LEVELLAND, Texas - Pre-season play has ended and the Western Junior College Athletic Conference (WJCAC) season is set to begin Monday when the South Plains College Texans and Lady Texans travel to Midland to square off with the always mighty Chaps and Lady Chaps of Midland College. The women's game will tip first at 5:45 p.m. with the men to follow at 7:45 p.m. Both games will be streamed live over the internet at www.spctexans.com. HPRN's Michael Wiiest will provide live audio at www.hprnetwork.com.
The 2011-12 season has gotten off to a rocky start for seventh year coach Michelle Wyatt's crew as they enter the WJCAC opener with a 3-13 overall record. Wyatt, who has been wildly successful in her six full seasons, has a positive attitude as her young team enters conference play.
"Our record is not where we would like for it to be, but it's a whole new season," Wyatt said in a recent interview with HPRN's Wiiest referring to conference play. "Anybody who has ever seen this conference knows that anything can happen and if we can get everybody on the same page on any given night I think we can win."
Sophomore guard Ashley Roberts has been the steady hand for South Plains averaging 18 points per game. Roberts is coming off the best game of her career, a 40 point performance in which she made 12-of-21 (.571) shots from the field. She should get some help with the return of Raely Parada who made her debut January 5 versus Scottsdale. Three days later Parada had a 6-of-13 night against Phoenix, finishing with 18 points.
The Lady Chaps (13-4) began the season with a No. 3 ranking in the NJCAA, but have fallen from the top 20 polls during the course of the season. Despite not being a ranked opponent, Wyatt said Midland is certainly tough.
"Midland is really good, just like always. They are going to be a lot bigger than us so we really have our hands full there."
The Lady Chaps have six players who stand between 6 feet, 1 inch and 6 feet, 2 inches, including freshman Achiri Adi who is averaging 12.7 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
The Texans, meanwhile, enter the WJCAC portion of their schedule with an unblemished record of 15-0 and a No. 3 NJCAA ranking. Key victories include early season wins over Trinity Valley and Lamar State-Port Arthur, teams ranked sixth and thirteenth in the country at the time.
Twelfth year Texan head coach Steve Green says the early success comes from a combination of things.
"Some of the guys we have back from last year have really stepped up their play so we have more depth this season," says Green who added, "Granted they have had some help. We are bigger than we were. We have a point guard who has been very reliable."
The Texans have received help from a number of players. Four Texan players are averaging more than 10 points per game, led by sophomore Marshall Henderson with 18.7. Henderson is coming off a spectacular series of games in Arizona in which he had back-to-back 28-point performances. During the four-game stretch Henderson scored 86 points and made 21-of-37 (.568) 3-point shots.
6-10 freshman Yanick Moreira has been a huge addition to the roster as he has averaged 12.9 points and 7.9 rebounds per game. Returning sophomores Malcolm Miller and Stanton Kidd put in 10.3 and 10.1 points per game, respectively.
Point guard Devonte Smith is averaging five assists per contest while only turning the ball over 22 times in 15 games.
Ranked third in the initial NJCAA polls, Midland College will enter Monday's showdown with a 12-2 record after falling to Navarro and Jacksonville in November and are not currently ranked in the top-20. Green considers Midland to potentially still be the best team in the conference.
"They have played a pretty challenging schedule as well. I think they are finding themselves now and it is going to be a tremendous challenge for us and hopefully them as well."After Midland, the Texans and Lady Texans will host Odessa in their WJCAC home openers Thursday, January 19.