HANCEVILLE, ALA. – Wallace State’s men’s basketball team begins a new era tonight as Collin Dimitroff makes his coaching debut for the Lions.
Wallace State welcomes Volunteer State to Tom Drake Coliseum for the 2019-2020 season opener at approximately 7:30 p.m., and Cleveland State pays a visit to town on Sunday afternoon.
Dimitroff, 24, was an assistant coach on last season’s team that went 24-7 and won the Alabama Community College Conference (ACCC) North Division championship. Before landing in Hanceville, Dimitroff served two seasons on the Missouri State University basketball staff, also graduating from there.
Dimitroff was hired in September, replacing coach John Meeks, who led the program for nine seasons and won two ACCC tournament championships and three regular-season division titles.
“This is game week and I’m excited to see where we’re at. This is what we work hard for in the offseason. We all should be on the same page and ready to go,” said Dimitroff, a Michigan native. “I’m very happy for the guys who struck around and trusted the process, Wallace State and myself. It’s been an adjustment for the players, but they’ve been great.”
Dimitroff was a key piece to the Lions’ success last season, and sophomores Markise Davis and Christopher Sampson also provided quality contributions along the way.
Davis, an Oxford native, returns at the wing position for the Lions after averaging nearly five points off the bench as a freshman. Sampson, a Pittsburgh native, was among Wallace State’s top post players last season.
“Markise has a great future in front of him. He showed spurts last year of the potential he has to be a great player in this league. I think bringing that consistent passion and drive every single day will be one of the biggest things to work on this season,” Dimitroff said. “Chris Sampson was one of our best defenders and rebounders last season, and we’ll need more from him this season. He’ll be relied on heavily on both ends of the court, whether it’s guarding the opponents’ best big man or giving us points in the paint.”
Sophomore transfer McLeon Charles, a 6-foot-2 guard from Orlando, is expected to provide a boost in the backcourt after Wallace State lost all of its scoring from that area on the court, including from Demarkus Lampley, a NJCAA 1st-team All-American and the 2019 ACCC Player of the Year. Lampley is now at Sam Houston State after two stellar seasons with the Lions.
Kendrick Foster and Juwan Johnson round out the sophomore class. Foster, who is from Oxford, transferred from Iowa Central Community College, and Johnson, who is from Newton High School in Covington, Ga., transferred from West Georgia Technical College.
“We expect both Kendrick and Juwan to help us significantly. They both give us good depth in the backcourt,” Dimitroff said.
Eugene Leonard, who was teammates with Davis and Foster at Oxford, and Kuran Garner are both freshman newcomers expected to log considerable minutes for the Lions at guard. Garner played at Buckhorn High.
Kendall Cotner, a 6-foot-9 center from East Lawrence, will be relied upon in the post.
“Kendall Cotner has made great strides. I think he lacked confidence in himself last year because we had so many returners. Kendall’s a year older, and has been great this preseason. He can be a huge rim protector for us,” Dimitroff said. “Kuran Garner can play both point and shooting guard for us and has a tremendous pace on the floor. He’s a confident player. Eugene Leonard is a good motor guy who can also help us a variety of ways in the backcourt.”
Rounding out the freshmen are Zion Fluellen (Green Forest Christian Academy, Ga.) Jayden Landrom (Westminster Christian Academy), Akil Covington (Loganville HS, Ga.) Jahvon Sims (Campbell HS, Ga.), Chris Gregory (Bluestone HS, Va.) and Keegan Odom (Forrest County Agricultural HS, Miss.).
Jared Harbin and Reginald Terrell are redshirts this season.
“We should be strong in the front court. We have a lot of guys who can contribute on the glass and rebound well. We also have several guys who are comfortable from the perimeter. We’ve got to put them in the best positions to succeed,” Dimitroff said. “Our goal is to build the blocks where we’re playing our best basketball when it matters most.”
After Sunday, Wallace State plays six of its next seven games on the road. The Lions will host Eastern Florida State College and Walters State in a post-Thanksgiving tournament on Nov. 29-30. The conference opener is Jan. 7 at Bevill State.
Daniel Keeler is Wallace State’s assistant coach this season.