Blue Raiders and Lady Raiders Picked Second; Gunn, Holmes, Stovall Named All-SBC

October 22, 2003 · MT Media Relations
NEW ORLEANS, La. - After putting together solid seasons a year ago, Middle Tennessee's basketball teams found respect in the Sun Belt last year. The respect continued on Wednesday as both the Blue Raiders and Lady Raiders were picked to finish second in the East Division of the league by its coaches.

The Blue Raiders were selected just behind division favorite Western Kentucky. However, Middle Tennessee did receive three of a possible 11 first place votes in the poll. The East was rounded out by Arkansas-Little Rock in third place, Arkansas State in fourth, and Florida International in fifth.

The West Division was headed by Louisiana-Lafayette in first with seven first place votes and New Mexico State in second with four first place tallies. South Alabama and Denver tied for third, while North Texas was fifth and New Orleans was sixth.

For the women, Middle Tennessee trailed Western Kentucky in the East Division. Middle Tennessee and Western Kentucky each ended up with five first place votes, but WKU squeaked by on points, winning the first place slot 49 to 46.

Florida International was picked third, with Arkansas State and Arkansas-Little Rock finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

In the West Division, New Mexico State was picked to win the division. South Alabama was second, North Texas third, while Denver, New Orleans, and Louisiana-Lafayette rounded out the division

Also announced on Wednesday were the Sun Belt's Preseason All-Conference teams, and again both teams were well represented.

Blue Raider Tommy Gunn was selected to the Sun Belt's first team. The award marked the second time that Gunn has been voted First Team All-Sun Belt. The Syracuse, NY, native was chosen First Team All-Sun Belt at the conclusion of the 2002-03 season. Gunn also got a nod for the All-SBC Tournament Team last year.

"Tommy is very deserving of the preseason notoriety he has received based on what I've seen in summer and fall workouts and the beginning of practice," said Blue Raider head coach Kermit Davis. "Tommy knows that team honors are where individual honors come from. That means if he's winning awards at the end of the year then our team has won some games."

The Lady Raiders placed two players on the preseason All-Conference squad. Junior guard Patrice Holmes, who was named Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year last season, and sophomore forward Tia Stovall were each picked by the league's coaches.

Holmes was a preseason All-Conference selection a year ago. She was also named the Sun Belt Tournament's Most Outstanding Player. Stovall, who averaged 12.6 points per game in her inaugural campaign, was selected to the All-SBC Tournament team last year.

"I think Tia Stovall being named to the All-Conference team is a testament to her level of play at the end of the season. She missed half the season and came back to make an impact. She is, I believe, the best player we have had at the forward position," said Lady Raider head coach Stephany Smith. "Patrice Holmes is a phenomenal player. It really sets the standard for your team when your best player is also the hardest working player on the team."

Both teams are getting geared up for the beginning of the 2003-04 season. Practice began last Saturday, leading into the exhibition season. The Blue Raiders tip off the year on Nov. 4 against Global Sports while the Lady Raiders begin play on Nov. 11 against Georgia College and State University.

The regular season begins on Nov. 21 for the Lady Raiders with a home game against Tennessee Tech. The Blue Raiders open up on Nov. 24 against Covenant College.

First Team

James Moore, New Mexico State (Preseason Player of the Year)
Brad Boyd, UL Lafayette
Tommy Gunn, Middle Tennessee
Brett Starkey, Denver
Mike Wells, Western Kentucky

Second Team
Malerick Bedden, South Alabama
Johnell Smith, New Orleans
Tevoris Thompson, Arkansas State
Chris Young, South Alabama
Nick Zackery, Arkansas-Little Rock

West Division

1. Louisiana Lafayette (7) 62
2. New Mexico State (4) 58
t-3. Denver 32
t-3. South Alabama 32
5. North Texas
6. New Orleans

East Division
1. Western Kentucky (8) 51
2. Middle Tennessee (3) 45
3. Arkansas-Little Rock 32
4. Arkansas State 21
5. Florida International 17

Sinnamonn Garrett, New Mexico State (Preseason Player of the Year)
Kim Blanton, North Texas
Sara Carter, South Alabama
Patrice Holmes, Middle Tennessee
Leslie Logsden, Western Kentucky
Tiffany Porter-Talbert, Western Kentucky
Tia Stovall, Middle Tennessee
Monique Taylor, New Orleans
Ivelina Vrancheva, Florida International
Catriece Webster, Arkansas State

West Division

1. New Mexico State (6) 56
2. South Alabama (4) 54
3. North Texas (1) 43
4. Denver 34
5. New Orleans 33
6. Louisiana Lafayette

East Division
1. Western Kentucky (5) 49
2. Middle Tennessee (5) 46
3. Florida International (1) 36
4. Arkansas State 23
5. Arkansas-Little Rock 11

Smith on Media Days: "I am always excited to come to Sun Belt Media Days because it is the jump-start to the season. As a team we are excited about the upcoming season and the team has the determination and drive to meet their goals. We came out of the Sun Belt Conference Championship game with a hunger to go back and this team has carried that will to win throughout the off-season and into preseason practice."

Davis on the Sun Belt: "I think the league will be wide open this year. Last season we as a conference finished 12th overall as a league and I wouldn't be surprised if we cracked the top 10 by the end of next year."

Davis on Western Kentucky: "I hope we can build on the rivalry with Western Kentucky. Remember, though, to create a rivalry you have to have wins on both sides. Everyone is chasing Western Kentucky, because Western Kentucky has raised the bar and this is good for our league."

Davis Visits with Lafayette Radio Audience: Coach Kermit Davis spent about 15 minutes speaking with Jay Walker of KPEL Sports Show on Tuesday. Davis spoke about the championship game against Western Kentucky last season, the great play of then senior William Pippen down the stretch, and the Sun Belt's decision to only have eight teams at the tournament in 2004.

Media Junket: Print media got a chance to speak with the four top teams in the Sun Belt's East Division as Middle Tennessee's Kermit Davis and Stephany Smith and Western Kentucky's Darrin Horn and Mary Taylor-Cowles fielded questions from the media together.

Southern Sports Tonight: Smith and Davis were both guests of Scott McKinney from the Southern Sports Tonight Radio Show. McKinney was supposed to do the remote live in New Orleans, but mechanical difficulties forced him to do his interviews over the phone.

Tournament Changes: The Sun Belt has decided to change the format of the Conference Tournament beginning with the 2004 event. This year's SBC extravaganza will feature only the top eight teams in the league. The top two finishers in each division will receive an automatic berth into the tournament with the next four teams selected according to the best conference record, regardless of division. The men's and women's tournaments will be held in Bowling Green, Ky., again this year.

Coaching Changes: A few schools made coaching changes after last season. For the men, Darrin Horn will head the Western Kentucky program and Steve Shields will take the helm of the Arkansas-Little Rock team. On the women's side, Joe Foley has been tabbed as Arkansas-Little Rock's head coach and Darin Spence is now the head coach at New Mexico State.

Follow the Blue Raiders on Twitter @MTAthletics for continued updates.