FORT SMITH, Ark. – First-year UAFS men’s basketball coach Justin Bailey and his new-look Lions will begin the regular season this weekend when they compete in the Nissan of Wichita Falls Conference Challenge at D.L. Ligon Coliseum in Wichita Falls, Texas.
UAFS will play the Colorado State-Pueblo Thunderwolves at 5 p.m. on Friday in the opening game of the four-team, two-day event hosted by the Midwestern State Mustangs. The Lions will play the host Mustangs at 8 p.m. on Saturday.
Live statistics for Friday’s game will be available, and live statistics and live stream for Saturday’s game also will be available.
Bailey inherited an almost entirely new team when he was named head coach this past June. Only two players – senior guard Chris Crawford of Tulsa and junior guard Seth Hawley of Fort Smith – return from last year’s team that finished 24-6 overall, tied for the Heartland Conference regular-season title and advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament.
Crawford averaged 23 minutes per game last season and averaged 7.4 points, 2.2 rebounds, three assists and one steal per game. Hawley averaged 7.2 minutes per game last season and averaged two points and one rebound per game.
Those two have been joined by four junior college transfers – junior guard Tyler Williams from Edmond, who transferred from Allen County Community College; sophomore guard Da’Korey Somerville from Swainsboro, Georgia., who transferred from Colby Junior College; junior forward Matt Morgan from Laveen, Arizona, who transferred from South Mountain Community College; and junior guard Kei’shon Parker from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who transferred from Northeastern Junior College.
Seven incoming freshmen also round out the Lions’ roster – forward Braden Boyer from Broken Arrow, guard/forward David Ward from Tulsa, guard Marc Bowie from New Orleans, Louisiana, guard Matiss Sivins from Ogre, Latvia; guard Major Smith from Broken Arrow, post David Ekezie from Houston, Texas and JonDarius Warren from Corinth, Mississippi.
The Lions, who were picked to finish fifth in the Heartland Conference Preseason Poll, played one preseason exhibition game – a 98-87 loss to NCAA Division I Central Arkansas. Hawley scored a career-high 23 points and Crawford had 21 points in the game.
Midwestern State was picked to finish sixth in the Lone Star Conference. The Mustangs return one player with significant playing time from last season – senior forward Ola Ayodele – and also return four players who redshirted last season – junior forward Dorian Chatman and junior guard Josh Wallace and freshmen guards Trae Jones and Case Caldwell.
Midwestern State played just one preseason exhibition game, losing 78-64 to NAIA Wiley College.