Excitement is buzzing around Southeastern basketball, with the men’s team picked third and the women’s team in the middle of a crowded pack of Great American Conference contenders.
Those pre-season selections and the new-look rosters were the topics of conversation at Savage Storm basketball media day held on Wednesday at Bloomer Sullivan Arena. Representatives of local print, radio, television and online media were on hand to visit with coaches Kelly Green, Darin Grover and members of their respective teams.
Green introduced a familiar face: senior forward Urald King - and a newcomer: senior transfer guard John Balwigaire at the press event.
The two players shared a common thread which will define this team as the season gets underway: Injuries. King sat out most of last season due to an injury, and Balwigaire showed up Wednesday on crutches due to a twisted ankle.
“Every year you need to grow, on and off the court,” King said. “The year off gave me time to mature. Now I want to go out there and be the player I know I can be.”
“It’s going to take us a little while to come together and figure out who we are,” Green said. “We’ve got a lot of new faces. We’ve also got a nucleus of guys coming back that we are excited about.”
Balwigaire comes in from Wright State. The only other two seniors are King and Travis Timmons. Junior transfers include guards Randy Peters (North Arkansas JC), Taylor Smaller (Vermillion CC), forwards Darius Harris (South Plains JC), Daichi Taniguchi (Arizona Western JC; red-shirt at SE last year) and Trevor Jackson (Bunker Hill CC).
Returning sophomores are guard Quinton Threadgill and center Antonio Worthy. There are five true freshmen on the team, including Durant natives Dakota Green and Cole Hughes.
Southeastern starts a three-game exhibition against Division I opponents tonight in San Antonio against UTSA; other games are on Saturday at UT-El Paso and next Monday against North Texas in Denton. First home game will be Nov. 9 against Univ. of Science and Arts.
On the women’s side of the court, Coach Darin Grover introduced juniors Emily Williams and Haley Schaefer.
Being picked seventh in the conference pre-season poll has the Savage Storm ladies and their coach a little fired up.
“We want to get back to being competitive,” Grover said. “Our goal is to win a conference championship, and I’m not afraid to say that.”
“That’s everybody’s goal, but in my eyes it’s reachable,” said Williams, a guard. “We are older and we know what we’re doing. I have a lot of expectations and I believe we’ll do well.”
“I don’t like that we were ranked seventh,” said Schaefer, whose freshman sister Miranda (also a forward) joins the team this year. “It gives us something to push for and work harder.”
The ladies are returning a bunch of familiar names from last year’s squad, but new players include Murray State transfer Kaylie Baxter (from Durant), Olivia Potter of Walters and Rachel Wallace of Krum, Texas.
“We’re balanced,” Grover said. “We have talent in every position.”
The other junior on the squad is three-point specialist Cheree Kiser. Seniors include guards Natalie Ruud and Ronay English. Sophomores familiar to Storm fans are Shelby Hill, Taylor Richards, Breanna Small-Peppers, Madison Thames, Gunnhildur Hansdottir (who played at Caddo as a foreign exchange student) and Demi Koelzer.