College basketball previews/behind the stories

SHAMAR ACUAY

We put out our college basketball preview on Sunday, including features and capsules on the MIAA, KCAC, Jayhawk Conference and Newman. Here’s links to our stories and capsules plus a few behind-the-scenes bits on each story – click the name of the league for the jump to capsules – Newman women are a folo on the main feature:

NEWMAN

Newman senior guard/forward Shamar Acuay has really found the perfect fit with the Jets – not just in hoops. Newman’s women’s team has a former Division I coach in Darrin Spence but after being hired in the spring he’s had to almost completely revamp his lineup – only two players return.

Behind the story: The one thing I couldn’t really work in (without making the story 60 inches) was the relationship between Shamar and his father, Francisco. Francisco and Shamar met for the first time last year – Francisco lives in the Dallas area – and I think that’s been a big part of Shamar’s progress in the last year. It wasn’t just meeting his father either – there were also half-brothers and sisters that he got to meet for the first time.

I asked Shamar if there was any lingering bitterness toward Francisco about not being a part of his life for so long.

“I’m a man now and I feel like everything that happened … is in the past. I can’t take any of that stuff with me because that’s just not who I am,” Acuay said. “I was happy to meet (Francisco) and we talked for a couple of hours … it was good to just hear him out and get to know him. My mother always wanted me to meet him and I was always curious about him and who he was.”

MIAA

The Pittsburg State women are ranked No. 3 in the NCAA Division II preseason poll and coming off the best season in school history – a trip to the Elite Eight. The Gorillas have their best player back in sophomore Lizzy Jeronimus.

Behind the story: Pitt State coach Lane Lord is pretty well-known to local hoops fans from his time at Wichita Heights and at Barton County Community College.  He’s made a point of building his roster around Kansas and Missouri players – something he pointed out to me. We both got a good laugh out of Lord going to Jeronimus and telling her he wanted her to shoot AT LEAST 50 more three-pointers this year … how often does that happen? Dream convo for a player.

KCAC

The Friends women are the defending KCAC champions and have an up-and-coming coach in RaeAnne Booth. Booth’s background – miltary father, mother from a basketball-crazed family in Indiana – has really shaped who she is. That she was able to win a league title in just her second season is impressive.

Behind the story: I was amazed at how regimented the routine at Friends has become – everyone is very much on the same page in regards to the team and how they interact. Was it a little strange? Yes. But it’s also probably how you win a title in your second year. Falcons have a rugged schedule early and they have a shot at winning another title.

 JAYHAWK

Cowley College men’s basketball coach Tommy DeSalme and his staff have put together a very talented roster and done so with a mix of transfers and returning players. Any time you get Division I transfers in the Jayhawk you’re going to generate some hype – Cowley has two in San Diego’s Ben Vozzola and Rhode Island’s Dominique McKoy.

Behind the story: Eagle photog Jaime Green and I went to Ark City last week for interviews and pics – I was also there doing a story on Cowley’s volleyball team. The five starters – Vozzola, McKoy, James Milliken, Curtis Evans and Rayshaun McGrew – all came out for pics and interviews and the chemistry between them seemed really good. DeSalme told me he thought by the end of the season Vozzola could be the best of the bunch.