Thursday, January 28, 2010

Raising a Program: Hitting the Dusty Trail

UNF baseball knows only one head coach, but when the 2010 season ends, so will the Dusty Rhodes era in Jacksonville, Fla.

In 22 seasons, Rhodes holds a record of 879-420 at UNF, leading the Ospreys to 13 conference titles, 16 postseason appearances and five trips to either NAIA or division II college world series.

“We have had to build this program,” Rhodes said. “We have gone from NAIA to NCAA division II to this season being a full member of Division I.”

Rhodes’ final season ranks as the first for UNF baseball as a full member of Division I. The Florida Southern College graduate sees the Ospreys like a father sees a son. Rhodes raised the program from its infancy and in 2010 the program reached its ultimate goal of being a full member of Division I.

“This is what we have wanted since day one.” Rhodes said. “Our goal has always been to reach this level. It took a bit longer then we thought, but getting this team on this level has always been the goal.”

Under his guidance, UNF has posted 12 seasons with 40 or more wins, including three 50 win seasons. However the time has come from Rhodes to step aside and let another man guide his program into Division I. Replacing Rhodes will be no each task as he has posted a .676 winning percentage over 22 seasons.

Raymond “Smoke” Laval takes over his good friend’s program and looks to lead it into success at the Division I level. In a press conference in August, UNF athletics director Lee Moon named Laval, but his comments hammered home who built UNF baseball.

“With the retiring of Dusty Rhodes, we here at the University of North Florida knew that we had to replace a legend,” Moon said “We needed someone who could make an immediate impact on the program, and a person that Coach Rhodes would feel comfortable in turning HIS program over to.”

Why would Rhodes name his successor prior to the season? A simple reason, but a reason that makes more sense then any other: It is what was best for the program.

“I told the administration here I didn’t want to wait to the end of the season to announce the new coach,” Rhodes said. “I didn’t want to get behind in recruiting. I wanted to make sure we did what was best for the program.”

Although there were many candidates in the end it is only right that Rhodes turn the program that he raised over to a trusted friend.

“There were a number a great people that could come take over this program,” Rhodes said. “I have some great assistants now and some great former athletes but Smoke Laval has been a life long friend and really knows what it takes to compete at this level.”

Rhodes raised UNF baseball to the highest level of college competition. Now as he prepares to say goodbye, the Ospreys have a coach in waiting and though Laval will replace Rhodes in the dugout at Harmon Stadium, Laval knows there is no replacement for the person that is Dusty Rhodes.

“It’s an honor to follow a coach as successful and decorated as Dusty Rhodes,” said Laval. “I’ve known Dusty for a long time and respect him as a coach and a person.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Behind the Scenes of the A-Sun, CSS TV Production

MACON, Ga. – Ever wonder how you can see an Atlantic Sun Conference game besides the convenience of A-Sun.TV?

Director and producer Patrick McCree and the rest of the CSS film crew bring the experience for your viewing pleasure right to your flatscreen television, so you don’t miss one minute of league action. McCree shows that one can never underestimate the time invested with this adventure.

Aside from an early start time, gamedays are lengthy and the prep time begins long before tip-off. Patrick McCree begins this process by contacting sports information directors from each school and requesting updated rosters, game notes and anything else that could prove useful to the crew during a broadcast. In between the initiated contact and gameday, schools may play a few games before CSS ventures to a site to telecast the contest.

“You’ve got to prepare in a sense because I have to put the paperwork together that I distribute to the crew,” McCree said. “All of that information of when to be here, what time we’re doing stuff, then I have to take all of that information off the game notes from each SID and build a graphics list of what I want our graphics designer working on. Then I have to put together a format, which is basically a guideline for everybody to follow, not only the truck personnel, but also the people back at master control, so they know when we’re going to break and also for the announcers so they have a guideline of what we’re going to do and when it is going to happen.”

Although this format, or guideline, stands as the layout for the events during the game, McCree notes that basketball games do not follow guidelines and sometimes the production team needs to adapt.

“The games dictate what you’re going to do because our breaks fall at certain times so I have to put together a format of what we’re going to do in the open and how long that has to be,” McCree said. “At halftime, I have to say these are how long each segment is going to be and I have to say, ‘OK, this is how long those segments need to because you only have a certain window during the break to get all of that stuff in so you have to play in your mind and time that stuff out so you don’t come back in and they’re waiting to play the game and you’ve still got all of this other stuff to do.’ There’s a lot of timing involved into it.”

While McCree directs and produces these events, the most viewable aspect on game day remains the announcers.

“I’ll generally call the announcers prior to that game and touch base with them because I’m doing so many games,” McCree said. “I can’t just sit there and focus on one particular team or the two teams that are fixing to play. I can’t watch what they did in their last game. I can look online at like the Atlantic Sun website and see the updated scores and standings or I can go to the team’s websites and look at that kind of stuff. I have to rely on the announcers’ knowledge and talent.”

Storylines, a favorite word in the truck, help push the television experience along, whether or not the viewer recognizes it. McCree plays an enormous role in talking with the announcers in order to establish interesting storylines ahead of time. Questions asked during this time range from what makes the game special at that moment, to what is going on here in this very arena in this very town? Or even specifically, what have these players done today? Storylines give the viewer that much more to take away from each broadcast.

“When I meet with the announcers I will say, ‘Hey, what kind of interesting storylines do you see?’” McCree said. “I’m looking at the game notes here and I’ll see a key player who was hot off the season in the first three games and now they’re barely making two points a game, that’s a story.”

During the game, the crew remains on-topic, always looking for something interesting for the announcers to discuss. For example, when the Kennesaw State Lady Owls visited the Mercer Bears on Saturday, McCree mentioned second chance points and field goals, or if there happens to be a big discrepancy between the first half and the second half or a big turnaround at any event. Those become some storylines.

“I’ll ask the announcers, ‘Hey, do we want to talk about field goals here?’” McCree said. “A lot of times, some people will not even ask the announcers, ‘Let’s talk field goals coming out of here.’ Numbers pretty much speak for themselves.”

Preparation remains the key to every game. However, every game is different.

“We can say that we have 10 storylines that we want to cover, but the game may start writing its own storyline, so you just kind of disregard those,” McCree said. “But, you always want to come into the event prepared. Say today’s game was a 40-point blowout. You have to figure out something to do, whether its graphically or with storylines, or whatever it is to keep that viewer sitting in front of that television watching that game. You tend to always over-prepare for games.”

Chances are though that when a fan decides to leave their house and walks into the arena at any of these basketball games during the season, McCree and the crew have already been hard at work for hours, finally putting together all of the acquired pieces for a game day television experience.

“When we arrive, I have to walk through the arena because I have to show the camera guys where the cameras normally go, especially anything out of the ordinary, like if we’re going to do an interview at a certain point,” McCree said. “I have to get the crew, let them understand what we’re doing. So when they go start setting up, they’re not lost or confused. Then I have to come in here and I have to get with my graphics person and go over the format, any graphics I want to see and in-game stats we want on-screen. I have to explain to our technical director that this is what I want during the show. He takes the tape that I bring and makes sure everything is loaded and then I’ll start doing my format.”

Standing in the truck, staring at a wall of monitors, it seems like directing and producing a basketball game for television would be difficult. However, in basketball, the media takes a set amount of breaks during each half and McCree is only allowed to do so many things at halftime. The only thing that makes it difficult for the crew in a truck is being in a truck.

“ESPN for example, they go away to a studio,” McCree said. “We have to support our own halftime, we have to fill that with league stuff and that’s why it’s so nice working with the Atlantic Sun. Matt (Wilson) and Eric (Moyer) do a really good job of putting that information together for me.”

Good support not only helps the CSS crew during a game, but also with prep time between games.

“During basketball, we’re here in Macon, then I go to Mississippi tomorrow for a game and then I drive overnight to Jacksonville to do a game,” McCree said. “There’s not a whole lot of prep time in between each day and each game. So when a production crew gets help from conference staff, it helps out a producer and a director ten-fold.”

The quick turnarounds between basketball games keeps the crew members on their toes, as there is an advantage to doing mostly regional work as opposed to traveling all over the country. McCree knows basketball schedules to be particularly taxing sometimes.

“That’s the thing about basketball because unlike football and baseball, they play on the weekends,” McCree said. “Basketball rolls around for three months and you may have a game today, you may be off tomorrow, but you need that day off to travel to the next game. Things get really hectic and you get tired really quick. But, it’s one of those deals where you know for the next two months what it’s going to be like. It’s about making a living. You just suck it up and do it. Then when summer gets here you get two months off.”

Even with the hectic schedule, the ability to travel short distances in between games remains a positive for the director and producer.

“I’m getting three days out of this weekend, most people don’t because they will do a game Saturday here in Macon,” McCree said. “On Tuesday, their next game will be in Washington. Well they can’t drive, so obviously they can’t work a game in between there. So they have to have tomorrow off so they can go home, pack, get ready, get on a plane and go. Whereas here, I can easily get three paychecks versus maybe one or two.”

So how does one person get involved in something like this? For McCree, it’s all in the family.

“My father started the company that owns all of these trucks back in 1983 when I was a youngster, so I kind of grew up in the business,” McCree said. “I just happened to go to one of the games that he was working when one of the camera guys didn’t show up. I was 15 at the time, or maybe a little bit younger around 13 or so, and the director looked up at me and asked if I could go up to a camera and run it. And I said, ‘I’ll give it a try.’ I’ve been doing it ever since.”

In college, McCree started as a business major and eventually transferred over to the communications department with a business minor.

“Eventually I wanted to step in and take my dad’s position and hopefully run the company one day,” McCree said. “So I started out running the camera and I wanted to get in here and direct and produce. I knocked on doors and basically begged and pleaded and pitched a bit until I got an opportunity. Basically I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s in my blood, I don’t think I could ever do anything else.”

As with all careers, they have their upsides and pitfalls. Month to month, one can never tell how many events they would work. Also, the economy has shown the McCree, as well as another member of the crew, that sports change from year-to-year.

Jacob Pigott, a graphics designer, worked in a news station with no desire to be in the freelance industry until he got sick of the news.

“It’s just like any other job, you take the good with the bad,” Pigott said. “Everyone at the TV station that I used to work for has all been through furloughs. Over half of the station has been laid off. I still get my free time. One of the things that I really like about freelance is that for the most part if you’re good, you’re going to get work. If you can’t hack it you’re going to get weeded out. There are no promises.”

As television is a visual product, it is easy to see when something goes very well and even easier to see when something goes very wrong.

“You’re only as good as you’re last show because there is that much room for error in this business,” McCree said. “Unfortunately we don’t do television for the person sitting at home. If we didn’t get a particular graphic in or if I didn’t get a certain animation in when I wanted it, I freak out. Or when I want to add too much to it when the viewer at home is like you could have one camera, I don’t care, just show me who made the basket. This is for us. It’s a pride thing because we know the level of quality we want.”

McCree models everything he produces after ESPN, the world leader in sports.

“It is my ultimate goal is to be able to say that ESPN calls me on every sport they do and say you’re going here and you’re going there,” McCree said. “Don’t get me wrong, I would still do work with the A-Sun, I’ve done it now for seven years. I’ve been with the A-Sun ever since they’ve been on TV now. I love working with the Atlantic Sun staff. They make my job easy and they are the reason why I love going to these smaller schools.”

“This hurts me to say it because I grew up in Tuscaloosa and I went to Alabama,” Pigott said. “I’m a huge Bama fan, but, I prefer doing games with the Atlantic Sun. When went to Lipscomb the other day it was, ‘Hey! How are you guys doing?’”

“‘Is there is anything we can get you extra or do for you, whatever it is, we’ll do it,’” McCree said. “That’s the attitude from both the schools and the SIDs in the A-Sun.” With the SIDs at some of the larger schools, it’s like good luck trying to find them, good luck getting what you want out of them, With the guys at these schools. I walk in and I have a packet. Smaller conferences are great to work for. It’s a great relationship between the A-Sun, myself and Cross-Creek because we don’t look at it is as a business partner, we look at it as a friendship.”

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Meet the A-Sun Grinders: New Year New Jacksonville

Jacksonville opened the season favored to win the Atlantic Sun regular season crown featuring preseason player of the Ben Smith but things did not start as planed.

The 2009-10 season looked like a chance for Jacksonville to step up to the next level after consecutive seasons of 18 or more wins. Instead the Dolphins continue to learn that nothing worth having comes easy as they gone from favorites, to last place, to the hottest team in the league. Jacksonville currently holds a six-game winning-streak defeating its last six adversaries by an average of 17 points - a welcomed turnaround after a 1-7 start.

The Dolphins welcomed the challenge of a tough non-conference schedule with road matchups against Florida State, Cal and South Carolina, not to mention a home game against Florida. If not for an eight-point victory against Bethune-Cookman the team picked to win the A-Sun would have entered league play winless.

The start of conference play looked like a refuge for the 2008-09 regular season champs, who owned the best winning percentage in conference play over the past two seasons taking 75 percent of their games against league foes. Once again things did not go as expected, Campbell knocked off JU by 16. Two days later, ETSU handed the Dolphins a 23-point setback in Johnson City, leaving the Dolphins in search of answers.

Opening the season with one win in Jacksonville’s first eight games came as a shock in the River City and an eight-day layoff came at a great time. The Dolphins headed south to the UCF Holiday Classic looking to save their season. Jacksonville drew a tough matchup with Buffalo, who owned a 7-3 record entering the tournament. Leading by eight at the half, it looked like Jacksonville had found its stride, but nothing came easy. The lead evaporated in the second half and the when the Bulls cut the lead to two with 10:19, the Dolphins turned to their juniors out of Alabama to take over.

Travis Cohn and Aaron Hardy scored or assisted on Jacksonville’s next five possessions and the Dolphins cruised to the victory. The turnaround continued the next day as Jacksonville knocked off tournament host UCF, a team it had not beaten since 2001.

As the calander flipped to 2010, Jacksonville now looked to turn around its conference record but once again things would not be simple for the Dolphins. Mercer’s Jeff Smith sent the Dolphins to their third consecutive league loss with a last-second 3-pointer and it looked like the New Year would not be happy for Jacksonville. Head coach Cliff Warren refused to make any excuses.

“It’s a shame the game came down to that call, but we have nobody but us to blame,” Warren said. “We had plenty of chances to keep the game from coming down to that shot; we just didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.”

A heart breaking home loss coupled with a 0-3 start to conference play might have broken the sprit of some teams. Jacksonville kept grinding, got angry and took its rage out on its next six opponents.

Two days after the tough luck loss to Mercer, the Dolphins ran Kennesaw State out of Veterans Memorial Arena posting a 39-point win. Jacksonville then took its show on the road knocking off Stetson by 10. Next the Dolphins humbled FGCU with a 24-point win. A-Sun leading Lipscomb became the fourth team in succession to fall to the hands of the Dolphins, losing by six. Belmont followed Lipscomb and the Bruins left Jacksonville licking their wounds from a 16-point loss.

Jacksonville pushed its record over .500 for the first time this season with a win Monday against crosstown rival UNF in the SunTrust River City Rumble. The Dolphins rallied from down seven with less than 10 minutes play to claim their sixth consecutive victory and their eighth win in nine games.

The win stands as a metaphor for the Dolphins’ season as they trailed most of the way and could not seem to get things going offensively. Jacksonville refused to quit and found a way to rally and now sits fourth in the conference standing but the season remains far from over, just ask Smith.

“I like where we are more than when we were 1-7 but it is there is still a long way to go.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

USC Upstate Men’s Tennis, Mission Not Impossible

MACON, Ga. – With the release of the tennis preseason polls on Wednesday, the USC Upstate men’s tennis team lingered near the top of the Atlantic Sun rankings. Over the last four years, there remain three players who went through the transition from Division II to Division I and represent the heart of the Spartans’ lineups. They may not be superstars or the top players on the team, but they are the engine that has driven the team to many dual meet wins.

Renzo Airaldi, Jack Roux and Javier Tori have made USC Upstate’s transition from a Division II to Division I athletics program a smooth one. These three players make up the winningest senior class in school history as their names scatter across Spartan record books. Also, before helping USC Upstate make the transition, Airaldi, Roux and Tori mark the second recruiting class under head coach Alessandro De Marzo and the first that really showcase De Marzo's skills as a recruiter. All three players hail from South America, with both Airaldi and Tori from De Marzo’s hometown of Lima, Peru, and Roux from Punta Arenas, Chile.

Tori stands as the Spartans’ all-time wins leader, ranking first in school history with 126 combined wins and 60 singles wins and third with 66 doubles wins. A two-time ITA Scholar-Athlete, Tori’s 45 combined wins stand as second-best in school history, while his 24 singles wins rank third. Tori owns the distinction as the only player in school history to post back-to-back 20-win seasons in both singles and doubles play and the only one ever to post three consecutive 20-win double seasons.

In 2009, Airaldi earned All-Atlantic Sun Second-Team Doubles honors with Tori after finishing 19-3 in doubles play and posting a 13-3 mark at No. 1 and a 6-0 mark at No. 2. Airaldi ranks fourth in school history with 112 combined wins, ninth with 48 singles wins and fourth with 64 doubles wins.

Roux ranks seventh with 109 combined wins, second with 57 singles wins and seventh with 52 doubles wins. An All-Atlantic Sun Second Team selection in both singles and doubles play in 2009, Roux set a school single-season record with 46 combined wins (22 singles, 24 doubles) and tied a school record for doubles wins.

Overall, the players find playing at the Division I level far more challenging, but Airaldi, Roux and Tori have stepped up their games to a new level of play for the transition.

“I was worried about the transition in the beginning,” De Marzo said. “In Division II, you would play 5-7 good matches. In Division 1 you have good matches every time. It’s more competitive for them and more competitive for me too.

As a freshman, Roux won the deciding match against Nick Tzekos, 6-2, 7-5, in USC Upstate's 5-0 triumph against Lander to reach the NCAA Round of 16, marking USC Upstate’s last home match in its Division II era. The victory sent the Spartans to the D-II National Tournament.

“I won the match to go to nationals that year,” Roux said. “But this year, we’re in Division I. This year we have a very, very good team.”

Fellow Spartan Airaldi started the Spartans’ Division I era by winning the “B” singles draw at the USC Upstate Fall Tournament, picking up the “A” doubles title at the tournament with doubles partner Sandy Franz and by winning the “B2” singles flight at the South Carolina Fall Invitational.

“Playing in Division I is a lot different because the level of tennis has changed a lot,” Airaldi said. “The teams play very well. But at Division II, not so much. It’s amazing how teams can play so well at this level.”

As a freshman in 2007, Tori finished with an overall mark of 13-8 in singles play and 21-7 in doubles play. During the first year of USC Upstate’s transition to Division I in 2008, Tori posted a 20-11 record in singles and a 22-8 record in doubles, a marked improvement in play.

“Before I came to school I knew we were going to make the transition,” Tori said. “We fulfilled all of our goals by going to nationals and getting a national ranking last year. At Division I, the level is better, the schools are bigger, the teams are better. It’s a lot of nice positive things and it’s a great way to end college life, playing tennis outside of studying.”

Beginning this weekend, De Marzo and the Spartans open the 2010 season with tough non-conference foes such as Georgia Tech and nationally ranked teams in No. 5 Georgia.

“We lost 5-2 last year and 7-0 the year before. I’m saying we have a chance, but it’s up to them whether or not they want to win,” De Marzo said. “I just want to give them good matches and get ready.”

Even with such key matches early in the season, this team remains focused on the big prize, winning the regular-season title.

“Last year it came so close against ETSU,” Roux said. “We want the title. This year we have to win with the team we have. This year we have two new guys, so we should win the conference.”

USC Upstate has something to prove this year, especially standing up against ETSU, the A-Sun preseason men’s tennis favorites. The Bucs welcome No. 51 ranked Jesus Bandres to a team that returns two additional ranked players in No. 82 Grega Teraz, a junior, and No. 89 Charles Bottoni, another junior.

“Last year ETSU won the final match, but right now I think we can beat them,” Airaldi said. “I’m really excited to see what happens here this season as we have two more freshmen this spring. They are really good players so we have a really good chance to win this title.”

In the ITA preseason poll, USC Upstate earned a preseason ranking of 72, while ETSU, three-time defending A-Sun champions, returns from flawless conference play last season, earning a team ranking of 62, after a 63rd place finish nationally. Last season, the Spartans finished with a national ranking of 65 after an almost perfect conference record at 9-1, second in the league. USC Upstate also fell one set short of the A-Sun regular-season title at the hands of ETSU in the final match of the season

“That left a bad taste because we had some chances and we didn’t take them,” De Marzo said. “I think if we lose that match, our season could end right there. All they’re thinking about is beating ETSU. If we win, we’ll win the conference. My job is not to get them upset if they lose. They’ve been waiting for a year.”

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

ETSU Fights to the Top with Heavy Hearts

The ETSU Buccaneers men’s basketball team continues to overcome and refuses to fall from the Atlantic Sun elite despite tremendous losses on and off the court.

After posting a second-place finish in the A-Sun standings in the 2008-09 season, the Bucs claimed the 2009 Atlantic Sun title and the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. ETSU lost its top two scorers to graduation and in the offseason, the Bucs suffered something tragic and unexpected. During the summer, ETSU suffered the tragic loss of center Seth Coy in a car accident and entered the first game of the season with heavy hearts.

In the season opening homecoming game with Appalachian State, ETSU found itself nursing a one-point lead with 16 second remaining when Adam Sollazzo, Coy’s roommate who now wears No. 43, stepped to the line.

Sallazzo turned over the ball on the previous possession, allowing the Mountaineers to close within a point of the Bucs. The sophomore hit both free-throw attempts and Appalachian State’s last chance 3-point attempt came up short The Bucs started the season with a win for their fallen friend and Sallazzo ended the game as ETSU’s leading scorer, pouring in 13.

The Bucs also needed to replace the third leading scoring in school history as Courtney Pigram graduated after racking up 2,043 career points in Johnson City, Tenn. Kevin Tiggs also finished his ETSU career in 2009 with a total of 1,197 points in his career good for the 18th spot on the Bucs all-time scoring chart.

One of the players the Bucs looked to fill the space left by Pigram and Tiggs, Mike Smith suffered an early season injury and his status for the remained of the season remains unknown.

One player who has stepped up to shoulder the load for ETSU has been Tommy Hubbard, who last year gave up the possibility of a medical redshirt to return and help the Bucs to the Atlantic Sun Championship and near upset of Pittsburgh in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

The junior guard averaged only four points a season ago but now ranks seventh in the A-Sun racking up 14.9 points per game. Despite the offensive emergence for the Boston native, Hubbard maintains his reputation as a defensive stopper, ranking fifth in the conference in steals. Hubbard joins elite company as one of three players ranked in the top seven in scoring and top five and steals among Mercer’s James Florence and preseason player of the year JU’s Ben Smith.

The Bucs’ emotions have fueled their season leading them to an upset of Southeastern Conference foe Arkansas. ETSU also posted solid road showings against Louisville and Tennessee, falling short of the upset each time.

The Bucs have not lost their swagger in conference play, opening the season with four consecutive victories before falling to Mercer on Saturday. Even with the loss, ETSU remains in great position to challenge for the A-Sun title as the Bucs remain tied for second in the league standings.

ETSU continues to try to find it’s was through a dark time in its history. Despite all of the emotions, the Bucs still have each other on and off of the court and they continue to win for the players they have and the players they have lost.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Belmont’s Young Gun Making his Shots Count
Ian Clark’s assimilation into college basketball has been anything but wait-and-see. It’s been more like ‘Wait until you see this guy.’

The freshman guard scored a team-high 21 points for Belmont in its season-opening victory against Portland State. In early December he topped 20 points in back-to-back games — both Bruins’ victories — and most recently he poured in a career-high 31 Monday in an 85-71 triumph over Stetson.

He’ll attempt to continue that offensive roll Thursday when Belmont hosts USC Upstate at the Curb Events Center. Tip-off time is 4:15 p.m. (the women start at 2 p.m.) instead of the originally scheduled 7:15 p.m.

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Campbell’s Krainiak adjusts to different role in college
A year ago, Ricky Krainiak was leading the Camden Bruins to the 1A regional semifinals in basketball. Now he's a Division I player at Campbell University, where the Camels' 7-4 start is the best since the 1993-94 season.

But the transition from high school to college hasn't been that easy.

After some early successes, Krainiak, a 6-foot guard, has tapered off. Heading into Saturday's game at USC Upstate, he had scored a total of 25 points in 10 appearances and was shooting 38 percent from the floor.

Krianiak made a minor splash with the Camels early on. In just his second college game, he scored five points in six minutes in a 74-68 win over East Carolina. Three games later, Krainiak logged 13 minutes in a 59-58 win over North Florida in the Atlantic Sun opener. He followed that with career highs of nine points and 19 minutes in a victory over Southern Virginia.

"I think offensively, any time that we have him out there, he stretches the defense a little bit with his ability to shoot," Campbell coach Robbie Laing said. "Early on in the season he hit some shots and had some success coming off the bench as a spark plug."

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ETSU Courtside television show to debut Sunday, Jan. 10
The Buccaneer Sports Network, in cooperation with WJHL 11 Connects, will debut a brand new television coaches show Sunday, Jan. 10 at 11: 30 a.m. on the local CBS network affiliate. The show will air weekly throughout the final two months of the 2009-10 season.

ETSU Courtside will be a weekly show highlighted by interviews with both ETSU men’s head coach Murry Bartow and women’s head coach Karen Kemp, along with game highlights and player profiles. The show will air 30 minutes prior to the national basketball coverage on CBS.

“We are very excited about this opportunity to bring ETSU basketball into homes throughout the area thanks to WJHL,” said “Voice of the Bucs” Jay Sandos, the ETSU Assistant Director for Media Relations/Broadcast Operations. “This show will have a more traditional feel for a coach’s show, which is much different than our weekly Inside Buc Sports show, which focuses on all our sports at ETSU. We think this is a special opportunity to inform the public about Buccaneer basketball for the next two months.”

Balance Keys FGCU Women
That has had a lot to do with the hot run by the FGCU women's basketball team.

The Eagles ran their winning streak to six games with a 58-47 win over North Florida in an Atlantic Sun Conference game Thursday night at Alico Arena.

It was the second game in a row that FGCU held a team to 47 points. The last time the Eagles played the Ospreys, FGCU won 57-48.

Junior guard Shannon Murphy scored 17 points and senior guard Brittany Brown had 10 for FGCU. While this was the first time in seven games that the Eagles didn't have at least three players in double figures, Courtney Chihil would've kept the streak going had she hit her second free throw in the final seconds.

Senior forward Adrianne McNally also had nine points.

"Any day, any person can step up," Chihil said. "Which is good because it's hard to guard us. They can try to take away one person, but the others will step up."

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Tough Transition Comes to an End for Kennesaw
Tony Ingle knew leading the Kennesaw State basketball program on its trek to Division I would be an uphill climb.
What he didn’t know was that he’d be climbing Mount Everest.

Ingle’s team is finally a full-fledge member of Division I after the long four-year transition period, one that tested his patience on more than one occasion.

“It was tougher than pulling a hair out of your mother-in-law’s biscuit,” Ingle said Wednesday.

Then his tone got serious as he let out a heavy sigh.

“It was a lot tougher than I thought it would be,” said Ingle, whose team plays host to East Tennessee State today. “I really had no idea. Just the whole transition. The demands, the paperwork, the preparation, the commitment level ... It goes to another level.”

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Players Remember the Buzz of the Crowd in 1990 Game

Whenever Lipscomb and Belmont meet the game is billed as the “Battle of the Boulevard”. But the first game played under that label wasn’t held on Belmont Boulevard where both schools are located approximately two miles apart.

On Feb. 17, 1990 the two teams played off of West End Avenue at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym. Monday night at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena the two rivals will meet for the125th time. But despite the many memorable games between the two schools whenever fans get together they still talk about the magic of that February night, a 124-105 win for the Bisons.

“It is fun to have people come up to you and say their high school coach brought them to the game when they were 18 years old,” said Lipscomb’s Darren Henrie. “Or that someone watched the game as a 10-year-old because his Dad brought him.

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Mercer athletics department gets a new beginning
Jim Cole thought back to his senior year in high school.

He was a talented pitcher at Curtis Baptist in Augusta on a bad team. He was 0-14 and struck out 21 batters in one game, a 9-1 loss.

“That was all I needed to hear,” Cole said. “I’d never seen the campus.”

It’s a markedly different and larger campus that will be Cole’s work home 20 years later as Mercer’s new athletics director.

The move, which goes into effect July 1, was made official Wednesday afternoon at a news conference in the Presidents Dining Room inside the University Center in front of nearly 100 staff, faculty, trustees, state legislators, A-Sun officials and friends of the school.

That memory of Myers’ offer led to a bit of emotion for the 38-year-old Cole.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jacksonville Track and Field Runs a Balanced Race

MACON, Ga. – The four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference Track and Field Champion Jacksonville Dolphins claimed their most recent women’s indoor title on Feb. 21 with a record 171 points in the ETSU/MSHA Athletic Center. But, with MVP Natasha Harvey graduating last season, what is in store for the program seeking their fifth straight crown?

This season, Jacksonville returns a strong nucleus that includes senior Tiffany Bromfield, redshirt sophomore Stacey Young, sophomore Amaila Vogler, junior Ronnisha Hall, and junior Unique Singleton, all of whom won individual events at the 2009 championship, plus a majority of the winning distance medley relay team in Vogler, senior Ali Ritter and senior Alyssa Deal. In the pentathalon, Bromfield set a league record with 3,437 points while Young finished with 3,325 in second. Young also earned the Most Outstanding Freshman Performer after finishing third in the 60-meter hurdles and second in the pentathlon. Hall set an individual conference record in the shot put with a throw of 13.99 meters and added another record in the 20-lb. weight throw with a distance of 18.26 meters. In individual sprints, Singleton placed first in the 400, while Jacksonville’s distance medley relay team set a conference record with a time of 12:03.73. Head coach Ron Grigg also earned his fourth coach of the year award.

However, JU will find it difficult to replace Harvey. The 2009 graduate earned Most Outstanding Field Performer, Most Outstanding Track Performer and Most Valuable Performer at the meet, Harvey claimed individual titles in the triple jump (12.20 meters), the long jump (21’8”, 6.60m), the 60-meter dash (7.54 seconds) and the 60-meter hurdles (8.55), but with Harvey leaving the field, no pun intended, what is in store for Jacksonville? Perhaps JU thinks they found a replacement in a freshman from Alfortville, France.

In only first collegiate season of track and field, Charlene Charles posted a school-record 3,670 points in her first collegiate meet to win the Carol Robinson Pentathlon on Friday, Dec. 11 in Manhattan, Kan. Charles, who won the event by more than 460 points, shattering Harvey’s school record of 3,626 points set at the 2007 Razorback Invitational.

Charles won the high jump portion with a school record leap of 5’5.25” (1.66m) and also produced a leap of 18’8.5” (5.70m) to take first in the long jump and ran a lifetime best time of 8.70 to win the 60-meter hurdles portion. Charles finished second in the 800-meter (2:32.08) and third in the shot put (29’6” (8.99m)) to round out her victory.

Now that Harvey graduated, Coach Grigg relies on Charles and the rest of the team to gun for a tournament title.

“Our whole season is pointing toward the A-Sun Championships, even though we will be a little bit late to get started,” he said. “We’ll compete twice before the championships, the major competition is in Nebraska. We’ll spend some money to get out there and hopefully get good qualifying marks so we have a lot of options for who will do what on championship day. Most of our returners have the ability to be top three finishers in their event.”

Grigg also tells of another athlete, Anastasia Fokina, a sophomore from Dimitrov, Moscow, Russia, who may fly under the radar even though she turned in an excellent mark at the 2009 A-Sun Cross Country Championships.

“The best story is Anastasia, who finished 7th in the A-Sun Cross Country Championships. In 2008 at a Florida State track meet, her femur broke in half. The following year, she just wasn’t ready for track. Now she’s rebounded for a great cross country season.”

But as the track and field season gets underway, history shows that successful teams appear to be the most well-rounded. This team is going for gold in Johnson City Tenn.

“Every team has their own philosophy, said Coach Grigg. “There are programs that choose to focus on one area such as distance events or field events. However, our philosophy is be balanced in all areas.”

The Dolphins will open the 2010 indoor season at the Jimmy Carnes Invitational on Jan. 30 in Gainesville, Fla. Last season, Jacksonville broke two school records and finished as the first team in five events at the invitational.

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Jacksonville Looks to Claim Fifth Consecutive Indoor Title

Jacksonville Women’s Indoor Track and Field looks to claim its fifth consecutive Atlantic Sun team title in 2010 and become the first school to win the cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field titles in one athletic season.

The Dolphins claimed the conference crown a season ago with a total of 171 points, besting the second place Kennesaw State Owls by 62 points. Jacksonville returns individual champions Unique Singleton (400-meter dash), Amalia Vogler (800-meter run), Tiffany Bromfield (pentathlon) and Ronnisha Hall (weight throw and shot put). The Dolphins also bring back their entire women’s distance medley relay team, which claimed the A-Sun title by 15 seconds, a season ago.

JU needs to replace the most valuable performer from the 2009 Atlantic Sun Championships, Natasha Harvey. Harvey claimed conference individual titles in the triple jump, long jump, 60-meter dash and the 60-meter hurdles.

Kennesaw State looks to continue its climb in the conference standings, relying on Jakia Ragland, who returns as the conference champion in the high jump, and Mackenzie Howe, who looks to repeat as the conference champion in the 3,000-meter run.

ETSU sits as another team poised to challenge for the conference crown. The Bucs claimed the conference crown in the 4x400-meter relay a season ago but they have to replace two seniors from that squad. Jasmine Ingram finished second a season ago in the 400-meter dash, less than a second behind JU’s Unique Singleton. Zachlynn Blackburn finished second a season ago in the shot put and third in the weight throw, and could move up in 2010.

Belmont finished fourth a season ago, but does not return any individual champions. UNF claimed fifth a season ago and brings back pole vault champion Anne DelBovo. Campbell took sixth a season ago and USC Upstate seventh with Emily Tangwar returning as 5,000-meter champion.

Fans can follow the Atlantic Sun on Twitter and on Facebook. Visit to begin receiving updates on conference news, weekly awards, and from A-Sun championships. Atlantic Sun followers with a Facebook account can become a "fan" of the conference by visiting

The Atlantic Sun Conference is an 11-member league committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun stands for achievement with integrity in both the academic and athletic arenas, with a focus on the balance between the two for our student-athletes. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts six of the top eight media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: Belmont University, Campbell University, East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.