AC Basketball Teams Open Regular Season this Weekend

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Gary Stallard
Sports Information Director Gary Stallard, who also serves as a Liberal Arts Instructor, begins his eleventh season with Angelina College. Following a career as a U.S. Marine, Stallard completed his bachelor’s degree at Stephen F. Austin University, where he majored in English and Journalism. For more than 16 years, he has worked as a sports writer/columnist/photographer for the Lufkin Daily News; he continues to contribute free-lance articles on occasion. Stallard has won several awards for writing, including the Golden Hoops Award for basketball writing in 2003, Regional Sports Writer of the Year in 2004, and the Texas Press Association’s first-place award for column writing in 2007 and in 2014. He has also done basketball, football and baseball radio and live streaming play-by- play and color commentary for an ESPN affiliate. Currently Stallard serves as play-by-play broadcaster for AC basketball, baseball and softball games. Prior to arriving at Angelina College, Stallard taught English at Lufkin High School for four years. He currently teaches Developmental Writing classes at AC. He and his wife Susan live in Lufkin.

A month’s worth of scrimmages hardly seems enough to prepare a college basketball for a grueling, four-month season; nevertheless, the Angelina College Lady Roadrunners and Roadrunners are about to embark on the 2015-2016 campaign scheduled to end in March – at the teams’ home digs inside Shands Gymnasium. With the Region XIV conference tournament scheduled to take place at AC, it’s an added mission for the home teams to ensure they’ll be on the floor when the tournament begins.

The drive for the tournament starts this weekend, with the Lady Roadrunners opening the regular season at the McLennan Classic in Waco and the Roadrunners taking part in the East-West Challenge at Collin County College in Plano.

Mikayla Crockett Dribble 2_Wiley ScrimmageThe Lady Roadrunners finished the pre-season on a high note, knocking off Wiley College 68-52 Monday night at Shands Gym. Freshman Mikayla Crockett nailed five three pointers in limited action, and the Lady ‘Runner defense displayed its typical quickness and opportunistic abilities. Even better, especially considering the length of the season, the Lady Roadrunners have plenty of filled seats on the bench, meaning head coach Byron Coleman has plenty of options at his disposal when it comes to scheming a game plan.

“Our versatility as a unit is going to be a big deal for us this year,” Coleman said. “We can play big, or we can play small and athletic. We have so many kids we can put on the court, and we can do so many things with that kind of depth.”

In addition, AC’s freshmen are showing they won’t need the entire season to ready themselves for the grind.

“Our freshmen look ready to play,” Coleman said. “We’ve been impressed with them so far; they’ve had a really good camp leading into the scrimmages.

“We thought Mikayla would be pretty good, but she showed she doesn’t mind shooting big shots. Her range and confidence are impressive.”

The one are Coleman wants to strengthen is one that just takes time to develop: Patience.

“We definitely want to work on being more patient,” Coleman said. “Knowing when to run, when to slow down, when to use four or five passes to create a shot. Those are things we’ll develop as the girls play together more.”

The Lady ‘Runners open the season Friday at the McLennan Classic in Waco, taking on McLennan at 2 p.m. before facing Temple College at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

The Roadrunners also completed their pre-season scrimmage schedule on Wednesday, taking a 109-97 win over Pro-Vision Academy. A well-rounded scoring attack saw the ‘Runners able to put up points from the perimeter (Kahari Beaufort with six three pointers) and in the paint (Trent Brinkley pounded his way to 19 points.)

Considering his group features so many new faces, Neighbors said he’s pleased with the team’s progress heading into the real season.

“The biggest thing is we showed (Wednesday) was an ability to overcome some adversity,” Neighbors said. “We Mikayla Crockett Jumper 1_Wiley Scrimmagetightened down defensively in the second half, and we were smoother offensively in the second half.

“Our guys have never played together, so nobody knows anybody yet as far as where everyone’s going to be on the floor, and how to trust each other during certain plays. We do a lot of timing and spacing, and they’ve got to learn how to do that. That’s just game-time situations, and you can only learn that during games.”

Neighbors added that having a two-week lull between scrimmages – AC hasn’t faced other competition since Oct. 10) prevented him and assistant coach Curtis Nash from seeing more of what each player can do.

“We really haven’t had a chance to monitor our improvement as much as we’d like,” Neighbors said. “It’s frustrating for all of us. “Hopefully, we learned a lot tonight, and we’ll play better on Saturday.”

The Roadrunners open the season Saturday at the East-West Challenge at Collin County College in Plano. AC plays Western Texas Saturday at 8 p.m. and Midland College Sunday at 4 p.m.

The e-mail address for AC’s Sports Information Director is gstallard@angelina.edu

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