After weeks of practice and months of conditioning, the Santa Fe Saints basketball teams are ready to take the floor on Tuesday, Nov. 2 for the first regular season games of the 2010-11 season.
The men’s team, led by seventh year head coach Chris Mowry, will play Aiken Technical College at 6 p.m. The Saints have dealt with a multitude of injuries this offseason, but the coaches and team are not using it as an excuse.
“It’s been a tough fall for us with injuries. Practices have been difficult having only ten guys some days,” said Mowry. “That said, the guys are excited for the season to start, and no matter how many healthy players we have, we’re going to give our best effort every night.”
The men return five players from last year’s 17-12 team, including one of the leading scorers and three point shooters, guard Chad Renfro who averaged nine points per game. Branimir Mikulic (6.7 ppg, 46% three pointers), Mike Washington (3.2 ppg), Levon Hodges (4 ppg) and Anthony Nwadigo, who appeared in only one game due to injury also return.
Joining the returners are three transfers with collegiate experience: point guard Jerome Clyburn, University of Southern Mississippi; forward Eddie D’Haiti, Youngstown State University and center Ilija Ivankovic, San Jacinto College.
Josh Wiseman (Macclenney, FL), James Williams (Satsuma, FL), Marko Djekovic (Zemun, Serbia) and Johnathan Williams (Gainesville, FL), all incoming freshman, round out the Saints roster.
“Jerome will start for us at point guard and is a tremendous leader both on and off the court,” Mowry said. “Ilija and Eddie give us some size and strength in the paint and Mike and Levon will be counted on to contribute from the outside and inside. It will be a team effort all season and I expect all of our guys to have an impact.”
Coach Chanda Stebbins and the women are coming off their second consecutive Mid-Florida Conference title and will open their season at 8 p.m. against the Tampa Extreme, a club team from the Tampa Bay area.
The team returns four players, including two starters from last year’s squad, guard Demisha Mills and forward Leandra King. King finished last year second in the state of Florida in blocked shots with 50 and Mills is the team’s leading returning scorer at 7 ppg. Forward Brandice Howard (5 ppg) and guard Jazmyne Green (4 ppg) are also back for their sophomore seasons.
Seven freshman join the four sophomores on the Saints roster. Kindsay Brandt (West Chester, OH), Stephenie Coney (Miami, FL), Stephanie Edwards (Miami, FL), Jasmine Blakemore (Houston, TX), Jasmine Richardson (Pensacola, FL), Kristien Malone (Indianapolis, IN) and Ashley Bacchus (Middleburg, FL) make up the rest of the Saints roster.
Coach Stebbins likes what she has seen out of the team in preseason practice, especially defensively.
“We are excited about the chemistry we are seeing this year,” said Stebbins. “I don’t think I have had a team that works this hard and likes each other this much. I am excited about their defensive drive and I am hoping that will result in great defensive execution throughout the season. This team has a chance to be very special if they stay focused and continue to work hard.”
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