustangs will open the season Wednesday night with an exhibition game against Mid-America Christian, but against a team they only beat 81-73 last year, they're not treating it like an exhibition game.
"I mean, it is an exhibition game," Haggerty said, "But this is a game for us."

"We treat all games the same way," Rivers said. "No matter who they are, they're all the same team. We're trying to go undefeated this season so we're treating everything the same."

Wednesday's game will tip off at 6 p.m., and all admission is free.

Also, Monday night's exhibition against Langston University is also free, with a 7 p.m. tip.

Wednesday night we'll hear from the MSU Women's team about their season of high expectations.

Women #10 in USA Today Preseason Poll

Midwestern State opens the 2013-14 ranked 10th in the USA Today Sports Division II Top 25 Coaches' Poll released Tuesday afternoon.

It's the second Top 10 preseason rating for the Mustangs, who opened 7th in the Women's Division II Bulletin released earlier this month.

The Mustangs return all five starters and 12 letter winners from last season's South Central Region finalist which posted the program's best record since entering NCAA Division II at 26-6.

The defending Lone Star Conference champions are led by returning All-America forward Andrea Carter (13.4 points, 10.6 rebounds per game) and all-region performer Kirsti Degelia, who paced the team with 16.4 points a game.

LSC Tournament MVP Dianna Jones (9.8 ppg, 3.4 apg), Shatoia Gober (9.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and Shambreka Jones (3.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg) filled out the starting five in 2011-12.

The Mustangs also received great contributions from senior Skyler Warrick (5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg), junior Lisa Hampton (5.0 ppg), junior Taylor Dowd (3.6 ppg), sophomore Katie Brown (1.1 ppg), sophomore Jennifer Sissel (1.1 ppg) as well as sophomores Hannah Selzer and Rhea Levy last season.

Sophomore guard Nicole Smallwood brings 3-point shooting capability transferring from Missouri State, while Janae McJunkins makes her debut after serving a medical redshirt after transferring in from Murray State (Okla.) prior to last season.

The Mustangs are one of nine teams from the South Central Region mention in the preseason rankings joining No. 13 Colorado Mesa.

Metro State (Colo.), Tarleton State (Texas), Colorado-Colorado Springs, St. Mary's (Texas), West Texas A&M, Colorado Mines and Fort Lewis (Colo.) are all receiving votes.

MSU opens exhibition play with a Halloween night showdown against Big 12 Texas at the Erwin Special Event Center in Austin.

The Mustangs open regular season play at the Adams State Conference Challenge on Nov. 8-9 in Alamosa, Colo. before taking on Texas A&M International in its home opener on Nov. 12.

The early season slate also features a showdown at Emporia State (Kan.) on Nov. 23. The Hornets are ranked 5th in the preseason poll.