ROME, Ga. – Are you ready for tip-off?! With basketball season right around the corner, I have compiled a detailed list of five reasons you should be excited to watch the Hawks and the Lady Hawks compete, including exclusive quotes from Head Coaches Chad Warner and Vic Mitchell. This season promises the return of champions, eight all-star senior players, old rivalries and new opponents, high goals and higher standards, and outrageously dressed fans.
1. The Return of Champions
Last season proved to be a success for both the Hawks and the Lady Hawks. Ending the season with an overall record of 21-11, the Hawks averaged 81 points per game. The team shot 46% from the field, 35% from outside the 3-point line, and 73% from the free throw line. They swept the South Regional Conference of the NCCAA Division I to progress to the national championships. After competing against many difficult teams, the Hawks played as a team and became the current NCCAA Division I National Champions.
The Lady Hawks soared high as well. The team ended their season with an overall record of 18-13, averaging 37% from the field, 29% from outside the 3-point line, and 66% from the free throw line. Overall, they scored 59 points per game. Their hard work on the court paid off as they became the champions of the NCCAA Division I South Regional Conference.
2. Eight All-Star Senior Players
This year, the Hawks are led by three senior players: #2 Brandon Pullman (F), #11 Kurtis Woods (G), and #22 Steve Johnson (F). Pullman enters his second season on the court for the Hawks with an average of 8 points per game, shooting 42% from the field and averaging 5 rebounds. Coming from Southern Polytechnic State University, Woods will bring great competitive intensity to the team, according to Chad Warner, head coach for the Hawks. Johnson, who played at Winthrop University last season, averaged 4 points and 4 rebounds per game. Although he is a quiet player, he works hard and always plays his role on the team.
With such experienced and talented players, Coach Warner expects these seniors to “play hard every day and work to be great teammates.” He knows, “If they do those things, the success will follow them.”
The Lady Hawks are heading into the season with five outstanding senior players: #2 Karisma Boykin (G), #3 Kristin Nash (G), #14 Milena Samson (G), #24 Lindsey Crawford (F), and #32 Lynette Harris (F). Boykin enters her second season on the court as the leading scorer for the team with 12 points per game. Nash also enters her second season on the court with an average of 10 points per game, shooting 33% from the field and 30% from outside the 3-point line. Samson exploded from the field last season, shooting 22% from the field. Veteran Hawk Crawford averaged 5 rebounds per game and had 19 blocks and 16 steals last season. Last but certainly not least, Harris has proved to be a great scorer, shooting 52% from the field, and a great rebounder also averaging 5 rebounds a game.
Leadership and great talent radiates from these five senior players and is visible both on and off the court. Vic Mitchell, head coach for the Lady Hawks, confirms, “I have tremendous confidence this group will provide the necessary leadership for the team and will be significant contributors in terms of points and rebounds. The effort and attitude of each player stands out on the court and everyone sees it. But, the leadership provided in the locker-room, when no one is watching, is also vitally important.”
3. Old Rivalries and New Opponents
As the Lady Hawks moved into the NCAA Division II last season, they left old rivalries in the past. However, this year, the Lee University Flames, an old rivalry for the Lady Hawks, enters into the Gulf South Conference. Their last two match-ups were in the 2011-2012 season. The first game was a tough one, and the Lady Hawks lost 58-71. With power and determination, the Lady Hawks defended their home court and won 60-44 in their second feud with the Lady Flames. Coach Mitchell states, “We look forward to renewing the rivalry with Lee, and our preparation will be the same as anyone else on our schedule. There is no doubt all of our players and fans look forward to those games.” With an up-tempo playing style, some full court pressing, good team depth, and even better athletes, the Lady Hawks are prepared for tip-off against both new opponents and old rivalries.
Because of their NCCAA Division I National Championship title, the Hawks are being watched from opponents across the country. Despite looming pressure, their strategy is very simple for battling new opponents. Coach Warner asserts, “We want to play hard, fast, together, and fundamentally sound. I think it is the best way for us to compete.”
4. High Goals and Even Higher Standards.
Coach Warner expects nothing less than the best from his team of all-star players, both on and off the court. He believes in strategically positioning his team to become great players and even better men. Furthermore, he is “very concerned with the process of growth in all areas of [the Hawks’] lives. If we strive to be better each and every day, then good things have a chance to happen.”
As a team, the Lady Hawks are focusing on not just being athletes, but on being successful student-athletes. According to Coach Mitchell, “Academically, we want to have a team GPA of 3.4 or better, which will take everyone being focused on their work and using their time management skills. Athletically, we want to win the Gulf South Conference regular season, defend the NCCAA South Region championship, and advance further in the NCCAA National Championships.”
5. Outrageous Fans
What’s not to love about crazy attire and ecstatic fans? Last season, students, faculty, and members of the community participated in many wild and eccentric “themed” home games. The purpose of these nights was to increase student unity and to increase community involvement. The athletic department could not have anticipated the overwhelming success these nights brought. Themes ranged from black-outs, white-outs, neon-colored, and even a camouflage themed night.This season the athletic department expects to continue to host even crazier nights for home games.
Now are you ready?!
Join the SU Hawk community as the Hawks tip off on their home court against Carver College on Monday, November 11th at 7 pm (EST), and the Lady Hawks will open their season at home against the University of Montevallo on Wednesday, November 13th at 6 pm (EST).
Tune into 95.7 The Ridge for both games!