After over 20 inches of rain fell over three days and over 60,000 homes were damaged in southeastern Louisiana, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger called his acquaintance, John Derenbecker, in the area to check in. Derenbecker and his family were fine, Slessinger learned, but many in the area were not.
“I told (Derenbecker) to figure out who needed the help the most,” Slessinger told the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “that I had my whole crew who could come help out on Saturday and Sunday.”
That led Slessinger and his team to the home of an elderly couple, Elbert and Ione Norred, whose house was ravaged by over four feet of flood water. The Privateers helped slog out debris, cut away wet insulation and whatever else needed removing from the soaked home.
“I appreciate everything you have done,” Ione Elbert told the Privateers. “Nobody knows how long it would have taken us to have done this.”
The Red Cross estimates that the relief effort for the flooding could cost upwards of $30 million in the region. To make a donation to the organization call 1-800-RED CROSS.
UNO’s baseball team also got in on the aid effort, heading to Baton Rouge over the weekend.
“We are proud to see our student-athletes, coaches and staff serve our fellow Louisianians in their time of need,” UNO Director of Athletics Derek Morel said in a statement. “The men and women of our program understand the importance of serving others and using our resources to help those in less-fortunate situations. We will continue to play for neighbors.”
2014-15 Southland Preview: Can Stephen F. Austin go unbeaten again?
Stephen F. Austin has a lot to live up to if they hope to achieve similar success in 2014-15. The 2013-14 iteration of the Lumberjacks went 32-3, 20-0 in the Southland, won 29 straight games and beat VCU in the Round of 64 before falling to UCLA.
That’s quite an accomplishment for first-year head coach Brad Underwood, a former assistant of Frank Martin, who had tremendous balance and perimeter shooting last season. Although Stephen F. Austin loses leading scorer Desmond Haymon and another double-figure scorer in Deshaunt Walker, they do return Southland Player of the Year Jacob Parker, as well as Southland Tournament MVP Thomas Walkup and point guard Trey Pinckney.
The trio of returning starters is more than enough with others filling the departed players’ shoes to once again win the Southland Conference Title, as the Lumberjacks were one of the country’s best non-power conference teams last season.
Underwood’s team is the heavy favorite and he received an eight-year deal after last season.
The early runner-up candidate behind Stephen F. Austin is Sam Houston State, who returns seven contributors from last season including Southland Newcomer of the Year and 6-foot-4 senior Jabari Peters. Peters started all 35 games last season, along with three other returning starters: 6-foot-0 guard Kaheem Ransom, 6-foot-1 junior Paul Baxter and 6-foot-11 center Michael Holyfield.
This is a deep and experienced team. The Bearkats lost in the Southland title game last season and finished 24-11 (13-5).
Northwestern State is situated next as junior point guard Jalen West averaged 19.4 points and 6.4 assists last season for an offense that averaged 86.6 points per game, good enough for second in the nation. The Demons also return Southland Freshman of the Year, 6-foot-2 guard Zeek Woodley and 6-foot-9 center Marvin Frazier.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi returns after a 14-4 conference mark and all-league candidate John Jordan is back at point guard. The Islanders could compete in the Southland as 6-foot-7 sophomore forward Rashawn Thomas also returns. McNeese State and Incarnate Word both have all-conference caliber players in senior guards Kevin Hardy and Denzel Livingston. Both of those players are capable of making plays all over the floor and each averaged over two steals a game last season.
It’s worth noting that Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word are playing full 18-game Southland schedules this season for the first time, but both remain ineligible for the NCAA Tournament after transitioning from Division II. Central Arkansas, Houston Baptist and Lamar are all banned from the postseason due to low APR scores.
Of the 13 teams in the Southland, only eight may play in the postseason in 2014-15.
Out: Oral Roberts
PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Jacob Parker, Stephen F. Austin
The reigning Southland Player of the Year, the 6-foot-6 Parker is one of three returning starters for a team that reached the Round of 32 in 2014. The senior averaged 14.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 steals per game last season while shooting 53 percent from the field, 46 percent from three-point range and 79 percent from the free-throw line. Efficient and productive from all over the floor, Parker will be the key for Stephen F. Austin to maintain last year’s success after the Lumberjacks lost some valuable seniors.
THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-SOUTHLAND TEAM:
Kevin Hardy, McNeese State: Do-it-all 6-foot-2 senior guard averaged 11 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2 steals per game last season.
John Jordan, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi: A dynamic, play-making senior guard, the 5-foot-10 Jordan averaged 14.8 points and 5.4 assists per game as a junior.
Denzel Livingston, Incarnate Word: The 6-foot-4 senior combo guard averaged 20.3 points per game and a Southland-leading 2.5 steals per game as he scored 20 or more points in 10 of the last 11 games in 2013-14.
Jalan West, Northwestern State: The 5-foot-10 junior point guard averaged 19.4 points and a Southland-best 6.4 assists per game last season and could de-throne Parker for Player of the Year honors.
1. Stephen F. Austin
2. Sam Houston State
3. Northwestern State
4. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
5. McNeese State
6. Incarnate Word
7. Southeastern Louisiana
8. New Orleans
9. Nicholls State
10. Abilene Christian
11. Houston Baptist
12. Central Arkansas
Per a report from the New Orleans Times-Picayune former New Orleans forward Matt Derenbecker was found dead Sunday at a home he was house-sitting in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. Derenbecker, who was just 22 years old, was found in the swimming pool at the home he was watching after failing to pick up his girlfriend at Louis Armstrong Airport according to the story.
Derenbecker played parts of three seasons of college basketball, one each at LSU and Dayton before beginning the 2013-14 season as a member of the New Orleans program. Derenbecker would play just eleven games at UNO, leaving the program for what was stated to be an undisclosed medical reason.
“This is a tough day for our program, Matt and his family,” Slessinger said at the time. “We sincerely hope that this time in our program will benefit him positively moving forward.”
Sadly for the New Orleans basketball family, this isn’t the only tragedy they’ve had to deal with this weekend according to the Times-Picayune.
Derenbecker’s death was the second tragedy to hit the UNO men’s basketball program during the weekend. Four members of former UNO forward Cory Dixon’s family, including stepfather Michael Miller, 47, mother Leann Miller, 48, and siblings Zoey Miller, 12, and Miles Miller, 7, were killed in an auto accident on Friday night in New Mexico. The family was returning home to Dallas from vacation.
Dixon, a 6-foot-7 power forward, was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder as a senior in 2013-14.
After averaging 5.5 points per game on a team that reached the NCAA tournament in 2013-14, Louisiana guard Kevin Brown has reportedly decided to transfer to New Orleans according to a report Monday by Joshua Parrott of Basketball Times. As a result of his having graduated from Louisiana, Brown will be eligible to play immediately for head coach Mark Slessinger.
Joining the New Orleans program means that Brown returns to the city where his college career began, as he played in 18 games as a freshman at Tulane. Prior to last season, in which Brown played in all 35 games (13 starts) for the Ragin’ Cajuns, he played in just eight games due to a broken foot suffered during the 2012-13 season.
Brown’s best outing as a redshirt junior came in Louisiana’s 81-74 loss at South Alabama on January 16, as he scored 14 points (4-for-6 FG) in 24 minutes of action. His arrival gives New Orleans, which finished the 2013-14 season with an 11-15 record (8-10 Southland), some additional perimeter depth with rising sophomores Christavious Gill and Tevin Broyles being their most productive returnees in the backcourt.
Gill averaged 7.8 points and 2.1 rebounds per game as a freshman, with Broyles adding 5.6 points and 2.8 rebounds. Heading into 2014-15 the Privateers will have to account for the loss of its top four scorers from last season a group that included forward Cory Dixon (13.5 ppg, team-best 7.7 rpg), and leading assist man Isaac Mack (8.6 ppg, 3.3 apg).
All month long, CBT will be rolling out our 2013-2014 season preview. Check back throughout the day, as we’ll be posting three or four preview items every day.
To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To see the rest of the Conference Previews we’ve published, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.
If the Southland Conference had an unofficial motto this season, it might be “Who Dat?”
Seismic shifts at the top of the NCAA power structure draw the most ink, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a league that has been more visibly impacted by realignment than the Southland. Texas State, UT-Arlington (both now Sun Belt) and UT-San Antonio (C-USA) bolted last season to jump on the BCS football gravy train, and Oral Roberts traded in the Summit League’s frequent flyer miles to join the Southland. The league’s tight four-state footprint solidified this year with the addition of New Orleans, Houston Baptist and transitional DI members Abilene Christian and Incarnate Word.
The Southland isn’t entirely devoid of name recognition, however. Scott Sutton’s Oral Roberts team was an upset special waiting to happen in the late 2000s, and the Golden Eagles have enough talent, although inexperienced, to feast on the diluted Southland slate this season. Pat Knight, son of the legendary Bobby Knight and former Texas Tech coach, has struggled to build a consistent contender at Lamar, but at least he’s a familiar face. Northwestern State, last season’s auto-bid winner, is losing a lot of senior leadership, so they’re likely to suffer the mid-major curse and fall off the pace a bit. The Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks won 27 games last season and missed the Big Dance in a narrow two-point loss in the league’s title game, so they’ll be in the mix as well.
In: Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, New Orleans Out: None
PRESEASON SOUTHLAND PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Shawn Glover, Oral Roberts
A rather slight 6-foot-7 wing, Glover got plenty of minutes in two seasons at Utah but just couldn’t finish well enough. After sitting out a season, he came on strong for ORU, sharing the team lead in blocks and steals while averaging 14.4 points per game. Glover is a strong all-around player who should thrive in his senior season.
FOUR MORE NAMES TO KNOW:
Jalan West, Northwestern State: The redshirt sophomore should build on his strong debut season at the point.
Dederick Lee, Oral Roberts: The highly-regarded freshman from Clarksville, Arkansas had an offer from the Razorbacks, but will star for Sutton instead.
LaQuintin Miles, Central Arkansas: Miles can really pour it on if he finds a way to improve on last season’s 44 percent mark from the floor.
DeQuan Hicks, Northwestern State: Hicks had 12 points and 8 boards against Florida in the NCAA tournament last year. He’s ready to make a difference as a senior.
1. Oral Roberts
2. Northwestern State
3. Southeastern Louisiana
4. Stephen F. Austin
5. Sam Houston State
6. Central Arkansas
7. Nicholls State
8. McNeese State
9. Texas A&M Corpus Christi
10. Houston Baptist
11. New Orleans
13. Abilene Christian
14. Incarnate Word