Doing it two years in a row is frustrating.
Head coach Jerry Nichols and his Motlow Bucks have been there, done that – twice. With a solid group of sophomores returning and an influx of new talent, plus a revamped national tournament that offers Tennessee teams two opportunities to make it to Kansas, Nichols feels this is the year that Motlow brings home the gold ball.
In past years the NJCAA tournament consisted of only the 16 tournament champions from its 16 regions across the country. Motlow plays in Region VII and has finished as tournament runner-up the past two seasons. In 2010-11 the Bucks won the regular season title, only to fall in the championship game to Chattanooga State. Last year Motlow lost a heartbreaking 56-53 decision to tournament champion Columbia State.
“The NJCAA has expanded its tournament to 24 teams now,” continued Nichols. “Four regular season region champions will be added as well as four wild card selections. Region VII is among the four regions that will send its regular season champion as well as its tournament champion to the national tournament this season. Those regions will rotate every season, but we were fortunate to be chosen in a random drawing to be one of the first four regions in this new format.”
Motlow will open the 2012-13 season on the road at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn. The first home game is a rematch of last year’s Tennessee Community College Athletic Association (TCCAA) Region VII Tournament championship game when Columbia State visits Copperweld Arena on Friday, Nov. 9.
Nichols returns eight sophomores from last year, including four who started a significant number of games. He has added a group of talented freshmen and a pair of experienced sophomore transfers to go along with three players who redshirted for the Bucks last season.
Returning sophomores include Sean Gardner, JC Bonny, Michael Tomlin, Raul Tutton, Jr., Darryl Bond, Jeff Graham and Bryan Thomas. Chris Hawkins also returns after sitting out a redshirt season to recover from injury.
Gardner is the top returning player statistically, averaging 10.7 points, four rebounds, two assists and 1.5 steals per game. Nichols traditionally plays every player on the team in almost every game, which makes statistical comparisons difficult in defining the contributions made by players. Each of the sophomores had shining moments last season and each played important roles.
The three redshirts who will see their first action for Motlow are Kevonta Black from Nashville, Charles Waters from Memphis, and Andre Brown from Clarksville.
Transfers include Kerrell Davis from Northwest Florida and Sterling Smoak from Northeast Community College in Nebraska. Former Coffee County star Tyler Clayborne also joins the Bucks after one season at Volunteer State.
The freshman class includes DeVante’ Jones from Chicago, Perrin Buford from Decatur, Ala., Jerron Washington and Jalen Blackwell from Memphis, and DeAndre McKinnie from Bolivar.
Each of the incoming freshmen and transfers bring impressive resumes to the program. How they perform as a unit is yet to be determined, but early workouts indicate that game days at Copperweld Arena will be must-see for area basketball fans.