Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Crons Brand Achiever Award - January

Beginning this month, Crons sponsors the monthly "Achiever Award" to the school recognized by a fan vote for the most notable achievement from the month prior. Below are the descriptions of each submission, along with the poll in the right-hand sidebar.


TRAVIS WALLACE, UNF MEN'S BASKETBALL - Averaged 13.2 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game while shooting 54 percent in just 20.5 minutes per game; team’s top rebounder and second leading scorer; double-digit points in 8 of 10 games including a streak of seven straight highlighted by back-to-back 20+ outings. Had first career double-double; Earned A-Sun Newcomer of the Week honor twice

TORREY CRAIG, USC UPSTATE MEN'S BASKETBALL – Reached double-figures in all eight games with five double-doubles; A-Sun Player of the Week twice and player of the week honors from CollegeSportsMadness; Scored career-high 29 points at ETSU and followed with 28 points in a home victory over Kennesaw State; Scored 22 (17 second half) points as Upstate rallied past Belmont; Craig's putback with 0.7 seconds remaining gave the Spartans their first ever win over the Bruins.

KELSEY JACOBSON, FGCU WOMEN'S BASKETBALL– Scored career-high 24 points on a career-high eight three-pointers, as the FGCU women’s basketball team knocked down 14 triples, en route to a 98-50 win over A-Sun foe Mercer; Buried 8-of-8 first half shots from long range; A-Sun’s all-time leader and the nation’s leader (among active players) in career three-pointers, added two rebounds, a steal and an assist to go with her 24 points (23 minutes).

K’VONTE SCOTT, ETSU TRACK AND FIELD – As a freshman, Scott broke the school heptathlon record with a 4,834 point performance; Set personal bests in the 60m (7.29), 1000m (2:56.69), pole vault (4.10m), long jump twice (6.55m, then 6.70m) and shot put (10.38m).

AARON ANDERSON, KENNESAW STATE MEN'S BASKETBALL – Recorded six double-digit rebound performances in 10 games; Notched double-doubles in four straight games, and 5 times overall; Averaged 11.2 ppg and 9.7 rpg, with season average of 9.3 rpg leading the A-Sun and ranking 40th nationally.

TUCKER PEABODY, LIPSCOMB TRACK AND FIELD – Leads the A-Sun and ranks 14th nationally in the 200m dash (21.28s); Ranks third in the A-Sun in the 60m dash (6.86s); Claimed a victory (Jan. 28) and two runner-up finishes (Jan. 7; 21.78s), (Jan. 14; 22.13s) in the 200m; A-Sun Track Athlete of the Week for the week of Jan. 18.

HALEY NELSON, BELMONT WOMEN'S BASKETBALL – Recorded seven consecutive double doubles during January; Currently ranked fourth among all NCAA D1 players in double doubles this season; Became the 26th Belmont women's basketball player to reach 1,000 career points against rival Lipscomb (1/7); Just the fourth Belmont women’s player to receive Atlantic Player of the Week nods three or more times and only the second to earn the honor three consecutive weeks; Received Player of the Week recognitions from CollegeSportsMadness.com (twice) and NetScouts.com; Double-double (21 points, 12 rebounds) against in-state rival ETSU (1/19) helped the Bruins to their first win over the Lady Bucs since the 2006-07 campaign.

STETSON TEAMS SUPPORT LOCAL RESIDENT BATTLING CANCER – Members of the Stetson baseball, women’s soccer and women’s golf teams, along with the cheerleading squad and others participated in the Me Strong 5K in DeLand to raise money for cancer research and to support families dealing with cancer in the name of Linda Ryan, a local resident and Stetson supporter who is in her third battle with the disease. Members of the baseball team competed in the race, while the soccer and golf team members were stationed around the course to guide runners and provide support. Most remarkably, Linda Ryan finished 28th in her age group and continues to carry the fight to a dreaded disease.

As the Official Motivation and Apparel Brand of the Atlantic Sun Conference, the Crons Brand provides what it calls “high quality motivational apparel, merchandise, and accessories to inspire people to get better and constantly strive for their goals.” It also strives to reinforce positive messages to athletes about what it takes to be a winner and the importance of working harder than anyone else in order to reach their full potential. Crons communicates this message through four separate product categories: Team Gear, Lifestyle Apparel, Nutritional Products, and School Programs. Crons is a national brand with its message-themed and motivational merchandise and apparel already in use by more than 500 schools and organizations in 25 states.

Crons perpetuates its message through its Achievers Program, designed to teach students the importance of setting and achieving goals. The program focuses on fostering skills that will help young people set smart, measurable goals now and in the future – leading to academic, personal and professional success.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

USC Upstate's Emily Sanders Digs Her Role as A-Sun SAAC President

Emily Sanders is a junior setter for the USC Upstate Spartan volleyball team. In 2011 she played in 103 of the team's 105 total sets, leading the Spartans in assists with 836 and finishing second on the team in digs with 335. Those numbers also ranked her eighth in assists and 11th in digs in the A-Sun. Sanders is also completing her service as the SAAC President for 2010-11.

Why are you involved with SAAC?
I work with SAAC because I find it very important for student-athletes to have a voice in the athletics department. I also enjoy being involved in the university; this is just one of many clubs/organizations I am involved with on campus. As the president of SAAC, I find student-athlete welfare very important and I am dedicated to making sure that the student-athletes at Upstate have a positive college experience.

A-Sun: What is SAAC’s role on campus?

ES: SAAC's role on campus is to have a collective voice of student-athletes to the administration and to also promote service of student-athletes in the community. SAAC provides structure for student-athlete peer support and represents a high standard of character expected of all student-athletes. Another role of the SAAC is to promote the understanding of the NCAA and Atlantic Sun legislation.

A-Sun: What is the most rewarding community service project you have participated in with SAAC?

ES: Although we have had many rewarding community service projects, one of our proudest moments was last year (2011) when USC Upstate won the Atlantic Sun service project competition when we raised over $4,500 and donated the money to Gibb's Cancer Center at a local hospital. It felt good that we were able to raise that much money and be able to donate it within the community.

A-Sun: Why did you choose to attend USC Upstate and to play for a team in the A-Sun?

ES: I chose USC Upstate because I loved the size of the campus, the beautiful South Carolina weather, and I had an immediate connection with the girls on the volleyball team. I knew that Upstate was rapidly growing and would soon become a Division I program and wanted to be a part of it. I also knew that the Atlantic Sun was a very competitive conference and was excited to become a part of it as well.

A-Sun: What is a typical day for you as a Spartan entail?

ES: A typical day for me as a Spartan would be to wake up and go to my classes, attend a weights/conditioning session, then go to practice, then wake up and do it all over again.

A-Sun: How do you envision SAAC’s future role in the Spartanburg community?

ES: I envision our SAAC to continue making a difference within the community by fundraising and by continuing our community service activities. It is important for us as student-athletes to give back to a community that is so supportive of us.

A-Sun: Talk about being a part of the program’s transition from Division II to D-I.

ES: Our program's transition from Division II to Division I has been very exciting, and I know that a lot of our student-athletes were looking forward to it as well. This transition has given us eligibility for the conference tournaments at the end of each sport's season, and with that comes more motivation and excitement throughout the season. It has been a different feeling knowing that you have an opportunity to win the conference tournament at the end of the season.

A-Sun: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?

ES: In my spare time I enjoy eating sushi, listening to music and hanging out with my friends.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

First-Year Coaches Find Themselves in Different Situations

Above: Kennesaw State's Lewis Preston, FGCU's Andy Enfield and Stetson's Casey Alexander

Midway through their first season as head coaches, Stetson’s Casey Alexander, FGCU’s Andy Enfield and Kennesaw State’s Lewis Preston already have their own unique story to tell.

The first thing Alexander will tell you about his first season as a head coach is that he “loves coming to work.”

“I have encountered no surprises in my first year as a head coach,” Alexander says. “I appreciate the opportunities and responsibilities that come with the job. I think as a first-year head coach it has been important to remember to start with the big picture, and to stay focused on what we want to establish in the program. I think it is easy to lose track of that and begin to focus on standings, seedings and wins and losses.”

The former Belmont assistant calls this opportunity the right place that came at the right time. “I was at one school for a long time and was ready for something new. More and more I felt ready to run my own program,” he says. “I got to the point that I knew it was time for a change. I didn’t want to go just anywhere just to be a head coach, but to go somewhere where the philosophy in which I believed could transfer. I believe this is a good place for that.”

Alexander refers to the Hatters (7-13, 4-5) as a team who is more offensive-focused, as evidenced by the fact that eight of the 11 statistical categories in which they rank in the top half of the A-Sun are offensive. However, Stetson also leads the conference in rebounding offense, defensive rebounds and defensive rebounding percentage. Stetson also has three of the top 10 scorers in the conference, led by Adam Pegg (15.1 ppg), Chris Perez (13.3 ppg) and Aaron Graham (12.9 ppg).

So what will it take for the Hatters to find themselves in the mix in late February? Stetson is last in the A-Sun in scoring defense and in turnover margin, two areas of emphasis for Alexander moving forward. “Our nemesis all season has been taking care of the ball,” he says. “There are a lot of reasons we have struggled to do that, but that is the bottom line. In the big picture we are an offensive-minded team, and we have not been as committed to defense as much as we need to be.”

Enfield, whose FGCU team (9-10, 5-4) currently sits in a three-way tie for fourth in the conference, admits that he entered his first season with the Eagles with tempered expectations of the A-Sun.

“Coming from another conference, I really didn’t know what to expect from the A-Sun. I am pleasantly surprised with that I have seen halfway through my first year,” Enfield says. “There is a lot of talent in this league. You expect every team to have a good player or two, but there are talented players from top to bottom. Plus, the level of coaching is excellent.”

Enfield has some good players of his own, as the Eagles rank in the top half of the A-Sun in nine statistical categories. Bernard Thompson (11.9 ppg) and Sherwood Brown (11.3 ppg) average in double figures, while Brett Comer is the conference leader in assists (5.4 apg) and Christophe Varidel is the A-Sun’s top free throw shooter (.907) and No. 3 three-point shooter (.447).

In six of their first seven losses, the Eagles lost by six points or fewer in each contest. Enfield says that provided his older players the opportunity to show leadership, and gave his younger players a chance to grow up and to gain confidence.

“I think our veteran players have continued to improve, and our younger players are learning from them and from the close games we played early in the season,” says Enfield. “After coming through those games our freshmen are beginning to play like sophomore and juniors.”

“Now I think we just need to continue to play hard. We have identified our strengths and weaknesses and know what we have to do to overcome them. The level of success we enjoy in the second half of the season will be determined by how hard we play, and how much pay attention to details.”

Personally, making the transition from assistant to head coach in a new conference is one that Enfield is savoring. “I am enjoying being a head coach. It is always tough when you are in a new situation, and we are experiencing the growing pains that teams always experience,” he says. “Things pop up from time to time that now as a head coach I must deal with, but it is like that at any program.

“As a head coach I realize better how our time is stretched thin, particularly when helping our players do everything they have to do to become the best student-athletes they can.”

Lewis Preston will testify that while the growth process of his team in his first year has not been as expeditious as desired, it is still a process ripe with discovery about himself, his staff and his team.

“I think the adjustment from assistant to head coach in my first year has been a decent one, although the results have not turned out as well as I would have liked,” Preston says. “It has certainly provided an opportunity for growth, and for us to find out more about ourselves as a staff and a team.

“As much as I hate to say it, I have to focus more right now not neccesarily on wins and losses, but on recognizing that growth and hang my hat on that. It is going much slower than I would like, but I understand that we can overcome that by getting after it.”

Although featuring two of the A-Sun’s top two scorers in Markeith Cummings (15.8 ppg) and Spencer Dixon (13.2 ppg) and the conference’s top rebounder in Aaron Anderson (9.1 rpg), the Owls are winless in the A-Sun at 0-9 and 3-18 overall. Preston attributes his team’s struggles in part to the change in philosophy, and looks forward to becoming another of the A-Sun’s success stories.

“I think the biggest challenge for our team has been realizing how hard you have to work every day to be successful,” he says. “We stress with our players that you are not guaranteed anything for the next day, so you have to stay positive and continue to work hard. I pick out Cliff Warren at JU as an example of how through hard work and staying to the task, you build a good program.”

“There are many good stories right now in the A-Sun. A few that come to mind include Mercer, who is playing very well with a great class of sophomores that obviously have put it together. Belmont is going to be Belmont, and now USC Upstate has a good chance to continue its success.

Preston says that for him many similarities exist between being an assistant and a head coach, along with certainly some unique differences. “The amount of sleep that you lose is certainly a difference,” he jokes.

“I have to continue to understand the moment, and remain cool and unruffled in adversity or prosperity – and stay focused. I believe that mentality will transfer down to our staff and to our team. I think as coaches we put a lot of pressure on ourselves. I know that to some point we all have those visions of grandeur, but I have realized that it is a process.”

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lipscomb's Bree Thurman Talks SAAC with the A-Sun

Lipscomb University's Bree Thurman is a junior outfielder on the Lady Bison softball team. In her freshman season (2010), Lipscomb won the A-Sun championship and played in the NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Highlights for her in 2011 included finishing second on the team with a .271 batting average, leading the Lady Bison in walks (33), OBP (.418) and steals (13) and playing error-free in the field for the second consecutive season. Her steals tied her for eighth in the A-Sun and she was also third in the conference in walks. Off the field she is a two-time member of the A-Sun All-Academic Team and in 2011 she earned NFCA Scholar Athlete honors. Today Bree talks about her involvement in the A-Sun's Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC).

A-Sun: Why do you work with SAAC?
BT: I got involved with SAAC my freshman year because there was an opening and I had been told that it would look good on my resume. However, I continue to work with SAAC because I love getting involved with the community, and I have learned a lot about leading, organizing fundraisers, and the amount of work it takes to have such a large group of individuals come together. I truly believe that my time with SAAC has been one of the greatest experiences I've had in college in terms of preparing me for my future career.

A-Sun: What is SAAC’s role on campus?
BT: SAAC's main role is unifying fellow student athletes and bringing us together to raise awareness and fund raise for various community service projects.

A-Sun: What is the most rewarding community service project you have done with SAAC?
BT: Right now we are working on a project for the Contributor. It's this really cool newspaper that is actually written by the homeless. They write them and then go stand in the streets throughout the Nashville area and sell them for a dollar and get to keep most of that money for themselves. I know that my teammates— and several others— will literally dig through our cars to find money to give to these people when we see them. We know that they have worked hard to make money and it feels nice to be able to help them out. So raising money to help the Contributor is probably the most rewarding fundraiser we have done with SAAC, or at least for me personally.

A-Sun: Why did you choose to attend Lipscomb and to play for an A-Sun team?
BT: It was actually a very unconventional recruiting process for me to end up at Lipscomb. I was prepared to go play at a much bigger school but at the last minute I got a call from Coach Ryman. I decided to take the recruiting trip and I left really loving Coach Peck and Coach Myers. I wasn't thrilled about staying so close to home and going to such a small school, but for whatever reason I felt like it was the right choice. The school is in a great area and I also felt as though I had a chance to be a big part of a program that was on the rise. A lot of my friends chose to go to big schools that had already made their mark on the softball world. But I really liked the idea of being part of "the beginning" of a great program. I could not be happier about the decision I made to be a Bison.

A-Sun: What is a typical day for you as a Bison entail?
BT: Like just about every other student athlete would say, our lives are pretty much a routine. Wake up, go to class—or go to weights on those unfortunate days we have lifting at 6 a.m.— eat lunch, maybe have an hour break that most of us spend in the training room getting treatment, and then go straight to practice for the rest of the day. After about 4 hours of practice we eat dinner, do some homework, and then go to bed just to wake up and do it all over again. To some that might seem boring, but for me, I love it. We work hard at practice, but anyone who knows our team knows we like to have fun. We love spending time together. To be able to do that while also playing the sport we love is an incredible thing. Plus all the time and work we put in pays off on game day.

A-Sun: How do you envision SAAC’s role in the Nashville community in the future?
BT: I am hopeful that SAAC will be able to form longstanding relationships with the organizations we have worked with in the past. If we could turn our fundraisers into annual events that the community came to expect, I think we would be able to raise a lot of money and awareness for the organizations with whom we choose to work.

A-Sun: Talk a little about Lipscomb playing in NCAA Regional in Tuscaloosa in your first year.
BT: Playing in the Tuscaloosa Regional was one of my favorite softball experiences ever. To win the conference and make it to a regional felt great, but to get to play against the No. 1 team in the country was just an added bonus. We knew we had nothing to lose going into the tournament, and honestly we were not afraid. We beat some highly ranked teams that year and played some very stiff competition. At that point, and even still with our current team, big names didn’t scare us. However, it wasn't just who we got to play that was cool, it was the whole environment. We were playing in front of 3,000 people—it was invigorating. After our first game against Bama we really gained respect among the fans. I think we had a lot of Bama fans cheering for us when we played UAB later that day. After getting to play in that environment in my first year, I came to expect that level of success. After not making it back to a regional last season, our team is definitely hungry to return to that stage and we are excited for the opportunity this season.

A-Sun: What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
BT: This sounds incredibly lame, but we don't have ample amounts of spare time so honestly just sitting around the dorm rooms watching movies and hanging out with my teammates is one of my favorite things to do. Outside of that, Nashville is as they say, "Music City." There are always concerts going on. We can literally just pick a day to go downtown and there is likely some big-name country music star with an event. The best part is that they put on several free concerts which is always good for the "college kid" budget. Going to concerts or other events in beautiful downtown Nashville is at the top of my list of favorite things to do.