Lady Cougars Picked Fourth in Peach Belt Preseason Poll
Columbus, GA - Columbus State's women's basketball program has been picked to finish fourth in the Peach Belt Conference in a poll of the league's coaches released on Thursday. Clayton State was tabbed as the favorite to win the conference title in the annual poll.
Clayton State led the poll with seven first-place nods four second-place and one fourth place vote for a total of 137 points. Francis Marion was second in the voting, garnering two first-place, eight second-place, and one vote each for third and fourth place for 131 points. Lander was third, getting three first-place votes and finishing with 120 points. GCSU collected the lone remaining first-place voted and tied with CSU for the fourth pick with 104 points. The Lady Cougars collected one vote for second place, three for third, two for fourth, four for fifth, and one each for sixth and seventh.
USC Aiken was sixth, followed by UNC Pembroke, Armstrong Atlantic State, North Georgia, Georgia Southwestern, Montevallo, Augusta State, and Flagler.
"To be picked in the top five of the league this year is a tribute to the job that Jay Sparks did last season and in years past," said Norton. "We have seven returning seniors on this team and one player who played substantial minutes last year, but we also have eight new faces. Our success will be determined by how well we get those returning players to mesh with the new ones."
"Another big factor in where we were picked in this poll is Phebe Smith. Anytime you have the league's top scorer and rebounder returning, it makes a difference. She is a tremendous player and will certainly be a factor for us this season, but she can't do it all by herself. Getting everyone on the team playing at a high level is the challenge we have, and if we can do that, then we will be competitive," added Norton.
Smith led the PBC in scoring with 625 (19.5 per game) points last season and also in rebounding with 353 (11 per game). She was voted PBC Player of the Year last season and also earned All-Region and All-America honors. She will join with Turelle Jones, who missed last season after a preseason injury, Hali Moore, Ashley Stafford, Chauntel Ferdinand, Monique Jefferson and Lauren Ringfield in the seven-member senior class.
Jones averaged just over 11 points as a junior in the 2007-08 season and brings another legitimate shooter into action for CSU, along with sophomore guard Nikki Urbizo. Urbizo led the squad with 56 three-pointers last season and also proved to be an excellent passer. Ferdinand (8.1 points, 3.0 assists per game) and Jefferson (3.2 ppg, 46 steals) are the other returning players at the guard positions.
Moore scored 5.7 points and pulled down 6.5 rebounds per game last season and will need to be a factor in the post position this year alongside Smith. Stafford (5.6 ppg) and Ringfield return to the forward position. Stafford is very experienced in the CSU program, but will need to step up her play as a senior, as will Ringfield who saw limited action last season.
Norton has already lost the services of one newcomer, local product Yasha Blount went down with a knee injury in preseason drills and will miss the season. That loss hurts, but Norton and new assistant coach Fala Suiaunoa hope that the other newcomers will more than fill the void. Junior college transfers Deniese Campbell and Nakita Holt will both be factors at the guard positions, along with freshman Kelsie Weynand out of Hardaway High. Transfers Renee Jackson and Tara Tranum will bring size and athleticism to the post and wing positions, along with freshman Crystal Rogers.
CSU opens play in the 2009-10 season on November 14 in an exhibition contest against Huntingdon College at the Lumpkin Center, and then tips it up for real on November 20-21 in the Mars Hill Classic, playing Lenoir-Rhyne and host Mars Hill in the event.
Columbus, GA - The Columbus State women's basketball team received a bit of an unexpected honor and also one that was really no surprise when the Women's Division II Bulletin released its Preseason Top 25 Poll and its Super 16 Preseason All-America Team earlier this month. CSU was tabbed 25th in the preseason poll, a recognition first-year head coach Jonathan Norton did not expect as he begins his first season back at CSU.
Michigan Tech was tabbed as the preseason number one team. Fellow PBC member Clayton State was picked 16th in the poll. CSU will face two other teams this season that appear in the poll, one of which will come in its season-opener at the Mars Hill Classic against #22 Lenoir-Rhyne. CSU will also face #17 Tampa in the Chatham Orthopedics Classic in December.
It came as no surprise that CSU's Phebe Smith was picked as a Preseason All-American by the Division II Bulletin. Smith and Barton's Esty Flores were the two players picked to the Super 16 team from the Southeast Region. Smith, the reigning Peach Belt Conference Player of the Year and an All-American last season, set records for points scored and rebounds last season for CSU. Franklin Pierce's Johannah Leedham was picked as Preseason Player of the Year.
NOTE - Click the box score link below to view the full Peach Belt Conference preseason release
Related Item: Box Score