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The MSU-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team opens its season Nov. 1 and 2 in the Grizzly Tip-Off Classic in the Joe Paul Evans Arena at the West Plains Civic Center.  Team members include, seated from left, Assistant Team Manager Jason Alexander and players Jonathan Tshibuy, Devaugntah Williams, Jeremiah Jackson, Arroyo Edwards, Isiah Rogers, Craig Eubanks, Jameel Moore and A.J. Green.  Standing:  Student Manager Drew Clark, Head Coach Yancey Walker, Team Manager Fred Alexander, players Dante Bailey, Lukasz Bonarek, Ed Seay Jr., Justin Jamison, Malik London, Kevin Noulowe, Malcolm Henderson and Justin Satchell, Assistant Coaches Chad Van Riessen and Bryan Bender, and Student Manager Chantz Reese.  (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

The MSU-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team opens its season Nov. 1 and 2 in the Grizzly Tip-Off Classic in the Joe Paul Evans Arena at the West Plains Civic Center. Team members include, seated from left, Assistant Team Manager Jason Alexander and players Jonathan Tshibuy, Devaugntah Williams, Jeremiah Jackson, Arroyo Edwards, Isiah Rogers, Craig Eubanks, Jameel Moore and A.J. Green. Standing: Student Manager Drew Clark, Head Coach Yancey Walker, Team Manager Fred Alexander, players Dante Bailey, Lukasz Bonarek, Ed Seay Jr., Justin Jamison, Malik London, Kevin Noulowe, Malcolm Henderson and Justin Satchell, Assistant Coaches Chad Van Riessen and Bryan Bender, and Student Manager Chantz Reese. (Missouri State-West Plains Photo)

(West Plains) – The 2013-14 Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball team will feature a nice blend of size, quickness and strength, as well as a strong mix of returners and first year student athletes, according to sixth year head coach Yancey Walker.

“With this blend of student athletes, the Grizzlies will be a versatile team that can dictate the tempo of each possession,” Walker said. “We will look to our sophomores to lead that process at the beginning of the year, but we fully expect this group of freshmen to be able to contribute in a lot of ways.”

The team will be anchored by returning guard Devaugntah Williams, Canton, Ohio, who led the Grizzlies in scoring last season with 13.1 points per game and earned National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) All-Region 16 honors. Other returners in the backcourt include Arroyo Edwards, Milwaukee, Wis.; Jonathan Tshibuy, Montreal, Quebec, Canada; and Isiah Rogers, Columbus, Ohio.

They will be joined by newcomers Jeremiah Jackson, Canton, Ohio; Craig Eubanks, Cleveland, Ohio; Justin Satchell, Miramar, Fla.; Dante Bailey, Chicago, Ill.; Jameel Moore, Richmond Heights, Ohio; and area product A.J. Green of Parkview High School in Springfield.

“This backcourt has a lot of ability to make the right play and create opportunities for their teammates,” Walker said.

Returning to the frontcourt are Malcolm Henderson, Chatequguay, Quebec, Canada, and Malik London, Jackson Hamlet, N.C., both of whom saw significant playing time last season. Ed Seay, Merrillville, Ind., is coming off his redshirt year and will join Henderson and London in the pivot.

New members of the frontcourt include Justin Jamison, Garfield Heights, Ohio; Kevin Noulowe, Gaithersburg, Md.; and Lukasz Bonarek, Jaktorow, Poland.

This group of Grizzlies looks to build on the success of last year’s team, which went 21-10 and won the NJCAA Region 16 regular season title. Along the way, they set a new program record for the fewest points allowed in a game (30) and finished the regular season on an eight-game winning streak.

It won’t be easy, though. A grueling schedule is on tap for this year’s squad, and it begins Nov. 1 and 2 at home in the annual Grizzly Tip-Off Classic in the Joe Paul Evans Arena at the West Plains Civic Center. Right out of the gate, they will meet Otero Junior College of La Junta, Colo., who defeated the Grizzlies in overtime last season in their own home tournament.

After a four-game home stand, the Grizzlies will take their first road trip of the season to Council Bluffs, Iowa, to compete in the Hampton Inn-Holiday Inn Reiver Classic hosted by Iowa Western Community College. The Reivers were the top seed in last year’s NJCAA Division I Men’s National Basketball Championship Tournament and reached the quarterfinals before falling to the tournament’s eventual runner-up, Northwest Florida State College of Niceville. In addition to the host team, the Grizzlies will meet Marshalltown (Iowa) Community College at this event.

Missouri State-West Plains also will compete in other notable tournaments during the season, including the Bowling RV Classic Nov. 22-23 at Indian Hills Community College, Ottumwa, Iowa; the PARC Thanksgiving Classic Nov 28-29 at Three Rivers College, Poplar Bluff, Mo.; the Coffeyville Resources JUCO Elite 8 Tournament Dec. 5-7 in Coffeyville, Kan.; and their own Grizzly Holiday Classic Dec. 13-14 and Grizzly New Year’s Classic Jan. 3-4.

“We cannot overlook any of the teams we play,” Walker warned. “We have several on the schedule that went to the national tournament last season.”

But Walker and the Grizzlies expect some of their toughest competition of the season to come from their NJCAA Region 16 counterparts – defending Region 16 tournament champion Mineral Area College, Park Hills, Mo.; Moberly Area Community College, Moberly, Mo.: State Fair Community College, Sedalia, Mo.; and Three Rivers College. Those contests will come after the first of the year and feature home and away meetings against each team.

“Since we won the Region 16 regular season title last year, we will have to fight the urge to be satisfied,” Walker said. “We must continue to be the hunter and not the hunted. In the last three seasons, we have gone into two-thirds of our games either tied for first place in the region or in first place alone. We must continue to make winning our habit.

“We also will have to be exceptional at being us,” he added. “We must play to our strengths and be in control of the games from start to finish. This team has already shown the ability to really focus and execute, especially on the little things. What we need to develop is the ability to have that all of the time.”

Walker, however, hopes the Grizzlies’ toughest competition this season comes from the Grizzlies themselves. “We want to compete with ourselves every day. We want our make our teammates better and improve as individuals using that method. We want to get better every day. If we do that, then this group will achieve the success they are capable of on the court, in the classroom, in recruiting and in life,” he explained.

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