Sun Belt

Texas-Arlington's Kevin Hervey, left, reacts to a 73-68 NCAA college basketball game win as Ohio State's Jae'Sean Tate looks on  in Columbus, Ohio, Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
AP Photo/Paul Vernon

UT Arlington loses leading scorer, rebounder to torn ACL

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For the second straight season UT Arlington head coach Scott Cross will have to deal with his most productive player being lost for the season due to injury.

Friday afternoon the school announced that sophomore forward Kevin Hervey will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL in his left knee, with the injury being suffered just before the Mavericks’ win over Arkansas State Thursday night. Hervey currently leads the team in both scoring and rebounding, averaging 18.1 points and 9.8 rebounds per contest, so it goes without saying that this is a big hit for UT Arlington to take.

Without Hervey Thursday night the Mavericks started four guards in a 91-64 win over Arkansas State. Jorge Bilbao, the lone starting front court player, finished with 11 points, ten rebounds and seven assists. 6-foot-7 guard Nathan Hawkins and 6-foot-7 forward Faith Pope combined to play 26 minutes in the win, contributing a total of six points and three rebounds with Pope responsible for all three boards.

Chipping in on the glass were Kennedy Eubanks and Kaelon Wilson, with the former grabbing a team-high 11 boards and Wilson adding ten. They’ll have to continue to help on the glass moving forward with the team’s best rebounder lost for the season. Next up for UT Arlington is another Sun Belt team that made waves in non-conference play in Little Rock, which at 6-1 in league play is a half-game ahead of the 5-1 Mavericks atop the league standings.

Last season, UT Arlington lost Johnny Hill to a season-ending injury. Hill is using his final season of college eligibility at Purdue.

Coastal Carolina moving to Sun Belt

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Coming off back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances in men’s basketball, Coastal Carolina will move all sports, including men’s and women’s basketball, to the Sun Belt beginning with the 2016-17 academic year, the conference announced on Tuesday.

The football team, formed in 2003, will remain in the FCS level for the 2016 season before elevating to the Sun Belt in 2017.

With the addition of Coastal Carolina, the Sun Belt becomes a 12-team basketball league in 2016-17. There is talk of Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson creating two separate divisions to split the conference, according to ESPN’s Brett McMurphy.

This is a good move for Coastal Carolina’s basketball program, which has shown great consistency with five postseason appearances over the last six seasons. Now they get to play in a stronger basketball league that includes Georgia State, Louisiana-Lafayette, UL-Monroe and Georgia Southern all coming off of strong seasons. The Sun Belt has also produced some recent NBA players in R.J. Hunter and Elfrid Payton, so some of the best talent in the country has come from the league the last few seasons.

The Sun Belt also adds some depth in basketball with this move and it gives them a program who has sustained some recent success under head coach Cliff Ellis. Coastal Carolina moves from the Big South, where they finished 24-10 overall and 12-6 in league play before winning the Big South tournament title.

Louisiana-Lafayette adds transfer guard from BYU

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source: Getty Images
(Getty Images)

Former BYU guard Frank Bartley IV will continue his college basketball career at Louisiana-Lafayette, the school announced in a release. The 6-foot-3 guard will have to sit out the 2015-16 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but has two years of eligibility remaining after.

“Frank is a young man that we recruited out of high school and is a strong, athletic player that can get to the basket,” Marlin said. “He had a great (high school) career at Christian Life Academy and played a vital part in the success the last two years at BYU. He comes from a great family and he wanted an opportunity to come back home. We’re excited that he has enrolled at UL and will join our team.”

The commitment to the Ragin’ Cajuns means that Bartley will follow in the footsteps of his father, Frank Bartley III. The elder Bartley was an all-conference football player at the school.

During his sophomore season at BYU, Bartley IV averaged 2.5 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. In the Sun Belt, Bartley could be more of an impact player, especially after sitting out an additional season and working on his game.

Transfer guard originally headed to Louisiana Tech commits to Arkansas-Little Rock

(Florida A&M athletics)
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In mid-April Louisiana Tech announced the addition of guard Jermaine Ruttley for the 2015-16 season, with the former Florida A&M player eligible to compete immediately for the Bulldogs. Then the coaching carousel got going, with Michael White moving on to Florida and Dusty May, who some Louisiana Tech players wanted to take over, heading to Gainesville as well.

As a result Ruttley reopened his recruitment, and Saturday morning it was reported by ESPN.com that he’s decided to attend Arkansas-Little Rock. News of Ruttley’s commitment was originally reported Friday night, but that proved to be premature.

The 6-foot-3 Ruttley averaged 17.4 points per game at Florida A&M last season after playing at Kaskaskia Community College. In announcing the addition of Ruttley to the program, Louisiana Tech stated that Florida A&M was working with them and the NCAA to ensure that Ruttley would be eligible to compete immediately due to a possible postseason ban for academic progress rate issues.

Now that Ruttley has picked UALR, the Trojans will likely need similar cooperation to ensure that the high-scoring guard can take the floor in 2015-16. UALR, which has a new head coach in Chris Beard, returns its top two scorers from last season in guard Josh Hagins and forward Roger Woods.

Ruttley is the fourth addition to the UALR program, joining junior college transfers Jalen Jackson and Lis Shoshi and freshman Tyson Batiste.

South Alabama’s leading rebounder to transfer

Abdul Lewis, Tonye Jekiri
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After leading the team in rebounding as a freshman with an average of 6.9 boards per contest, South Alabama freshman Abdul Lewis has decided to transfer. News of Lewis’ decision was announced by South Alabama head coach Matthew Graves Wednesday afternoon.

“I would like to thank Abdul for his contributions to the program this past season and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors,” Graves said in the release. “He will be granted a full release to transfer back closer to home and I would anticipate him being able to find a situation that allows him to be within an hour or two from there.”

The 6-foot-9 Lewis, a native of Newark, Nw Jersey, also averaged 7.0 points per game and started 27 of the 33 games he played in. With Lewis moving on and fellow forward Dionte Ferguson (11.6 ppg, 6.7 rpg) out of eligibility, the Jaguars will have to account for the loss of their top two rebounders from last season.

Rising junior forward Georgi Boyanov, who averaged 4.7 rebounds per contest in 2014-15, will be South Alabama’s leading returning rebounder. The Jaguars also return rising senior Tafari Whittingham and add three newcomers in Loyola Marymount transfer Nick Stover (who sat out last season) and freshmen Josh Ajayi and Nikola Marijan to the front court rotation.

UALR, head coach Steve Shields to part ways after 12 seasons

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Less than a week after UALR’s season came to an end with a loss to South Alabama in the Sun Belt tournament, athletic director Chasse Conque has decided that the basketball program is in need of a new leader.

According to Troy Schulte of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Conque and Shields met Wednesday morning with the athletic director making his decision public a few hours later. In 12 seasons at the helm Shields led the Trojans to 192 wins, and in 2011 the team won the Sun Belt tournament and earned the conference’s NCAA tournament berth as a result.

“I want to thank Steve for all he has done for this program, including being a mentor and leader to our student-athletes,” Conque said in a statement.

“He held his players accountable, and his team’s academic achievements are something we are very proud of. This was a tough decision, but one that I felt was best for our program at this time.”

UALR has finished below .500 in three of the last four seasons. This year’s team finished with a record of 13-18, and 12 of the 15 players on the roster are upperclassmen (two seniors and ten juniors). Just one of the top five scorers, guard Ben Dillard, was a senior with the other four all being juniors.

Given the amount of experience on the roster this was a disappointing season for UALR, which was picked to finish third in the Sun Belt in the preseason poll. The 2015-16 season was the final year on Shields’ contract according to the Democrat-Gazette.