From Staff Reports
The Clayton State University women's basketball team is coming off a magical season in 2004-05, and according to the Peach Belt Conference coaches, the Lady Lakers will be among the best again this year.
The Clayton State women's team was picked second Friday in the 2005-06 Peach Belt Conference Basketball poll by league coaches, the highest the women's program has been picked in the program eight years of competing in the Peach Belt. The Laker women received two first-place votes, five second-place votes, one third and a fourth in the poll.
“We are flattered to be picked second in the league and have the respect of the coaches,” said second-year head coach Dennis Cox. “Last year was a special season and a special group of girls. We have a solid group of returnees and several talented newcomers this year, but we will have to work hard to achieve those same results.”
Columbus State University, the team Clayton State defeated in the 2004-05 Peach Belt Conference Tournament Championship in an overtime thriller, was picked to win the league, garnering eight of a possible 10 votes. Behind Clayton State, GC&SU was chosen third, followed by Armstrong State and UNC Pembroke rounding out the top five. Augusta State and USC Aiken tied for sixth, followed by Francis Marion, North Georgia, USC Upstate and Lander.
With six returning letterwinners, including two All-Peach Belt Conference starters, expectations are high in 2005-06, as the Lady Lakers are set to defend both their Peach Belt Conference Championship and Tournament Championship titles.
Entering his second year as theLady Lakers head coach, Dennis Cox will try to duplicate last year's magical run, as he immediately turned around Clayton State women's basketball and put the program on the national map.
The Lady Lakers finished with a school best 25-7 record and led the program to their first appearance in the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Last year's improvement was the second biggest turnaround in NCAA Division II, going from 10-18 in 2003-04 to 25-7 in 2004-05.
The squad's top two returnees will be All-PBC forwards Shelcey Harp and Jasmine Patterson.
Harp and Patterson ranked among the Peach Belt Conference leaders in scoring, field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage last year. Patterson was named MVP of the PBC Tournament after scoring a school-record 35 points and pulling 10 boards in a thrilling overtime win over Columbus State in the Championship.
Clayton State will have to replace three starters, most notably, All-Peach Belt Conference player Jamika Hindsman, who led the club in scoring, steals and assists. She ranked second in rebounding and field goal percentage.
Cox has assemblied arguably the program's best recruiting class in program history that is highlighted by JUCO All-Region players in shooting guard Roberta Phillips and forward Sharon Wiles. The Lady Lakers will also have an improved inside game with the addition of two 6-3 posts in Alecia Humphrey and Tracey Browne.
Phillips averaged 18.6 points, eight rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 3.6 steals per game, while Wiles averaged 17.3 points, 7.6 rebounds, and 4.6 steals per game. Humphrey received All-Southern Conference honors, averaging 12.3 points, eight rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.1 blocks per game, while Brown pulled down 6.4 rebounds per game and shot 49.5 percent from the floor.
Fans can get their first glimpse of the Lady Lakers Nov. 5, as the Clayton State travels to Georgia State in Atlanta for an exhibition contest.
Clayton State opens the regular season on Nov. 19 in the Wachovia Tip-Off Classic, playing host to Brewton-Parker.