October 29, 2013

The rafters and walls of Southeastern Illinois College’s Deaton Gymnasium have long displayed banners of numerous conference, regional, national and individual basketball accomplishments. This summer, finishing touches were completed on a wholesale renovation of the gym, with a new set of bleachers and a brand new wood floor now on display.

The hope is that the product featured on that floor will show improvement after tough campaigns for the men’s and women’s teams last year. And head coaches Josh Ervin (men) and Jared Franklin (women) believe they have some of the pieces in place to make a big leap forward.

In his third year as head coach – preceded by one year as an assistant as well – Ervin looks to improve on an 8-23 campaign in 2012-13.

Just a trio of guards return from last year’s squad. Jamar Rivera (6-2, Kankakee, Ill.) is the leading returning scorer, having averaged around 7.5 points per game last year. Jamie Carr (6-1, Louisville, Ky.) had to deal with a broken ankle and recovery taking up about half of his season last year, but he averaged around 5 points per game.

Ervin feels that Isaiah Thomas (6-2, Houston, Texas) has great potential that has been on display in preseason scrimmages and tournaments. “He could definitely be our leading scorer,” Ervin said.

The incoming freshman class will bring some size unlike that seen in recent years, including five players standing 6-4 or taller, including 6-8 Alex Osemwegie and 7-0 Anthony Young, both of Houston.

The Falcon men will be counting on an up-tempo attack, and will seek to use their depth to their advantage, according to Ervin.

“Our general style will be similar to the University of Louisville: a lot of pressing, and aggressiveness offensively and defensively,” Ervin said. “It’s definitely the most talented bunch I’ve had since I’ve been here. We can actually sub at any minute and won’t lose much offensively or defensively. The top seven guys will share about 20 minutes apiece just depending on who is playing better that night.”

On the women’s side, Jared Franklin will take the head slot after serving as an assistant during the 2012-13 season, when the Lady Falcons finished 10-20.

Franklin counts four returning players who are expected to build upon strong freshman campaigns.

Perhaps foremost on the list is the Lady Falcons’ smallest player in stature, 4-10 Anna Best (Marmaduke, Ark.) Best contributed in several categories across the board, averaging 6.4 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 steals per game, while also setting a single-game SIC Lady Falcon record with nine three-pointers in one contest.

Also hailing from Arkansas (Judsonia), Victoria Mandrell (5-8) will be bouncing back from an ACL injury last year that limited her to 14 games. In that time, though, Mandrell put up some impressive numbers, averaging 9.9 points per game while shooting a stellar 41.5% from three-point range.

Other returnees include 5-2 guard Nakailia Sheppard (Cincinnati), who averaged 6.3 points per game, and 5-7 forward Teyonna Simmons (Chicago) who hauled in 1.2 rebounds per game in limited action.

Franklin’s freshman class includes a bit more size, including 5-8 Katie Prizer (Defiance, Mo.) and a pair of locals: 5-7 Sarah Maynor (Pope County), who was a four-time all-GEC performer, and the club’s tallest player, 6-0 Sydney Clark (Carmi-White County), who averaged nearly 11 points and seven rebounds a game as a senior for the Lady Bulldogs.

“We have several very talented freshmen that we are expecting big things from,” said Franklin

Like his counterpart Ervin, Franklin hopes to push the agenda, saying, “We will play an up tempo style offense and look to score in transition.”

Full schedules, rosters, and more information can be found on the Falcons’ athletics link,