11/09/06 — Trojan basketball teams anxious for season to begin

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Trojan basketball teams anxious for season to begin

By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on November 9, 2006 1:47 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- They're ready to play for real.

That was the common theme for both of the basketball programs at Mount Olive College during Wednesday's Tip-Off Luncheon.

The men's basketball squad is coming off a 25-7 season which included their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament, where they advanced to the East Regional semifinal.

The recent success has built high, but not unrealistic expectations for the men's program.

"It puts some pressure on our players," said head coach Bill Clingan, who is entering his 17th season at Mount Olive.

The high expectations don't scare seniors Elijah Rouse and Elton Coffield, whose team is ranked 19th in the preseason Division II poll.

"We've been there before," Rouse said. "We've just got to go hard and do the same things we've been doing the last couple of years."

In order to remain at the top, Clingan has been pushing his team in practices and has been impressed with their performance.

"Our team has a good work ethic and, if that means anything, we're in for a good year," said Clingan.

The hard work and early hours isn't always easy for the players.

"We've got the greatest coaches I've ever had in my life. They get you up at 5:15 ... 6 a.m. I don't even see the sun," laughed Rouse. "This year we've been running and lifting, and it's going to help a whole lot."

The Trojans will be shorthanded when they open their season Nov. 17 against Ohio Valley in the Pickle Classic. Senior Chris Bartley, who started 31 of 32 games last season, sustained a torn Achilles tendon and will be out until early 2007.

"He's very valuable to us and we're hoping he'll be back to give us a hand as we go down the stretch," Clingan said.

Women's coach Wendy Lee, like her counterparts, is also very excited to start playing games.

"We're all anxious, we're ready to play a game," said Lee, who is entering her seventh season at the helm.

The Lady Trojans are looking to carry the momentum from their 2005-06 season in which they went 16-13, their best record in NCAA Division II since being reclassified in 1995.

"We're not overly confident, but we're getting prepared," Lee said. "The conference is wide open."

Senior Tilah Worthy wasn't bashful in her prediction for the upcoming season.

"This year, we're going to finish first," she said.

Mount Olive welcomes two new freshmen and a junior college transfer to its team.

Freshmen Samone Bland, a 5-foot-7 guard from West Brunswick High School and 5-11 forward/center Ashley Turner from Farmington, Ill. will both be counted on to provide depth. Junior Jill Oaks, a 6-1 forward/center comes to Mount Olive via Lansing Community College.

In addition to the new recruits, the Lady Trojans have added two new assistant coaches to the bench -- Aisha Bryant and Cindy Hilbrich.

The Lady Trojans open the 2006-07 season at Kornegay Arena on Nov. 15 against UNC Pembroke at 6 p.m.

"We're ready," junior Sierra Medeiros said.