AC Basketball Teams Picked Fifth in Respective Conferences to Play after Pandemic Layoff

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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.

Angelina College head women’s basketball coach Byron Coleman said it best in his opening remarks: “It’s good to be back.”

            Coleman and newly hired men’s basketball coach J.J. Montgomery were in attendance for Wednesday’s Region XIV Basketball Media Day held at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens. There, the coaches learned their places in the coaches’ poll released earlier in the day.

            The Lady ‘Runners are picked to finish fifth behind Trinity Valley Community College, Tyler Junior College, Panola College and Blinn College.

            The Roadrunners are picked fifth in the South Zone behind Lee College, Blinn College, Lamar State College-Port Arthur and Jacksonville.

            Those low expectations weren’t surprising, considering both AC teams skipped last season because of the pandemic. This new season means mostly brand-new faces, with neither AC team featuring returning players.

            Nevertheless, both Coleman and Montgomery expressed optimism in their team’s future performances.

“It’s been a different year for us,” Coleman told the crowd. “We’ve got nobody back, so we’re starting over. We have some JUCO transfers we know are going to help us. We have Lovietta Walker, who played for us two years ago and was an Honorable Mention All-American. We also brought back Derrica Gilbert from two years ago.”

Coleman mentioned several other transfer players, noting their leadership will be crucial in leading his young team.

            “We knew that coming back after a year off, we were going to need some experienced players, and those kids have done really well in setting the right tone,” Coleman said.

            Montgomery faces a similar situation as far as inexperienced players, but he’s also heading into his very first year as a head coach at the collegiate level. He said it’s going to be a learning process for both his players and the coaches, but he feels confident his team is learning its lessons very quickly.

            “We have a very young group, mostly freshman,” Montgomery said. “This team I have right now, I don’t think they understand how tough this conference is. I try to preach to them every day, they have to go out every night and be a dog and a hard worker just to compete. I’m trying to share my experiences of playing in this league and the other leagues I’ve played.”

            Montgomery admitted that while his team may lack size in some areas, his Roadrunners plan to utilize the tools in place.

            “We’re not a big team, so obviously we’re going to be playing some small-ball, but our guys are very quick and athletic, so we’ll try to use that to our advantage,” Montgomery said.

            “This is my first year as a head coach at this level, and we have a young group, but my expectations don’t change – not as a player, as a man or as a coach. I don’t just want my team to be good. I want them to be great. I’m not going to use my first year as an excuse.”

            The Lady Roadrunners will host a home scrimmage at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 20 at Shands Gymnasium. AC’s ladies will open the regular season at home on Tuesday, Nov. 2. Game time is 5:30 p.m.

            The Roadrunners tip off their new season on Monday, Nov. 1 against East Texas Flight. Tipoff for that contest is 7:30 p.m. at Shands Gymnasium.

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