Arkansas State University Mid-South's six-man first-year class includes all-state and all-district performers, all-stars, a team captain, and a late bloomer. Those players will team with five returners from 2014-15 to generate plenty of excitement for Greyhound fans this season.
"Our goal every year is to win our region, but I don't think this team would be satisfied with that," said Coach Chris Parker who led the Greyhounds to an 18-10 record a year ago.
"These guys really want to be one of the eight teams to go to nationals; they want to be the first team from our institution to make it."
"That's the stated goal, and we're going to work as hard as we can to achieve that this year. I believe we have that kind of potential, but we'll have to work hard to make it happen."
Joining sophomores Joe'Randle Toliver, Tasmania Jones, Trent Steen, Tyler Armstrong, and Tevin Brown are newcomers Jerell Bernard, Teverette Cain, LaQuan Davie, Ladarius Mason, Cameron Ricks, and Chris Smith.
"Our freshmen are dealing with a learning curve and will have to show us what they can do, but I think all six of them will play because all six of them can play," Parker said. "The rate of their progress will determine how much."
Greyhound newcomers include Cameron Ricks (3), LaQuan Davie (2), Jerell Bernard (24), Chris Smith (20), Ladarius Mason (32), and Teverette Cain (5).
The recruiting class, smaller in number but bigger in size and possibly longer on talent, includes two players each from Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee.
"Rather than recruiting 20-plus guys as we've done in the past, we purposely did our homework on different individuals and were very careful in our selection process," Parker said. "We definitely emphasized quality over quantity. Only having 12 guys (including one redshirt) has enabled us to do some things that we haven't ever been able to do and focus more on the needs of our student-athletes.
"It's allowed us to put in a lot of the things that may have taken a month or two before because we're really only dealing with about half the guys. Being able to focus on young men individually and help them to adjust quicker, learn better, and execute at a higher level has been a huge benefit for our team."
Arkansas recruits include LaQuan Davie of Turrell (Marion High School) and Cameron Ricks of Little Rock (Wilbur D. Mills High School).
"Our Arkansas guys were both all-state performers and played in the All-Star game this summer," Parker pointed out. "LaQuan can really pass and see the floor, and he has a chance to be a really good player. He brings a lot of energy to that position, and we're pushing him to take more of a leadership role. Hopefully our local fans will come to watch him because he'll be an integral part of our team.
"Cameron is a 6-1 combo guard who had an outstanding high school career and led Mills to the final four. He has a great first step and brings a lot of quickness and toughness. He already has a college body and is strong. He sees the floor well and is an accomplished passer. He always seems to be in the right spot, and I attribute that to a high basketball IQ."
Ricks won the All-Star game's Most Outstanding Player for the East squad.
Tennessee players include Memphians Teverette Cain of Craigmont High School and Chris Smith of Carver High School. Cain, a 6-4 shooting guard, is the Greyhounds' first all-state signee from Tennessee.
"Teverette sees the floor, passes well, and can really score it," Parker said. "He has a great mid-range jump shot and can shoot the three but also has that length like Joe'Randle that allows him to get in the paint and rebound."
At 6-8, 240 pounds, "Chris brings additional muscle on the inside that we haven't always had," Parker said. "He's known for his rebounding and set season and game records in high school. He had 29 rebounds in one game and 25 in another. He brings an intensity for the boards that I don't think we've had before, and he can score. He has the strength and can finish on the inside. He also has a toughness about him that I really like."
The two Mississippi products – Jerell Bernard and Ladarius Mason, a pair of 6-5 forwards – both graduated from Horn Lake High School.
"Horn Lake had its best year in a long time, and we signed two of their top three players," Parker said. "Jerell is active and can really run the floor. He played three years as a defensive end on the Horn Lake football team, so he brings a physical toughness and energy to the floor that I think Greyhounds fans are going to like. He can finish, has a good jumper, and is a very smart player as well.
"Ladarius is fundamentally sound and will play more inside for us. He has good footwork and is a very smart player. He's doing a great job and is willing to work. His best basketball is in front of him."
ASU Mid-South will open the season Friday, Oct. 30, at home against the Crowley's Ridge College junior varsity team in the Greyhound Tipoff Classic, sponsored in part by the West Memphis Advertising & Promotion Commission. In Saturday's game, the host team will take on Blue Mountain College's JV.