North Arkansas College, Blue Mountain College, and Crowley's Ridge College will join Arkansas State University Mid-South for the Third Annual Greyhound Tipoff Classic on Oct. 30-31. The event, sponsored in part by the West Memphis Advertising & Promotion Commission, features four games over a two-day span.
Northark and the Blue Mountain junior varsity team will open Classic action at 5 p.m. on Friday night. The Greyhounds will take the floor at approximately 7 p.m. against the Crowley's Ridge JV. On Saturday, Northark and Crowley's Ridge will square off at 1 p.m., and ASU Mid-South and Blue Mountain will battle at about 3 p.m.
"We're excited about another opportunity to open our season at home," said Chris Parker, men's head coach and athletic director. "The first three years of our program we went to the Volunteer State Community College Tournament, played a couple of Division I teams, and lost. We basically knew we would have to pull off an upset to keep from starting the season 0-2.
"The last two years in our own tournament we split, so we've never opened a season 2-0. I'm hopeful we can start this season with two wins and go into our Northwest Mississippi game at home on Nov. 5 with some momentum, but we know we will have to play well."
Blue Mountain of Mississippi and Crowley's Ridge of Paragould, however, will enter the competition with hopes of derailing a perfect start.
"Those two colleges will present challenges for us because there's no scouting, and we don't really know what kind of teams they're going to put on the court," Parker said.
"Blue Mountain has a very competitive NAIA Division program, and I'm anticipating that they will have a solid junior varsity team. Their head coach is an Arkansas guy who likes Arkansas players, and he has one of Kaylon Tappin's former teammates there now." Tappin led the Greyhounds in scoring last year before earning a scholarship at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia.
"Crowley's Ridge has upgraded its program just as we have over the last several years, and they are in the process of becoming an NAIA Division I member of the American Midwest Conference. We expect a very competitive game against their JV."
Two former Greyhounds, John Braxton and Shaquille Culbreath, landed scholarships with CRC at the end of last season.
Parker said he anticipates good games with plenty of excitement.
"I think it will be a great atmosphere and will be fantastic for fans to see what this year's version of the Greyhounds is all about. Our hope is they will see that this is a team to rally around. I think we have a group of guys that is going to be extremely entertaining to watch."
Admission for Greyhound/Lady Greyhound games is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Children under school age are admitted free.
Fans looking for an even better deal are encouraged to "Join the Dog Pack." The "Pack of One" option ($60) includes a season pass to all 26 home games, a Greyhounds T-shirt, a poster, and free bag of popcorn (with additional purchase) at the concession stand. The "Pack of Two" offer ($90) includes two passes, two T-shirts, a poster and popcorn.
Families will want to take advantage of the third option ($125) which include four passes, two T-shirts, a poster, four Greyhound pom-poms, two Greyhound Growl Towels, and a bag of popcorn with additional purchase at each game.
ASU Mid-South students and staff can watch the games for free by showing their college ID card.
To "pick your pack," contact Elizabeth Williams, Development Director at (870) 733-6764 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Kathy Bennett, Foundation Officer, at (870) 733-6866 or email@example.com.
Following the Greyhound Tipoff Classic, ASU Mid-South's men and women will host Division I Northwest Mississippi on Thursday, Nov. 5. The remainder of the Greyhounds' schedule will be similar to last year's but will also include some new foes.
"We're playing virtually all the same teams that we have in the past," Parker said. "The only difference is there are two four-year institutions that have started JV programs, so we dropped two division I junior colleges that we did not owe a return game."
Parker said playing JV teams provides multiple benefits: the games are competitive, and Greyhound players have the opportunity to demonstrate their talents to four-year programs.
"I want to play as many junior varsity teams as we can because the more we can place our guys in front of four-year coaches the better opportunity we have of moving them on to a scholarship at the next level."
"We implemented that last year, and for the first time, all five of our sophomores moved on to four-year opportunities. Four of our guys moved on to colleges that we're playing this season. We're proud of the impact our program is having on the lives of these student-athletes."
Familiar opponents for 2015-16 include Northark, Arkansas Baptist, Northwest Mississippi, St. Louis Community College, Metropolitan Community College-Penn Valley, Champion Baptist College, and West Kentucky Community and Technical College.
"We have a very competitive schedule," Parker said. "We have a good mix of Division I, Division II, independent and four-year schools, and I think we're playing a schedule that will get us ready to make a run in the postseason. It's all in preparation for North Arkansas College on February 27, so that's what we're gearing toward."
The winner of that game will advance to the district tournament.