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Clayton State opens basketball practice

Clayton State sophomore Sidarius Henry averaged 6.4 points per game last season while playing an average of 20 minutes per game. (Special Photo: Kevin Liles)

Clayton State sophomore Sidarius Henry averaged 6.4 points per game last season while playing an average of 20 minutes per game. (Special Photo: Kevin Liles)

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Dennis Cox has lined up a challenging slate of non-conference games for his defending Peach Belt Conference women’s team this season. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)

MORROW — A new coaching era begins in the Clayton State men’s basketball program while the post Drameka Griggs era starts for the women’s team.

Clayton State is scheduled to begin preparation for the upcoming season when practice opens on campus Tuesday afternoon.

It will be the first official practice for new men’s coach Paul Harrison, who replaced longtime coach Gordon Gibbons this spring.

“Our guys have really taken to everything that has been going on, and I think everybody is ready to get started,” said Harrison, who comes to Clayton State after assistant jobs for Div. I mid-majors Wofford and College of Charleston. “Everybody is ready and excited and that is what you want at this time of year. In the first week we will be building our foundation, especially on defense.”

Replacing leading scorer and All-American Griggs will be the first chore for coach Dennis Cox as he opens practice with a new assistant. Griggs, who helped the team to the regular season and tournament championship, has joined the team as a student assistant while Ellenwood native finishes up course work on towards her degree.

In addition to Griggs, Danielle Rector has joined the staff as an assistant.

The women’s team will have two weeks to prepare before playing an exhibition at Georgia Tech on Oct. 27 with a 2 p.m. tip-off at McCamish Pavilion. The Yellow Jackets went on Europe tour in September.

This will be the sixth time Clayton State has played a NCAA Division I school in an exhibition game. Clayton State has played Georgia State three times, defeating the Panthers in 2006. The Lakers also played Georgia in 2009 and Vanderbilt in 2011.

As in past years, Clayton State’s regular season will once again be a challenging slate of non-conference games to go along with 19 games in the nationally competitive Peach Belt Conference.

“There are no cupcakes on this schedule,” said Cox. “From the tip, we will be challenged every night, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. The games we scheduled before conference are meant to prepare us for the battles to come.”

The Lakers will open the season with two games in the Spartan Challenge hosted by the University of Tampa. Clayton State will face Florida Southern on Friday, November 8th, followed by playing host Tampa on Saturday, November 9th.

Bena Hanyard, a returning from last season’s team will be asked to play a larger role and transfer Tweety Hawkin of USC Upstate will also be counting on to help. Last season, Hawkins averaged 6.5 points per game for the Div. I school.

“You never replace a player like Drameka,” Cox said.