Basketball season begins this weekend, and student-athletes are excited to be back in action in Mariotti Gym.
"It is that time of year for all the hard work to be shown off," said senior forward Kyle Brown, who has averaged 10.8 points per game and shot 52.3% from the field in 36 games. "I am excited to see what the season has in store for us. We have a good group of guys to get things done."
Players and fans will notice something different about Mariotti when play resumes.
"The floor was repainted recently and it looks fantastic," said Head Men's Basketball Coach Kendal Wallace.
The women's team opens its season Saturday with a 2 p.m. game against Oglethorpe during the USA South/SAA Classic at Piedmont University in Demorest, Georgia. The men's team begins its journey Monday with a 7 p.m. game against Pensacola Christian in Mariotti. The women's home opener is Wednesday at 7 p.m. with Emory.
"We are excited going into our first games," said senior guard Jalaya Lewis. "Our coaches have prepared us for this moment, so we just have to stick to the game plan and let everything else fall into place."
Both programs were successful during the COVID-19-altered 2020-21 campaign. The men's squad went 7-4 overall and 7-3 in the conference and hosted a first-round playoff game during the USA South West Division Tournament as the No. 2 seed.
During the 2021-22 season, the men will compete in 25 regular-season games, with 12 counting toward the conference record and 10 being played in Mariotti. LaGrange was picked to place fifth in the West Division Coaches Preseason poll.
"I like this team," he said. "I am not sure if we are reloading or rebuilding. We have a solid foundation with Kyle, Bershard and Zac. I have been impressed with one transfer, and a couple sophomores will make a big impact. Our freshman class is strong. We will play hard and compete from tipoff to the buzzer. It is going to be interesting to see how they perform in the actual games."
Brown started all 11 games in 2020-21, averaging 13.0 points and 5.4 rebounds, while shooting 53.5% from the field. Edwards started all 11 games, scoring 10.5 points per game and shooting 51.1% on 3-pointers. During the first round of the playoffs against Piedmont, Hill finished with 12 points and four boards in 18 minutes.
On the women's side, the Panthers (8-4, 8-3 USA South) won their first eight games under new Head Coach Jasen Jonus and earned the No. 3 seed in the West Division Tournament last season.
LC, which was selected to place fourth in the West Division Coaches Preseason poll, will participate in 25 regular-season games, 16 counting toward its USA South record and 11 taking place in Mariotti. The team returns a strong core with Lewis, senior guard Jada Brown, junior guard Gracie Brunel and junior forward Breonna Glover.
Lewis was named to the All-Conference West Division second team last year, while Brown averaged 8.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 steals. Brunel tallied career-highs of 22 points and made four 3-pointers in a win over visiting Wesleyan on Feb. 16. Glover tallied two double-doubles, including career-bests of 19 points and 16 rebounds during a victory at Wesleyan on Feb. 10.
"It is great to have a complete season, and our kids are ready to build off what they did last year," said Jonus. "We need to take it one game at a time. It is going to be awesome having our fans back in Mariotti."