HANCEVILLE, ALA. – After a long wait, Wallace State’s basketball teams open the season tonight at Enterprise State.
The Lady Lions, coached by Jessica McBrayer, are ranked No. 21 in the NJCAA Division preseason poll. Wallace State returns five sophomores, including dynamic guard Jiselle Woodson, from last year’s squad that earned its first National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I National Championship berth since 2015.
Meanwhile, Allen Sharpe returns on the sidelines for his second stint with the Wallace State men.
The NJCAA pushed back the basketball season openers to today for all member schools as an abundance of caution during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Alabama Community College Conference has announced no spectators are allowed at indoor events through at least Saturday, Feb. 13. Therefore, Wallace State basketball home games will be live streamed at the college’s YouTube page (https://www.youtube.com/user/WallaceState) and shared to the college’s main and athletics Facebook pages (link below) while fans are prohibited.
The home opener is Friday at 2 p.m. for the Wallace State women, and the teams play a doubleheader at home Saturday, beginning at 2 p.m.
Wallace State women
Wallace State’s women never had the chance to cash in its at-large bid to the national tournament last season. The annual event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonetheless, McBrayer led her squad to a 24-6 record and an ACCC runner-up spot, marking the eighth time in the past nine seasons the program surpassed the 20-win plateau.
Woodson, a Corner High grad who is originally from Seattle, returns to the fold. She was an ACCC North Division 2nd-team and ACCC All-Tournament selection as a freshman. Woodson averaged 12.5 points per game, shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point land.
“Jiselle brings a lot to the table. She has taught our freshman about the pace of the college game and truly loves the game,” McBrayer said. “Everyone in the league knows about Jiselle. She’s working hard to be the best she can be.”
Olivia Howard, a Spanish Fort native, returns after serving as a key contributor off the bench.
The Lady Lions will feature a talented and championship-tested freshman class.
“We should put an athletic and fast team on the court each game. We are very quick, and while we may not be the biggest team, we make up for it with our athleticism and our pace,” said McBrayer, a two-time ACCC Co-North Coach of the Year. “I’m also excited about our depth. We have talented players coming off the bench this year, which will allow us to rotate more fresh bodies.”
Makyia Broughton (Lanett), Savannah McConnell (West Limestone) and Emery McGill (Clements) round out the sophomore class.
McBrayer expects Tatyanna Davis (Lee High), Kallie Allen (Phil Campbell), Destiny Garrett (Pleasant Grove) and Payton Golden (Fairview) to provide significant minutes as freshman. Davis, Allen and Garrett each earned ASWA All-State recognition as high school seniors in their respective classes.
“Destiny Garrett has a chance to be the best point guard in the league. She’s a crafty, talented guard. Kallie Allen and Payton Golden are both tough and play the game the right way,” McBrayer said. “Tatyanna Davis provides length at the guard position we probably haven’t had before.”
Kashara Preston (Lee), Gloria Pounders (Rogers) and Avrie Grayer (Macon, Ga.) make up the freshman class.
“We have a good mix of freshman and sophomores. I believe we’re a complete team. We can score, rebound and defend. We’re consistent in all areas,” McBrayer said.
McBrayer is entering her fourth season with a 71-15 career record. Hannah Nichols returns for her second season as an assistant.
Wallace State men
The second phase of the Allen Sharpe era begins tonight for the men’s program. Sharpe previously served as head coach of the Lions from 2005-2010, leading the program to its first conference title in 2010. He posted an impressive record of 136-30 in that stretch, earning a No. 1 NJCAA poll ranking in 2008 after a 30-0 start.
“We’re glad to be back. Not every coach gets to return to a place they’ve previously coached and loved. I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Sharpe said. “A lot is new again. The players have a new coach, and for the most part, it’s a new roster. While we’ve had to navigate through the pandemic changes, it’s allowed time for us to get to know each other better on and off the court.”
Wallace State does return its leading scorer in guard Kuran Garner, a Buckhorn grad. He was an ACCC All-North Division 2nd team selection last season after averaging 12.7 points per game. He added 77 assists for the Lions, who went 16-15 under interim coach Colin Dimitroff.
Jahvon Sims (Jonesboro, Ga.), Chris Gregory (Chase City, Va.) and Zion Fluellen (Lawrenceville, Ga.) join Garner as returning sophomores.
Sharpe expects sophomore guard transfers Rafael Jenkins and De’Monte Nelson to be significant contributors. Jenkins transferred from VMI and Nelson from Pensacola State. Jevon Laidler (Miami) and Tyler Hutchinson (Forest City, Ark.) are also sophomore transfers.
Good Hope’s Cole Maddox and Nate Jones of Mae Jemison, both freshmen, are the remaining Alabamians on the roster.
Timothy Grant (Jacksonville, Fla.), Zelton Bernard (North Augusta, S.C.) and Miguel Miranda (Tampa) round out the Wallace State roster.
“Our strength is going to be in our guard play. We have age and experience there. We also thought it was important to bring in experience,” Sharpe said. “The talent is there to be a good enough to compete for a conference championship. As always, it’s a matter of putting it all together and peaking at the right time.”
Sharpe’s previous teams laid the foundation for the program to win three championships in five seasons (2010, 2012, 2014).
“We had success, won a bunch of games and it continued after I left. As I come back, we can do it again. Winning the league is important and should be among our goals. We should never cancel out winning a national championship. It’s been accomplished here by other sports and can be done. The hardest part is getting into the dance. Once you do that, you have a chance,” Sharpe said.