Basketball pre-season rankings released

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Mikaela Queen

Both Moccasin basketball teams are starting their season ranked No. 1 in the Sunshine State Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.

Approaching the start of their season, women’s basketball is ranked No. 14 in the DII Bulletin Preseason Poll being the only Sunshine State Conference team in
the top 25.

The Mocs finished the 2018-2019 season with a 25-5 game record and the Sunshine State Conference title. Their successful season landed them the No. 1 spot in the conference annual preseason coaches poll.

Four of the five starters from last year return, including two 2018 honorable mention all-Americans Camille Giardina and Anja Fuchs-Robetin. After being a redshirt last year, Florida Atlantic University transfer Julia Jenike, will join the line up this season.

Head coach Betsy Harris returns for her fifth season. Harris received the SSC coach of the year award for the 2018-2019 season. She previously received this award during the 2015-2016 season.

Harris said she looks forward to seeing how the team responds from their success from last season. The continuation of seasoned starters on the team gives the team experience on the court and leadership in the locker room.

She said the team didn’t like how the season ended last year and have worked hard in pre-season and practices have been competitive.

“They decided that our slogan for this season is; unfinished business,” Harris said.

Senior Mercedez Claybrone said that the team looks forward to getting further into the tournament this year. She said winning the conference title was the “most amazing feeling”.

“We worked so hard and for the first time I felt rewarded,” Claybrone said.

The team will open their season at the annual GSC-SSC Challenge at Saint Leo on Nov. 9-10. The first home game will be Nov. 19 against Puerto Rico-Mayaguez at
5:30 p.m.

Men’s basketball is also ranked in the DII Bulletin top 25 Preseason Poll as No.
23.

The team caused an upset last season in NCAA DII tournament when they overcame a 21 point lead in overtime to beat No. 1 Morehouse in the first round of regional play. However, the Mocs fell short to Eckerd in the next round.

They finished last season with a 21-11 record, placed third in the SSC and labeled as one of the hottest teams in the nation. Jonathan Lawton, Brett Hansen, Jack Rauch, Ben Marello and Slinky Jones all return to start another season on the court, as well as head coach Mike Donnelly for his fourth season.

“With ten returners back from last year’s team, our experience definitely provides confidence and overall program stability,” Donnelly said.

Donnelly said that the team is hungry regardless of the disappointing loss in the tournament last season. The team gained four freshman who have brought talent, along with respect for the returners and program.

“I am looking forward to see how this team handles success and a bigger target on our back,” Donnelly said.

Jones said that the team is united coming into this season. He says that as a senior leader on the team he tries to be a big brother for everyone helping the team on and off the court.

“We finished better than projected last season and we know we have a chance to do something really special this year,” Jones said. “Besides the work we all put in during the off season, we’ve been in the gym consistently since we’ve gotten back to school.”

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