The Slippery Rock men’s and women’s basketball season has tipped off with both teams picked to finish in the middle of the pack for the pre-season rankings. It is a long season in a tough conference for both teams.
The Rock women have a tough road ahead, but are a team with a lot of experienced players on its roster. Basketball in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) is never a guarantee. Any team can beat its opponent on any given day. Currently, The Rock women are picked to finish fifth in the PSAC-West.
Picked to finish in first place in the PSAC-West with eight first place votes was California University (Pa.). After winning the PSAC title last year, CalU returns all-conference players in senior guard Miki Glenn and junior forward Seairra Barrett. Glenn averaged 19.3 points per game with 6.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds last year and 3.3 steals, while Barrett averaged 13.6 points and 10.0 rebounds.
Despite having no preseason all-conference honorees, Indiana University (Pa.) was picked to finish second in the west, receiving one first-place vote. Edinboro University was picked to finish third, returning all-conference guard senior Katie Fischer, who averaged 16 points and 6.3 assists in 2015-16.
Picked to finish just above Slippery Rock in fourth place was Mercyhurst University. The Lakers will be led by senior all-conference selections Angela Heintz and Natalie Piaggesi. Heintz averaged 13.3 points with 6.4 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season. Piaggesi averaged 14.8 points with 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks.
Last season, Slippery Rock women’s basketball narrowly missed making the PSAC playoffs and finished seventh with a 13-15 overall record and 9-13 record in league play. However, SRU looks to be competitive this season with some of its returning players and some new ones who will look to make an immediate impact.
Some key returners for The Rock women are junior guard/forward Mallory Heinle, junior guard Krista Pietropola, junior guard Sierra Fordham and sophomore forward Morgan Henderson. Perhaps the biggest returner is senior guard Lexi Carpenter, who was also picked as a part of the PSAC preseason all-conference team. Carpenter averaged 17.5 points, 4.4 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game last season.
A few key newcomers this season are freshmen forward Alexis Deyarmin, freshman guard Haylee Hayward, freshman guard LeeAnn Gibson, freshman guard Samone Rainey, freshman guard Brooke Hinderliter, freshman center Carly Lutz and freshman forward Alyssia Heath.
Hinderliter made an impact when she was named PSAC Western Division Freshman of the Week last week, helping the team to its 2-0 start this season.
Although The Rock is picked fifth, look for another year of improvement out of The Rock women. SRU women’s basketball had won just 25 games from 2009-14, and since then third-year head coach Bobby McGraw has sparked 24 victories in his first two seasons.
The Rock men’s basketball team has been slated to finish seventh in the PSAC-West this season. However, the new-look team has been known to turn a few heads over the course of a season. The Rock has won at least 15 games in each of the last eight years under head coach Kevin Reynolds and averages 19 wins per season during that stretch.
With five first-place votes, IUP was picked to finish first in the PSAC-West on the men’s side, led by all-conference forward Jacobo Diaz. Diaz averaged 8.6 points and 6.7 rebounds last season. Mercyhurst received three first-place votes and was picked to finish second.
The University of Pitt-Johnstown got one first-place vote and was picked to finish third. UPJ returns all-conference selections Dale Clancy and A.J. Leahey. Leahey averaged 17.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, while Clancy averaged 13.3 points, 4.3 assists and 4.0 rebounds.
Fifth-place Edinboro returns Jaymon Mason, who averaged 20.8 points and 6.0 rebounds, while eighth ranked Clarion University returns BJ Andrews, who averaged 12.1 points per game in 2015-16.
PSAC men’s basketball, is a tough conference in which any team can win on any given day.
“Every night it’s a war. It’s as simple as that. You have to keep your team razor-sharp and you can beat anybody,” Seton Hill men’s head basketball coach Tony Morocco said.
The Rock men returns only two players from last year’s squad, including senior guards Naquil Jones and Jordan Marrow. Jones averaged 6.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last year and Marrow averaged 3.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest last season.
Several new transfer players round out Slippery Rock’s team this season.
The list of newcomers includes sophomore Dwight Whitlock, juniors Josh Brown, Guilherme Verardo, Christal Malalu, Vinny Lasley, Tony Gates, Amir Maddred, Khyree Wooten, Merdic Green and reshirt senior George Chase.
Slippery Rock has been known to not sign freshmen for the upcoming season. This year the group of transfers look to make an immediate impact on the SRU roster.
Both teams look to provide excitement for the upcoming winter sports season. Slippery Rock women’s basketball has started the year 2-0 with wins against Johnson C. Smith University and Fayetteville State University. The Rock men are off to a 1-1 start with a loss against seventh-ranked Wheeling Jesuit University and a win at Shepherd University.